Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

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Here are today’s top stories for Europe.

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Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince has announced one of the kingdom’s most ambitious projects yet: a new city that will be built in the country’s northwest region with a price tag of $500 billion. The project, called NEOM, will reach into Jordan, with a bridge spanning the Red Sea to connect the city to Egypt and the rest of Africa. It’s yet another effort by Mohammed bin Salman to remake Saudi Arabia for the post-oil era. — Leila Taha

Academic freedom. Was it an innocent request for information or the potential start of an information war? British MP Chris Heaton-Harris sent a letter to U.K. universities asking for names of professors who teach about Brexit and copies of their syllabi. One university vice chancellor said he was “chilled” by the letter from the MP, who describes himself as a “fierce Euroskeptic.” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said the MP wasn’t representing the government.

No guarantees. Companies looking for certainty about doing business after Brexit will have to wait a bit longer. The Tory government has been pushing for a “transition period” that could help ease the move to life outside the EU, keeping in place certain trade deals. It now looks increasingly like they’ve accepted the EU’s position—that a transition agreement won’t be finalized until everything else is also worked out, which could mean shortly before exit day in March 2019.

A better bitcoin. One of the developers who helped build blockchain—the technology underpinning bitcoin—says he’s creating a better digital currency. Jeff Garzik is calling the new currency “metronome” and says it will be the first that can jump between different blockchains. The mobility means that if one system dies out, metronome owners can move their holdings elsewhere, which could help the coins retain value and ensure their longevity. Check out how fast the value of bitcoin surged past $100 billion.

German Finance Ministry employees form human "black zero" to celebrate Wolfgang Schaueble's balanced federal budget.

A great big zero. Wolfgang Schaeuble, who’s departing the German Finance Ministry after eight years at the helm, got a parting gift that was surely music to the ears of a fiscal conservative like himself. About 400 ministry employees dressed in black formed a large human zero to celebrate the signature achievement of his time in charge: Germany’s balanced federal budget, which is referred to in the country as the black zero.

Mortgage scandal. Anger is reigniting a decade after Irish taxpayers bailed out the banking industry. The banks have been slow to respond to a new mortgage scandal: 13,000 customers were overcharged. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar branded the conduct “scandalous” and the country’s finance minister has summoned a group of banking CEOs to his office. Bankers were spat at, egged and vilified when the industry was bailed out with €64 billion of taxpayers’ money.

You can’t be Sea-rious. It’s not easy to open a brewery in a predominantly Muslim country. That’s what Yazan Karadsheh, the founder of the first craft brewery in Jordan, learned. His new Carakale Brewing Co. has brought out its first brew, called Dead Sea-rious, that’s flavored with coriander, pink grapefruit from the Jordan Valley and salt from the Dead Sea. He has plans to roll out an ale, a bitter and a stout to his primary target market in the U.S.

Carakale beer, from Jordan.
Photographer: mattcoats

Compiled by Andy Reinhardt and Leila Taha

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