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Leo Varadkar: ‘We need firm guarantees on no hard border’
Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was “surprised and disappointed” that an anticipated deal on Brexit was not reached on Monday. He said Ireland could not go into a second phase of Brexit talks without “firm guarantees that there will not be a hard border in Ireland”. Mr Varadkar said the UK had agreed a text that met Irish concerns. However, he was then later told that the British government was not in a position to conclude “what was agreed”. The taoiseach told a press conference in Dublin that earlier on Monday, he had been in touch with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk and confirmed to both Ireland’s agreement on the form of words about the Irish border.
Biofuels plant in Hull stops production and may not reopen
The UK’s biggest bioethanol producer has stopped production at its East Yorkshire plant, blaming government “inaction”. Vivergo Fuels said there was “no guarantee” production would recommence at the Hull facility. It said losses had risen due to government delays in making oil companies use 10% bioethanol in petrol. The Department for Transport said it was “on track” to double the biofuels supply by 2020. Bioethanol is a renewable transport fuel which is blended with petrol to cut carbon emissions. It is made from organic matter including sugar, maize or, in the case of Vivergo, wheat.
May fights to save Brexit deal after Unionist veto
Theresa May was warned last night that she has four days to salvage a Brexit deal or risk delays after the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed it at the eleventh hour. The prime minister will hold talks with Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, in the next 24 hours in an attempt to ease Unionist concerns that Northern Ireland could have a separate status within Britain under a future deal.
Downing Street said last night that agreement was still possible. Senior EU diplomats said they were unconvinced that Mrs May had the authority to complete a deal, however, and that time was running out to reach agreement before next week’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels. The choreographed Brexit deal unravelled yesterday after details of the agreement reached between London and Dublin were leaked to the Irish media shortly before Mrs May was due to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, to sign off on it.
France lowers speed limit to tame its deadly drivers
French motorists are spluttering over the latest assault on their once sacred right to drive. New laws will cut the speed limit on most roads to less than 50mph.
President Macron is poised to lower the limit from 90km/h (56 mph) to 80km/h on all single carriageway A and B roads. The measure, which has been leaked to the media before an announcement next month, is an attempt to reverse a recent rise in road deaths. The death rate on French roads remains almost double that of Britain and Scandinavia. Last year 3,477 people died. Following rises the previous two years, it was the first time road deaths had increased three years running since 1972. French drivers were returning to bad habits after a spectacular drop in fatalities following the appearance of automatic speed cameras, imposed by President Chirac in 2002, the government said. The cameras are still deemed by many drivers to be an affront to their liberty.
Pendragon decides out with the new and in with the old
Britain’s largest car retailer plan to give itself a £200 million cash injection by paring back operations in a declining domestic new car market and by quitting the United States altogether. After a shock profit warning six weeks ago, Pendragon said that it would be focusing on and reallocating resources to the British second hand car market. After a 25per cent fall in its share price in October, Pendragon’s stock rose 3/4p to 26p yesterday after Trevor Finn, chief executive of the company behind the Stratstone and Evans Halshaw retail franchises, said that the company had an alternative plan.
Black-Friday fails to cheer high street
Black Friday, the sales event that has become a focus of the pre-Christmas shopping season, was not enough to lift the gloom hanging over the British high street this year, according to new figures. Retail sales in stores and online rose 0.6 per cent in value terms in November on a like-for-like basis compared with the previous year, according to data collected by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. Growth was entirely driven by food purchases while spending elsewhere fell, suggesting that consumers remained cautious against a background of rising prices and stagnant wage growth.
Comparing the three months to the end of November with the same period in 2016, non-food sales fell 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This is the steepest rate of contraction since May 2011, excluding distortions caused by the timing of Easter.
Households to buy and sell their own energy under ‘smart grid’ plan
Households and businesses will soon be able to buy and sell their own energy directly within a local energy market under ambitious new ‘smart-grid’ plans to be unveiled this week.
Network operators such as SSE Networks, UK Power Networks and Scottish Power Networks believe smart technologies could help create mini regional energy markets across the country, in addition to the national transmission system. Under the pan-industry plans, power from solar panels on properties or from electric vehicles could be sold back to the network, or even directly to neighbours using block-chain technology. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said Wednesday’s plan is the culmination of almost a year of small-scale trials and marks the start of a “rapid increase” in energy mini-markets in the next six years. It also marks the energy system’s most radical overhaul ever. Historically National Grid has acted as the system operator across the whole country by using major power plants as a lever to meet varying energy demand levels.
Drive test strike flop
Nine out of ten driving tests went ahead yesterday – despite examiners starting a 48-hour strike on the first day of new assessments. The Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency said 92 per cent of scheduled tests took under a quarter of examiners going on strike. The DVSA said the new exam offers a more realistic skills assessment. But the examiners say they must work longer and harder for no extra pay.