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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has slashed its growth forecast for the UK in the light of the Brexit vote.
It now expects the UK to grow 1.8% this year, down from its March estimate of 2.2%, and by 1% in 2017 compared with its original forecast of 2.3%. Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s negotiations over its EU exit would “dampen growth prospects”, it said, while consumer spending would weaken. It said the UK “would skirt with”, but avoid, a recession. However, a separate report on business conditions from accountancy and services group BDO said optimism was improving, after falling to a three-year low last month.
Courier firm Hermes may face HMRC Investigation
Delivery firm Hermes is facing a possible investigation after a report alleged some of its drivers receive below the minimum wage.
Business minister Margot James has requested HM Revenue and Customs look into arrangements used by the firm. She was responding to a report by MP Frank Field into complaints from 78 current and former Hermes couriers. Hermes said it would co-operate with an investigation, but that the report “does not reflect” the way it operates. Mr Field’s report, which was sent to Prime Minister Theresa May, said Hermes’s practice of employing its drivers as self-employed workers sees many of them “paid an hourly rate that is much lower than the National Living Wage”.
Firms must not use the UK’s vote for an exit from the European Union as an excuse to cut jobs and spending, trade union bodies have warned. Unite said it was “not prepared to see Brexit used as a smokescreen” for firms to cut their investments in the UK.
“Out of the EU must not mean out of work,” Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said at the TUC Congress. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said she was also worried workers’ rights might be eroded by the EU vote.
Further signs of how the economy is performing in post-referendum Britain will be sought this week, with UK inflation data for August published on Tuesday and a labour market update available on Wednesday. UK inflation hit a 20-month high in July with consumer price inflation rising to 0.6 per cent year-on-year. Base effects from higher fuel prices were one reason for the rise in the year-on-year rate, and sterling weakness could also have contributed. This rising trend is expected to continue into August with CPI moving to 0.7 per cent year-on-year.
Employment in the UK remains robust. The most recent unemployment rate, for the three months to June, stayed at 4.9 per cent, and claimant count unemployment actually fell over June. Data for the three-month period to July are likely to show similar robustness when available on Wednesday, with the unemployment rate remaining at 4.9 per cent. Wage growth is likely to slip to 2.4 per cent year-on-year from 2.4 per cent over the previous period.
The Bank of England is also due to meet on Thursday for its monthly rate-setting meeting, when little action is expected. The BoE did hint that another rate cut could take place before the year-end but better than expected data since the last meeting, such as the rebound in the purchasing managers’ indices, makes this unlikely at this week’s meeting.
Rising numbers of mega-lorries will take to Britain’s roads as part of a trial designed to cut congestion and improve air quality.
The Department for Transport is preparing to give permission for more of the articulated lorries, which are as much as two metres longer than conventional HGVs. The move follows the publication of a report showing that up to 90,000 lorry journeys have been taken off the road over the past four years due to the introduction of longer vehicles which can carry a bigger load. It was claimed that the trial scheme, launched in 2012, is expected to save more than 3,000 tonnes of CO2 from reduced emissions.
Plastic Churchill £5 notes in circulation from next week
The plastic £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill will come into circulation next week and is expected to last five years longer than the paper note it replaces. It marks a new era for British banknotes and will have extra security features to prevent forgeries. The Bank of England has printed 440 million of the polymer notes. The old notes, featuring Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, will be removed from circulation by May of next year. There had been uproar at the decision to remove Fry, which would have left the Queen as the only woman on British notes. However, Jane Austen will appear on a new £10 note from next year. The new £20 note features JMW Turner. Both will be printed on polymer.
Volkswagen engineer James Liang pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of conspiracy in the company’s emissions cheating scandal and has agreed to cooperate in the widening criminal investigation. This is the first criminal charge in the justice department’s year-long investigation into the company’s rigging of federal air pollution tests. VW previously admitted to cheating on US diesel emissions tests for several years after researchers found about 500,000 of its cars contained a software that would reduce emissions while the car was undergoing a government-administered emissions test. When the car was on the road and the cheat device was turned off, the cars emitted up to 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Such levels can cause respiratory problems. VW agreed to pay $15.3bn to its customers and regulators in July. The settlement did not preclude criminal charges.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said the automaker was updating its semi-autonomous driving system Autopilot with new limits on hands-off driving and other improvements that likely would have prevented a fatality in May. Musk said on Sunday that the update, which will be available within a week or two through an “over-the-air” software update, would rely foremost on radar to give Tesla’s cars a better sense of what is around them and when to brake.
The CEO of Tesla said “We’re making much more effective use of radar,” Musk told journalists on a phone call. “It will be a dramatic improvement in the safety of the system done entirely through software.”