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Theresa May Brexit speech to be ‘open and generous offer’ to EU
Theresa May’s speech on Brexit in Italy on Friday will represent an “open and generous offer” to the rest of the EU, a cabinet minister has told the BBC. It is thought that might include a guarantee that no EU country would lose out from changes to the EU’s current budget as a result of the UK leaving. But another minister warned against offering too much on the money, saying “it’s our only leverage”. Mrs May is briefing her cabinet on Thursday morning about the speech. The event in Florence is being seen as an attempt to break the deadlock on the negotiations, with the EU unhappy at the lack of progress on agreeing the UK’s “divorce bill” from Brussels.
Bank of England survey shows little sign of UK pay growth improving
Pay growth across British companies remains subdued and investment intentions among British services firms weakened further in the last quarter, a Bank of England survey of businesses showed on Wednesday. The figures will be of interest to BoE officials who increasingly see an interest rate hike nearing if the economy and price pressures keep growing. But the BoE’s quarterly report from its own regional representatives pointed to lacklustre wage growth, with pay settlements in British companies generally stuck between 2 percent and 3 percent. The impact of past falls in sterling on consumer goods price inflation appeared to have reached its peak, the survey showed.
We want it in writing – Scotland and Wales seek clarity on post-Brexit powers
Scotland and Wales proposed changes on Wednesday to the central UK government’s Brexit bill in an attempt to bed down their current powers which they fear could be weakened after Brexit. Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell said verbal assurances from London that Edinburgh and Cardiff would keep all their powers after Britain leaves the European Union were not sufficient due to distrust towards the central government. “There needs to be an injection of trust into the negotiating process,” Russell told Scottish members of parliament during a parliamentary committee session in Edinburgh.
Manufacturing data tell differing stories about industry’s health
Business surveys have this year suggested the UK’s manufacturing industry is enjoying robust production growth, fuelled by strong exports. But official data show manufacturing output falling in four of the first seven months of 2017. The contradictory findings contained in these two sets of data have caused much confusion about the state of manufacturing — which contributes about 10 per cent of gross domestic product. The information has also come under scrutiny because of hopes the sharp fall in sterling after the Brexit referendum last year would fuel an export-led economic boom.
Data from the Office for National Statistics show manufacturing output increased strongly at the end of last year. Production in the fourth quarter of 2016 was 1.2 per cent higher than in the previous three months. This helped drive a 0.7 per cent quarter-on-quarter expansion of the UK economy as a whole in the last three months of 2016, equivalent to an annualised growth rate of 2.8 per cent. But the rise in manufacturing output slowed to 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 and then actually contracted by 0.6 per cent in the following three months.
UK retail sales beat expectations despite big price rises
Retail sales in the UK grew at a much faster pace than expected in August despite non-food prices increasing at their highest rate for 25 years, according to official figures published on Wednesday. Excluding fuel, the quantity bought in shops increased by 1 per cent compared with the previous month and 2.8 per cent year on year. Analysts were expecting growth of just 0.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively. Figures for July were also better than previously thought, with annual growth revised upward from 1.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent. The pound strengthened on the news, rising by 0.64 per cent against the euro to a little over €1.13 and 0.71 per cent against the dollar to $1.36, although it later gave up some of these gains.
FCA forces disclosure of hidden pension fees
Firms managing money on behalf of millions of workplace pension savers are to be forced to disclose hidden charges under the latest regulatory crackdown on the UK’s £7tn asset management sector. Until now, asset managers have not been required to hand over information about transaction costs and administration fees levied on the funds of workplace pension savers. But a rule set to come into force in January next year will require asset managers to disclose these charges in response to a request from a workplace pension governance body.
For electric cars to gain traction, big problems on batteries need solving
Ever tried selling a used electric car? It’s not much fun. The technology is evolving so quickly that the prices of vehicles even only a few years old are tumbling with alarming speed. Used electric vehicles pose specific challenges, above all degrading batteries that can hobble a car’s range and ability if they are not properly cared for. And replacing a battery that has suffered too many rapid charges is expensive.
For all of its many benefits, a boom in electric vehicles throws up new challenges, and not only concerns about limited range, lengthy recharging times and a shortage of charging points. It is estimated that lithium production will need to rise from its existing 182,000 tonnes a year to an average of 3.1 million tonnes for 20 years. And although there is probably enough lithium to meet demand, a global scramble for supplies has sent prices soaring. Since 2015, prices have more than doubled to $14,000 per tonne, great for miners and commodity traders, but bad for consumers. Equally important, what happens to the spent batteries? The International Energy Agency estimates there will be 140 million electric vehicles by 2030, up from two million last year. Fire risk is another issue. Lithium fires caused by damaged cells can be difficult to extinguish. Of course, these challenges are not insurmountable, but they are likely to become increasingly visible as the industry grows and matures.
Rivals set to overtake UK growth
Britain will fall to the bottom of the advanced economy growth league next year as the country is overhauled by Japan, Canada, France, the United States and Italy, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
As inflation takes a toll on consumer spending and Brexit uncertainty dents business confidence, the UK will drop from the second fastest growing G7 economy in 2016 to the second slowest this year and the slowest in 2018, the think tank for wealthy nations predicts.
Britain’s decline, as seen by the OECD, is relative. It has left its forecast for British growth across the two years unchanged since June at 1.6 per cent in 2017 and 1 per cent in 2018, but has upgraded Europe and the world as a whole.
Steel merger turns up the heat on 4,000 jobs
Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp have taken the first step towards merging their European steel operations in a move that could lead to the loss of 4,000 jobs and may have profound repercussions for British steelworkers.
The companies, which signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday on creating a 50-50 joint venture, will review their joint operations in 2020 if the deal goes ahead.
The overhaul of the European market comes after long-running speculation over the future of Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks.
The combined group would have a workforce of 48,000 at 34 locations, but the two groups estimate that 2,000 management and administration jobs will go, along with up to 2,000 production jobs.
Robots’ rise heralds a fall for poor countries
The march of the machines threatens to rob poor countries of a key advantage in the battle to lure manufacturers, the World Bank has warned.
Such countries will not be able to rely on cheap labour to attract much-needed manufacturing business once advances in technology make it cheaper to set up factories run by robots in developed nations, it says in a report.
The organisation suggests that the introduction of advanced robotics, 3D printing and smart automation are changing the criteria used to decide on factory locations. Companies that were influenced by the prospect of inexpensive labour are beginning to favour places that can take better advantage of new technologies. This raises the prospect of manufacturing returning to rich nations, where goods are made closer to the final customer, a process known as reshoring, but could reduce international trade and the flow of money to low and middle-income countries.
UK public finances beat forecasts
Newsflash: Britain’s public finances were stronger than expected in August.
Britain borrowed just £5.56bn to balance the books last month, the ONS reports. That’s the smallest deficit for any August since the financial crisis struck a decade ago. That’s down from £6.9bn a year ago, and below City forecasts. The public finances were boosted by higher-than-expected tax receipts, in another boost for chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of November’s budget.
City bosses call for urgent Brexit transition deal
The City’s top lobby group has urged Theresa May to get a move on with a Brexit transition deal as she prepares for a landmark speech in Italy tomorrow.
Echoing a warning made by the head of the Financial Conduct Authority earlier this year, TheCityUK has slammed the lack of progress made on agreeing a transitional arrangement since the EU referendum and called for urgent action to limit damage to the City.
Sounding his warning a day before Mrs May is set to unveil details about the future relationship she wants with the EU in Florence, Mr Celic added that damage to the City could be slowed by a clear, legally-binding transition deal resembling “the status quo as closely as possible” but pointed out that some harm was irreversible. The main concern for the financial services industry is that the thousands of UK-registered firms currently relying on passports to service clients in the EU and vice versa lose that right with no time to adjust. With no clear agreement in place, big banks, insurers and asset managers have been forced to set up EU hubs. Large banks in particular cannot afford to take a wait-and-see approach to how the Brexit will negotiations play out, with consultancy firm Oliver Wyman noting earlier this year that Britain could lose 40,000 sales, trading and investment banking jobs as a result of the exit.
Sort a trading deal NOW, German bosses urge EU
Germany’s biggest companies will today demand that Britain is given a trade deal by Brussels as soon as possible to stop them losing out on business.
EU officials have threatened to stall discussions on a future trade agreement until Britain sets out how much it is willing to pay towards a £90billion ‘divorce bill’.
But in a sign that the EU will face a revolt unless it backs down, a trade body representing around 250 German firms, including Siemens, BMW, Volkswagen and E.On has called for both sides to get on with talks.
Ahead of a meeting tonight with Brexit minister Robin Walker in London, German Industry UK said it was pushing for us to be given tariff-free access to the single market.
Britain is Germany’s third largest export market after France and the US. Germany sells more cars to us than it does to any other country, with 810,000 exported last year.
Brexit talks turned nasty last month as the EU threatened to hold Britain to ransom unless it stumped up for the divorce bill.
9 million still using their phones in their car
Up to 9.2million drivers are still using mobile phones while driving despite tougher penalties. the figure tops 16 million when including those who talk, text and even take pics. The RAC quizzed before and after the six points and £200 fine started in March the number of offenders fell form 31 per cent of 40million motorists last year to 23 per cent. But the RAC said: “We still have a hardcore of offenders. This may get worse with fewer police.”