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A post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal might take 10 years to finalise and still fail, Britain’s ambassador to the EU has privately told the government. The BBC understands Sir Ivan Rogers warned ministers that the European consensus was that a deal might not be done until the early to mid-2020s. He also cautioned that an agreement could be rejected ultimately by other EU members’ national parliaments. No 10 expressed confidence in reaching a deal to suit the UK and the EU.
University to lower entry grades for poor
A leading university is to increase its intake of disadvantaged students by offering places with reduced grades.
The University of Bristol is to accept lower exam grades from disadvantaged local pupils and applicants from schools with poor A-level results. Vice-chancellor Hugh Brady said this would be a “step change” in admissions. The project is launched as admissions service figures show young people from poorer families are much less likely to apply to university.
Retail sales in Scotland have grown in real terms for a third month in a row, according to a report. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found total sales fell by 1.5% last month, compared with November 2015. However, when adjusted for deflation, sales were found to have risen by 0.2% in real terms. Total food sales were found to be flat on last November, while non-food dropped 2.7% compared with a year ago. SRC said figures for the last three months had been “promising”.
US raises key interest rate by 0.25% on strengthening economy
The US Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25%, only the second increase in a decade.
The central bank voted unanimously to raise the key rate to a range of 0.5% to 0.75%, citing a stronger economic growth and rising employment. But the central bank said it expected the economy to need only “gradual” increases in the short term.
Ride-sharing firm Uber has been told to stop offering passengers self-driving cars in San Francisco, hours after it launched the service. California regulators warned the company it had to stop immediately and get a state permit – or face legal action. Uber had started giving passengers the option of a self-driving car, with a safety driver, when booking a journey.
After more than a year of legal wrangling over Volkswagen’s self-confessed emissions cheating, US prosecutors are hoping to reach a criminal settlement with the German carmaker before the Obama administration leaves Washington. Such a deal would be a milestone in VW’s efforts to draw a line under the diesel emissions scandal — the worst crisis in the company’s 79-year history.
Plans to allow English local authorities to raise council tax bills by an extra 6% over the next two years to pay for social care will be unveiled later by the Government. The proposals, announced by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, will give town halls the power to add a 3% levy to bills in 2017/18, and an additional 3% in 2018/19.
Higher fuel prices hurt UK retail sales in November
Higher fuel prices took a chunk out of Britain’s rapid retail sales growth last month, official figures showed on Thursday, offering a warning about how rising inflation next year might hit consumer demand. ‘Black Friday‘ discounts boosted sales of electronics, but the overall rate of growth slowed from October’s 14-year high. Retail sales volumes, including fuel, were 5.9 percent higher than a year earlier in November, down from October’s 7.2 percent, which was the strongest since 2002. This decline was in line with economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Audi’s top-selling model released excessive toxic diesel emissions in results from lab tests run by the European Commission and seen by Reuters, raising suspicions of wrongdoing at Volkswagen’s luxury division. The results threaten to embroil Audi, the main contributor to VW group profit, in the scandal that has engulfed the company since it admitted cheating U.S. emissions tests with software to mask nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Polluted cities face clampdown on diesels
A dozen cities face the prospect of having to impose charges on owners of diesel vehicles under government plans to tackle air pollution. Ministers are working on proposals for far more clean air zones after the high court ruled last month that their air quality strategy was inadequate. A confidential report for ministers reveals that the cities likely to be affected include Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, Leicester and Sheffield.
Britain’s unemployment rate remained at an 11-year low in the three months to October but employment fell as economists warned that resilience in the economy since the Brexit vote had begun to fade. The number of people out of work fell by 16,000 to 1.62 million, the Office for National Statistics said. However, employment fell by 6,000 to 31.76 million compared to the previous three-month period— the first drop in a year — knocking the employment rate down from its record high of 74.5 per cent to 74.4 per cent.
Car insurance rockets by almost £100 in one year: Average annual premium is now almost £600
Car insurance has soared by an average of £100 this year, new figures revealed yesterday. Motoring cover is now 12 per cent higher than it was just four months ago, says consumer website Moneysupermarket. Experts analysed 873,000 customer quotes run on the website during November 2016 and found annual premiums are now £597 on average, almost £100 more expensive than they were at the start of 2016. Premiums have increased steadily during 2016 but there have been sharp rises in the past few months.
Two-thirds of motorists think the Government should introduce technology to disable mobile phones in cars , according to new research. Half of drivers admit they cannot resist the temptation to look at their device when stationary or in slow-moving traffic. Some 66 per cent think the only way to stamp out mobile phone use behind the wheel is to block them completely while driving. Worryingly, reading texts, checking social media profiles and viewing emails is now more common than taking or making a phone call. The study of 1,000 UK motorists for Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero – a commitment to reduce road fatalities worldwide – found that 11.3 million drivers are likely to be using a mobile phone illegally.