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UK unemployment rises for first time in two years
UK unemployment has increased slightly for the first time in two years. The rate of unemployment rose from 4.3% to 4.4% for the three months to the end of December, the Office for National Statistics said. Wages grew by an average of 2.5%, up from 2.4% the previous month. The numbers of unemployed rose by 46,000 to 1.47 million.
Brexiteers issue their demands in letter to May
Theresa May has been told by more than 60 Conservative MPs that they will no longer support her Brexit plans if members of the cabinet agree tomorrow to keep Britain too closely aligned to the European Union. The demands were set out in a letter from the powerful European Research Group (ERG) and delivered to Downing Street on Friday. It was signed by four members of the government, four former cabinet ministers and a serving Tory vice-chairwoman. Senior ERG figures including Jacob Rees-Mogg, its chairman, were summoned to see Mrs May yesterday to discuss the contents. A leading Tory MP who supports a softer Brexit position said that the ERG plans “must be resisted” and it would be madness to agree to their demands.
The letter reveals that Brexiteers now reject the “standstill” transition being negotiated by government if the trade deal is not complete by next March, something experts believe is all but impossible. “Any implementation period should be based on WTO principles”, the letter says. It goes on to insist that the UK has “full regulatory autonomy”. It says the government “must have the ability to change British laws and rules once we leave, rather than being a ‘rule taker’ without any substantive say in whatever Brussels decides”.
Hail flying taxi in next decade, predicts Uber
Flying taxis could be a common feature in the skies over cities in five years’ time, according to the chief executive of Uber. The company wants to collaborate with other companies to develop the technology in the same way that it is working with manufacturers such as Volvo to build driverless cars. It envisages an entire flying taxi “ecosystem” whereby commuters would take conventional cars from their home to “vertiports” dotted across residential areas where they switch to flying taxis. Speaking in Tokyo, Dara Khosrowshahi said he could see Uber Air taking off in between five and ten years’ time as an affordable form of transport.
Nice little earner: classic cars lead the field for collectible returns
Discard the Jane Austen first editions and invest in an early Jaguar instead. Discard the Jane Austen first editions and invest in an early Jaguar instead. Investors in rare books would have made seven times their money in real terms since 1900, according to a study by the London Business School and Credit Suisse. The equivalent from classic cars was a 242-fold return. Premier Cru Bordeaux generated a 65-fold return, while investors made 30 times their money from jewellery, after adjusting for inflation, and 20 times from postage stamps.
BP says oil demand to peak by late 2030s
Self-driving electric vehicles will cause a revolution in transportation over the next two decades, leading global oil demand to peak by the late 2030s, according to the main scenario outlined in BP’s latest annual energy outlook. The forecast marks the first time BP, one of the world’s largest crude producers, has shown oil consumption peaking in its long-term forecasts but the UK group said it saw little risk of a precipitous decline in demand. BP said there were likely to be 300m electric vehicles on the world’s roads by 2040, up from about 3m today. Many of them would be self-driving cars operating as part of Uber-style ride-sharing fleets, BP said, reducing private car ownership.
“Once you don’t have to pay for a driver, the cost of shared mobility services will fall by 40-50 per cent,” said Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist. “What we expect to see in the 2030s is a huge growth in shared mobility cars.” EVs are projected to account for 15 per cent of about 2bn cars on the road in 2040, according to BP’s main scenario. But they will make up 30 per cent of all passenger car transportation, measured by distance travelled, because so many of them will be shared vehicles and therefore used more intensively than private cars.
Citymapper drops bus plans, to take on Uber as taxi operator
Citymapper has dropped plans to become a bus company and will instead attempt to take on Uber as a private hire taxi operator in London after the popular mapping start-up was granted a licence from London’s transport authority on Tuesday. The start-up, which is backed by well-known venture capital investors Balderton Capital, Benchmark Capital and LocalGlobe, has attempted to evolve from a free-to-use app into a high-tech transport business with plans to compete with London’s red buses on new routes in the capital. Last year it unveiled a strategy known as Project Grasshopper to use its data to design bus routes for areas that are underserved by public transport. However, the FT understands it has now paused those plans because of “regulatory roadblocks” after it was unable to get permission for routes that changed with demand.
Tory MPs’ hard Brexit letter to May described as ransom note
Group of 62 backbenchers’ list of demands for exit of EU triggers furious reaction from colleagues. More than 60 backbench Conservative MPs have sent Theresa May a list of hard Brexit demands ahead of a crunch meeting, triggering a furious reaction from colleagues who branded the letter a “ransom note”. As dozens of members of the party’s European Research Group added their names to the correspondence setting out their expectations for Brexit with “full regulatory autonomy”, other Tory politicians hit back. Nicky Morgan, an advocate for a soft Brexit who chairs the Treasury select committee, said: “This isn’t a letter, it is a ransom note. The ERG clearly think they have the prime minister as their hostage.” Tory MP Anna Soubry, another vocal Tory opponent of hard Brexit, said the letter was “very disappointing”.
Economists “debunk” Whitehall Brexit analysis – and claim the economy will grow
A group of pro-Brexit economists claim to have “comprehensively debunked” Whitehall analysis suggesting the UK is heading for a period of depressed growth after leaving the EU, arguing the government’s stated policy will actually lead to growth. The Economists for Free Trade believe Brexit on the basis of Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech will boost the UK’s economy by two-to-four per cent. The group has sent its findings to Theresa May, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, environment secretary Michael Gove, Brexit secretary David Davis, international trade secretary Liam Fox, defence secretary Gavin Williamson, ahead of Thursday’s Brexit war Cabinet at Chequers.
AA share price in freefall after slashing dividend to fund business overhaul
Breakdown firm AA has slashed its dividend to fund an eagerly-anticipated new business strategy. Shocked investors ran for cover with shares falling more than 20 per cent in opening trades. The firm this morning revealed plans to “accelerate” growth in its insurance arm and “innovate” its roadside business. Dividends will be capped at 2p a share for until “the board is satisfied that the profit and free cash flow enable a change in policy”. Earlier this month AA said earnings for 2018 would be between £390m and £395m. While this remains unchanged, the firm said profits in 2019 would be considerably lower.
Ford to set up German bank in second half of the year as it gears up for Brexit
Ford confirmed today that it plans to set up a bank in Germany in the second half of this year as it looks to firm up its post-Brexit planning. Ford Credit Europe, a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Ford which provides financial services to dealers, retail and business customers, has been drawing up Brexit contingency plans ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union in 2019. It has developed options to ensure “ongoing support of Ford, dealers and customers” regardless of what happens with the negotiations.
Asda profits slip as price cuts help boost sales
Asda toasted a fourth consecutive quarter of sales growth today but revealed its profits had slipped in the run up to Christmas as it cut prices amid fierce competition in the grocery market. The supermarket chain, owned by US giant Walmart, didn’t disclose its precise profit and revenue figures but said its gross profit margin and operating income declined due to “on-going price investments”. The price cuts helped it grow sales by 2pc in the three months to December, or 0.5pc on a like-for-like basis, which excludes stores that have been open less than one year. That compares with steep falls of 0.6pc and 2.9pc in the same quarter last year.
Terrorists could use driverless cars to carry out atrocities, Oxford and Cambridge researchers warn
Artificial intelligence risks being exploited by terrorists to mount driverless car crashes and cyber-attacks because the technology is being rapidly developed without thought for its downsides, Oxford and Cambridge researchers have warned. A group of 26 experts including those from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, Cambridge’s Centre For the Study of Existential Risk and OpenAI, the organisation backed by technology billionaire Elon Musk, said that malicious use of AI presented a “clear and present danger” to society that could emerge in the next decade.
Oil’s ‘super-cartel’ born as Opec and Russia prepare to tie the knot, but US shale still the spoiler
The Opec cartel is to forge a permanent alliance with a Russia-led bloc of producers by the end of the year, aiming to regain control of the world crude market with a super-combine of unprecedented scale and reach. Suhail al-Mazroui, Opec’s president, said the two groups are working on a “framework partnership” that would tie them together closely in perpetuity after their current deal to cap production jointly expires later this year.
HAMISH MCRAE: Why petrol cars are going nowhere despite the push to move to electric power
BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy makes the point that even if the world’s car fleet has switched over to electricity by 2040, total oil demand would still be higher than it is today. Three main reasons for this: first, while renewable sources of energy are growing with astonishing speed and costs are plunging, the base from which they are rising is still very small. Thus solar power is less than half of 1pc of the global primary energy supply. Second, the switch of the world’s vehicle fleet to electricity does not reduce primary energy demand. You still have to produce the electricity to power the fleet. More efficient cars and trucks, and fewer of them, would reduce energy demand, but given the growth of the emerging world, that is not going to happen for at least another generation, maybe longer. And third, we know from history that it takes a long time for one technology to replace another. The steam turbine still produces almost all electricity generation. The internal combustion engine powers still almost all the vehicle fleet. The jet engine drives all large aircraft.
Smog Has As Much Deodorant As Diesel In It
When smog has as much deodorant as diesel in it, you know the Earth is in trouble. A new report, published in Science, shows that urban emissions of personal product volatile organic compounds have increased, just as transportation and power plant emissions have declined. These are the compounds that contribute to regional ozone and particulate aerosols, and combine to form smog. This means, in cities like Los Angeles, that the amount of volatile chemical products (VCPs) — including personal care products like hair spray, soap, air fresheners, lotions and deodorant, cleaning products, pesticides, coatings, printing inks and adhesives — is now approaching the level of bad effects as those coming from the burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, existing regulations exempt many of these chemicals from environmental concern.
European Auto Industry On Edge Ahead Of German Court Decision On Diesel Bans
The European automotive industry in general and Germany’s in particular is nervously awaiting the court decision Thursday which could allow cities to ban diesel cars from city centers in the name of saving lives from dirty air, but which in turn could do existential damage to the industry. The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig will rule Thursday on an appeal by the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia after lower-level judges ruled they could impose bans on some diesels in their respective capitals Stuttgart and Duesseldorf. The environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) sued Stuttgart and Duesseldorf because it wants to allow municipalities to ban diesel cars from city centres and make sure clean air regulations are enforced. The verdict from Germany’s Federal Administrative court would be final and follows various local court decisions across the country. A ruling would affect all vehicles sold before the latest “Euro 6” standards were introduced in September 2015.