The United Kingdom exits the EU entering a post-Brexit future still uncertain

( via — Thur, 31st Dec 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom exits the European Union’s orbit on Thursday, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project and entering a post-Brexit future whose details are still uncertain after years of drama over the departure.

Brexit, in essence, takes place at the strike of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when the United Kingdom leaves de-facto membership that continued for a transition period after it formally left the bloc on Jan. 31.

For five years, the frenzied gyrations of the Brexit crisis dominated European affairs, haunted the sterling markets and tarnished the United Kingdom’s reputation as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.

Supporters cast Brexit as the dawn of a newly independent “global Britain”, but it has weakened the bonds that tie England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into a $3 trillion economy.

“Brexit is not an end but a beginning,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, told parliament just hours before it approved his post-Brexit EU trade deal. Grinning, he later jokingly assured reporters that he had read the lengthy agreement that was reached only on Dec. 24.

Johnson said there would be no bonfire of regulations to build a “bargain basement Dickensian Britain” and told Europe that the United Kingdom would remain the “quintessential European civilization”.

But Johnson, the face of the Brexit campaign, has been short on detail about what he wants to build with Britain’s “independence” – or how to do it while borrowing record amounts to pay for the COVID-19 crisis.

His 80-year-old father, Stanley Johnson, who voted to remain in 2016, said he was in the process of applying for a French passport.


In the June 23, 2016, referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52%, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48%, backed staying in the bloc. Few have changed their minds since. England and Wales voted out but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in.

The referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and fuelled soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire and what it now means to be British.

Leaving was once the far-fetched dream of a motley crew of “eurosceptics” on the fringes of British politics: the UK joined in 1973 as “the sick man of Europe” and two decades ago British leaders were arguing about whether to join the euro.

“The UK establishment had basically lost its mojo and we went into what was then the Common Market, really, for reasons of self-protection – we thought that was the best future for us, we couldn’t see another way forward,” Johnson said.Slideshow ( 4 images )

Fast forward 48 years.

“We see a global future for ourselves,” said Johnson who won power in 2019 and, against the odds, clinched a Brexit divorce treaty and a trade deal, as well as the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher, in the 2019 election.

Supporters see Brexit as an escape from a project that had fallen far behind global powers the United States and China. Opponents say it will weaken the West, further reduce Britain’s global clout, undermine its economy and lessen its cosmopolitanism.Slideshow ( 4 images )

But when the Great Bell known as Big Ben strikes 11 in London, there will be few outward displays of emotion as gatherings are banned due to COVID-19 restrictions.


After the United Kingdom leaves the Single Market or the Customs Union, there is almost certain to be some disruption at borders. More red tape means more cost for those importing and exporting goods across the EU-UK border.

The Port of Dover expects volumes to drop off in early January. The most worrisome period, it says, will be in mid- to late January when volumes pick up again.

The exit also means changes to everything from pet passports and driving licence rules for the British in Europe to data rules.

Support for Scottish independence has risen, partly due to Brexit and partly due to COVID-19, threatening the 300-year-old political union between England and Scotland.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has said an independence referendum should take place in the earlier part of the devolved parliament’s next term, which begins next year.

After clinching the Christmas Eve trade deal that will smooth out the worst disruption, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen quoted both William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” she said. “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

By Guy Faulconbridge

Major UK firms ‘named and shamed’ for failing to pay workers the legal minimum wage

( via– Thur, 31st Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

The supermarket said it was “disappointed and surprised” to have been included on the list after a “technical issue” in 2017.

Tesco, Pizza Hut and Superdrug are among 139 companies that have been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the minimum wage.

The employers short-changed more than 95,000 workers by a total of £6.7m during the period investigated between 2016 and 2018, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

Firms identified ranged from big household name companies to smaller operators including hotels, hairdressers and shops found to have underpaid just a handful of employees or just one.

Tesco was by far the biggest employer – and offender – on the list.

The supermarket giant was found to have underpaid 78,199 workers by just under £5.1m.

Tesco said its breach was the result of a “technical issue” identified in 2017 which meant that some workers' pay “inadvertently fell below the national minimum wage”.

“We are very sorry this happened and proactively reported the issue to HMRC at the time,” it added.

Tesco said those affected had been reimbursed – with the sums involved £10 or less in most cases – and that it had taken a “proactive, transparent and cooperative approach”.

“We are therefore extremely disappointed and surprised to have been included in this list as none of the examples shared by BEIS relate to Tesco, and it was Tesco that self-reported this issue to HMRC in the first instance,” the supermarket said.Where jobs have been lost across the economy

Pizza Hut failed to pay about £846,000 to 10,980 workers, according to the investigation.

It said that several years ago it had been made aware by HM Revenue and Customs of an “error relating to a historic uniform policy” and that there was “never any intent to underpay our employees”, while processes had been fixed to ensure it did not happen again.

Another well-known employer, Superdrug, short-changed 2,222 workers by just over £15,000.

Superdrug said after its breach of the rules, related to uniform, those affected were “swiftly reimbursed” and the uniform policy changed.

Business minister Paul Scully said: “It is never acceptable for any employer to short-change their workers, but it is especially disappointing to see huge household names who absolutely should know better on this list.”

BEIS said the list should “serve as a warning to rogue employers”.

Penalties for breaching the rules can be up to 200% of the arrears, capped at £10,000 per worker.

The government said each of the companies named has now paid the money to their workers and had also been forced to pay financial penalties.

Reasons for wage rules being broken included employees being made to cover work costs, such as for uniform or parking fees, out of their pay packet.

In other cases, employers failed to raise pay after they had a birthday which should have moved them up into a different bracket.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “It's a national scandal that so many workers, many of whom are key workers, aren't being paid the minimum wage.”

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies to workers from school leaving age at rates rising from £4.15 an hour for an apprentice starting out to £8.20 for those aged 21-24.

From 25, the National Living Wage (NLW) – currently at £8.72 – takes effect.

The latest investigation covered breaches of minimum wage legislation under both NMW and NLW.

The latest “name and shame” list is the first published since 2018, after which the government decided to reform the process to target only the biggest offenders.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Government urged to use pharmacies to give vaccine

( via – – Wed, 30th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

The pharmacy industry is urging the government to use its high street network to accelerate the delivery of the newly approved vaccine.

The head of a leading pharmaceutical chain told the BBC roll out could be doubled if the government used the same supply chain as seasonal flu jabs.

There are over 11,000 local pharmacies around the UK.

The Department of Health told the BBC it was having “very positive discussions” with pharmacists.

A large number of pharmacies have the staff and expertise available to deliver the new vaccine.

So far, the industry has told the BBC the government has not considered them in its initial front line plans, nor counted them towards its delivery target of one million a week.

‘Overcoming hurdles'

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents NHS pharmacies, said his members were ready to help.

The approval of a second vaccine, and one that has less complex handling characteristics when compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is a positive step.'

“The rollout of the vaccination programme will not be without its challenges, but community pharmacists and their teams are used to overcoming hurdles to provide the best care to their patients, so we believe their skills should be used by the NHS to help administer the tens of millions of vaccinations that will be needed to help England escape from the grip of the pandemic.”

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has insisted that two million a week is needed to get ahead of the spread.

There are other advantages to using local pharmacies. Many vulnerable people already visit their pharmacies on a regular basis and trust the staff there. As one pharmacy chief told the BBC: “People will trust their local chemist more than someone in a military uniform.”

‘Haven't thought of us'

The new vaccine is considered a very different proposition to the Pfizer vaccine – which has to be stored at -70C, comes in batches of 975 doses and must be delivered within a few days of delivery.

The more transport and storage friendly AZ/Oxford vaccine has turned “a medical challenge into a logistics challenge which we can help with” according to the head of a leading chain.

“The government knows we are here, but so far haven't thought of us as a primary point of delivery in the way they do the traditional annual flu jab”.

The Department of Health said it had been talking to pharmacists about how they could support the Covid vaccine delivery plan.

It added: “They have been fantastic through this pandemic.”

By Simon Jack

Four-day week with no loss of pay would be affordable for most firms reckons new study

( via – – Wed, 30th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Phil, an IT worker in the Midlands, has worked a four day week for two years.

“I fit my 36 hours into those days, which works very well,” he said.

“The biggest bonus is being able to schedule personal chores – those ‘must be done on a week-day jobs' for the Friday, so I don't have to waste precious holiday on them.”

Many firms are resistant to the idea of a four-day week but the think tank Autonomy, which looks at work-related issues, reckons it would work well.

It claims a reduction in hours would be entirely offset by increases in productivity and price increases, in the best-cases.

Even under the worst-case, a four-day week with no loss of pay would be affordable for most firms once the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis has passed, it said.

However it warned that some firms in high-labour cost industries could experience cash flow problems if a four day week was implemented too quickly.

“For the large majority of firms, reducing working hours is an entirely realistic goal for the near future,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, which is campaigning for a shorter working week with no loss of pay.

He said the government should investigate ways of rolling out a four-day week, starting with the public sector.


While IT worker Phil has enjoyed working just four days a week, he conceded it has its challenges for workers.

“Days can be long, especially if something crops up that needs me to work until stuff is complete or can be left,” he told the BBC.

“Also being on call can be a challenge, but it's nothing that's not fixable.”

The best days are when he works from home, he said. “It means the working day isn't top and tailed with an hour each-way commute.”

Pay cut

Alan Rae works in Switzerland for a tech start-up specialising in the Internet of Things.

“I work a four day week, or 80% job as it's called here in Switzerland,” he told the BBC.

“Monday-Thursday is super productive, and I spend Friday with my children.”

Alan's wife works a similar 50-70% of the working week, “which means we both get to have careers and spend full solo days with our children during the week. Weekends are longer too, which means we have a great work/life balance.

He, however, is technically part time. “The downside is I earn 80% of a 100% salary, but with my wife working too and us both sharing childcare, it works for us.”


The Autonomy report believes four day working, properly arranged, is possible on full pay. It used profitability statistics drawn from a database of more 50,000 UK firms and simulated best- and worst-case scenarios regarding profit rates under a sudden imposition of a four-day week.

“By providing a hypothetical ‘stress test', we can dispel any myths about the affordability of a four-day working week,” said Mr Stronge.

“Any policy push will have to be carefully designed, and different strategies would need to be deployed for different industries,” he said, adding that if it happened overnight, with no planning, most firms would still remain profitable.

“Covid-19 has thrown the world of work totally up in the air and we must take this opportunity to move away from the outdated and old ways of working,” said Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4-Day Week Campaign.

“The four-day working week with no reduction in pay is good for the economy, good for workers and good for the environment. It's an idea whose time has come.”

By Simon Read

Ryanair restricts voting rights of non-EU shareholders in Brexit move

( via — Tue, 29th Dec 2020) London, UK —

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ryanair on Tuesday confirmed it would restrict the voting rights of British shareholders from Jan. 1 in a bid to ensure it remains majority EU-owned and retain full licensing and flight rights in the bloc.

The plan to restrict British shareholders was approved by the airline last year, subject to the terms of a final agreement on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union, which was agreed last week.

“Restricted Share Notices will be issued to the registered holder(s) of each Restricted Share in due course, specifying that the holder(s) of such shares shall not be entitled to attend, speak or vote at any general meeting of the Company,” Ryanair said in a statement.

“These resolutions will remain in place until the Board of the Company determines that the ownership and control of the Company is no longer such that there is any risk to the airline licences held by the Company’s subsidiaries,” the statement said.

UK nationals, like all other non-EU nationals, will not be permitted to acquire ordinary shares, the statement said.

Ryanair last February said that while the airline was 55% EU-owned, Britain-based shareholders at the time controlled around 20% of its stock.

Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan said at the time he expected half of those to re-domicile to the EU if Britain chose to make a sharp break with the EU.

Reporting by Conor Humphries

Admiral to sell to Uswitch owner for £500m

( via – – Tue, 29th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

ZPG will acquire all of Admiral’s comparison website business with shareholders to receive majority of funds

The insurance group Admiral has agreed to sell its comparison website business, which includes, to the owner of its rival Uswitch in a deal worth just over £500m.

Admiral has agreed to sell the Penguin Portals arm, which also includes,, the group’s technology operation, and its 50% share in Preminen Price Comparison Holdings to ZPG (Zoopla Property Group).

ZPG said it will control the acquired businesses through its comparison site division, RVU. The Spanish insurance group Mapfre said it will also sell its stake in and Preminen as part of the deal.

The deal is worth £508m in total, although the proceeds for Admiral will be about £450m after accounting for minority interests and transaction costs.

Admiral said it expects to return a majority of the funds to shareholders, although some cash will be kept to “support investment in new business development over the coming years”.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first half of 2021.

David Stevens, the chief executive of Admiral Group, said: “The purchase of the UK and European comparison businesses by RVU offers a positive outcome for our customers and our employees, and also provides good value for our shareholders.

“The combination of Penguin’s strengths, notably in insurance comparison across much of Europe, with RVU’s strengths beyond insurance and experience in growth through acquisition provides a solid foundation for the combined businesses to grow and prosper.

“Admiral will continue to focus on what Admiral has consistently done well, namely designing and underwriting good value mass market financial service products.”

Tariq Syed, the chief executive of RVU, said: “Penguin Portals offers an exciting opportunity for us to expand our comparison brand portfolio and geographic reach. With its strong brand heritage and focus on insurance, perfectly complements Uswitch’s expertise in the home services category.”

By Press Association

UK Shoppers splurge on luxury food and drink to see out dismal 2020 in style

( via – – Mon, 28th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Shoppers splurge on champagne, gold-flecked smoked salmon and posh New Year’s Eve takeaways

After years of decline, champagne sales are starting to pick up.

From champagne to gold-flecked smoked salmon and even posh New Year’s Eve takeaways, Britons in lockdown are popping more premium corks and splashing out on luxury food treats to help them see out a miserable year in style.

Figures show that many shoppers have traded up to premium fizz – spending nearly a quarter more in the last three months than the same time last year – to tide them over Christmas and celebrate the new year.

Overall, sales of champagne in supermarkets and shops were up 16% by volume and 22% by value in the last 12 weeks, equivalent to 2.3m bottles worth £63m, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association reported on Monday.

“This has been an incredibly difficult year, so it’s great that we can end on a positive note that champagne sales, after years of decline, are starting to pick up,” said Miles Beale, the WSTA’s chief executive. “There is no better way to celebrate than with a bottle of fizz, and our numbers show that, even with everything that has gone on this year, many of us are still looking to celebrate or bring a little extra sparkle with a bottle of bubbly. Many will consider it a little luxury for a festive period when we are having to celebrate at home.”

Similarly, sales of luxury foods such as smoked salmon, patés, fine cheeses and chocolates soared in the run-up to Christmas as Britons indulged in pick-me-up “treats”.

The East End-based smoked salmon specialist H Forman & Son, whose supplies of its award-winning London Cure smoked salmon to top restaurants collapsed following lockdown in March, has enjoyed record sales through its Forman & Field home delivery arm, more than double those of last year. Shoppers stocked up on smoked salmon and paté, British artisan cheeses and its sellout “ultimate care package” hamper, aimed at elderly relatives and student offspring.

Its owner, Lance Forman, said: “Forman’s has been around a long time – since 1905 – and we’ve seen a few recessions. When times are tough, people still need a touch of luxury to lighten those darker days. They may not be able to travel as much or may have to hold back on large purchases, but a little taste of luxury doesn’t need to break the bank.”

Waitrose said sales of deluxe salmon, including its gin-infused smoked salmon adorned with gold lustre, were up 18% on last year, and those of its premium own-brand No 1 cheeses and Christmas confectionery up 55% and 19%.

“The holiday period is the perfect time to indulge in a little luxury, and despite no celebratory events this year, shoppers are still embracing the sheer decadence of a glass of fizz,” said Rebecca Hull, the supermarket’s champagne and sparkling wine buyer. “While champagne remains a popular choice, it’s fantastic to see shoppers broadening their sparkling horizons as the popularity of our English sparkling wine continues to grow.”

At the Co-op, sales of champagne doubled over Christmas, with alternatives such as pink prosecco also popular. Simon Cairns, the retailer’s head of drinks, said: “Champagne sales have been bubbling over this year as shoppers have been choosing more premium bottles of wine to make the most of more at-home drinking occasions.”

Top UK hotels forced by lockdown restrictions to switch to takeaway services have been striving to offer the full New Year’s Eve restaurant experience in the comfort of diners’ homes. In London, the Savoy’s celebration meal for two comprises five courses for an eye-watering £350. Homemade foie gras terrine or chilled lobster, beef wellington or Scottish salmon, a selection of British cheeses and chocolate fondant can be washed down with the bottle of Louis Roederer champagne included in the price.

The Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, has sold out of its £95 five-course meal for one, although three-course options are still available for delivery nationwide.

By Rebecca Smithers

What will happen to mobile roaming charges after Brexit?

( via – – Mon, 28th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Travellers heading for European Union countries should check their mobile phone provider's roaming charges, government minister Michael Gove has said.

That's because the UK's trade deal with the EU does not rule out additional costs when heading abroad in future.

Can I use my mobile in the EU?

Since 2017, UK consumers have, within reason, been able to use the minutes, texts and data included on their mobile phone tariffs when travelling in the EU.

The same is true for consumers from other EU countries visiting the UK.

There are fair use limits, which mean you can use your mobile phone while travelling in another EU country, but you could not, for example, get a mobile phone contract from Greece and then use it all year round in the UK.

Before the rules changed, using a mobile phone in Europe was expensive, with cases of people returning from trips to find bills for hundreds or even thousands of pounds waiting for them.

Will roaming charges return?

After leaving the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK entered a transition period during which virtually all EU rules and regulations – including on mobile phone roaming – still apply.

The transition will end on 31 December 2020.

The UK's trade deal with the EU does not say that the ban on additional roaming charges will continue.

It says that both sides will encourage operators to have “transparent and reasonable rates” for roaming.

That means that mobile operators will be able to implement roaming charges after the end of the transition period if they want to.

The government's guidance says: “Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get from 1 January 2021.”

It has already passed legislation that would provide some safeguards for consumers:

  • A £45-a-month limit on the amount that customers could be charged for using mobile data abroad before having to opt into further use
  • Requirements for customers to be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance
  • Operators would have to take “reasonable steps” to avoid customers being charged for accidental roaming in Northern Ireland, which would happen if a phone in Northern Ireland locked onto the mobile signal coming from the Republic of Ireland.

What are mobile companies planning?

Of course, just because the operators might be allowed to reintroduce roaming charges, it does not necessarily mean that they would do so.

The problem is that without the EU rules in place, the charges would depend on agreements between UK operators and their counterparts in EU countries.

While they may have such deals in place to prevent charges increasing straight away at the start of 2021, there is no guarantee that they would be able to maintain them indefinitely.

There are three factors that mean there is a reasonable chance of UK operators being able to continue to offer inclusive roaming:

  • Bilateral deals – so a UK operator would make an agreement with a French operator, for example, to allow inclusive roaming for UK customers visiting France and for French customers visiting the UK
  • Each EU country has more than one operator, so UK operators will have a choice of companies to deal with
  • Some of the UK operators are parts of groups that also operate in EU countries.

The four main operators in the UK declined to comment on the specifics of the commercial deals they have done with other operators, but said they did not plan to reintroduce roaming charges.

Three said it “already offers roaming at no extra cost for its customers in over 70 destinations including the US, Australia and New Zealand. We will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations.”

Vodafone said it had no plans to reintroduce roaming charges.

EE said: “Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don't have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome. So our customers going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming.”

And O2 said: “We're committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel outside the UK. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe.”

By Anthony Reuben

15 REAL Ways to Invest in Yourself

Source: Alux

This Alux video will be answering the following questions: What are the best ways to invest in yourself? What should one know if they want to invest in themselves? What do people mean when they say: invest in yourself? How do you invest in yourself? How to invest in myself? How does one invest in themselves? What are the most effective ways to invest in yourself? How to invest in yourself when you have no money? What are some real ways to invest in yourself? What is the best way to invest in myself? What are the best ways to invest money in yourself? People say invest in yourself that is the best investment. What do they actually mean?

9 Things To Be Thankful For In 2020

Source: 9 Things To Be Thankful For In 2020

Struggling to find things to be thankful for in 2020?

Let’s face it: It has been a very, VERY rough year.

For all of us, the past year will forever be remembered as the one when most of us were asked to accept a “new normal”… which is a sugar-coated way of saying that life, as we once lived it, will never be quite normal again.

Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, some good has come to light in 2020.

So this holiday season, we should take the time to express gratitude about what's STILL good in life. That's why in this video, you will learn about 9 things to be thankful for in 2020.

E.ON Energy cause fury among UK customers by taking direct debits 11 days early

( via – – Thurs, 24th Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Energy company’s users says they will be short of money at Christmas during Covid crisis

E.ON has caused fury among UK customers by taking payments for January 11 days early from 1.5m accounts and telling those affected that they will not get a refund until after Christmas.

Hundreds of angry customers have confronted the energy company on Twitter to complain about the early direct debit, which they say threatens to plunge many “into Christmas poverty” and unplanned overdrafts.

The error could mean homes and small businesses unexpectedly paying more than £100 in the run-up to Christmas, based on the average monthly dual-fuel bill, following a year in which many have shouldered severe financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One customer tweeted: “Christmas ruined, can’t afford to pick up my pre-ordered Christmas shop today because E.ON took my direct debit early.”

Another added: “Not only will many on low incomes be starved for money now, but they’ll probably be hit with bank charges, too.”

E.ON said an “IT issue” had “inadvertently” taken direct debits from some customers but that it would not be able to refund the payment until 29 December.

The energy giant responded to the outcry on Christmas Eve, but according to its customers it was aware of the problem on Wednesday when the direct debits were taken.

“They knew about this yesterday as I contacted them due to my bank notifying me of a [direct debit] from them due today and they told me it was a system error and I was not to worry despite my reservations,” said one Twitter user.

“This will screw over so many people and on Xmas eve as well. Unforgivable,” they added.

A spokesman for E.ON apologised to customers and promised that it would reimburse any bank charges incurred as a result of this issue.

“We are sorry for this error and are taking steps to contact affected customers where we can,” a spokesman said.

“Customers do not need to do anything or contact us, and we ask that they bear with us while we work to refund them on the first available date, which is 29 December.

“Customers’ direct debit payments will then be taken in line with their usual payment schedule. Any customer who is concerned should contact us to discuss their circumstances.”

E.ON is “running reduced [customer service] hours” from 24 December until 3 January, according to the company’s Twitter account.

By Jillian Ambrose



Laptops, desktop sales see ‘renaissance;’ backlog won’t ease until 2022

( via — Thu, 24th Dec 2020) London, UK —

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – The world stocked up on laptop and desktop computers in 2020 at a level not seen since the iPhone debuted in 2007, and manufacturers still are months away from fulfilling outstanding orders, hardware industry executives and analysts said.

“The whole supply chain has been strained like never before,” said Gregg Prendergast, Pan-America president at hardware maker Acer Inc.

Annual global shipments of PCs, the industry’s collective term for laptops and desktops, topped out at about 300 million in 2008 and recently were sinking toward 250 million. Few expected a resurgence.

But some analysts now expect 2020 will close at about 300 million shipments, up roughly 15% from a year ago. Tablets are experiencing even faster growth.

By the end of 2021, installed PCs and tablets will reach 1.77 billion, up from 1.64 billion in 2019, according to research company Canalys. The virus pressed families into expanding from one PC for the house to one for each student, video gamer or homebound worker.

To meet the sudden demand, the world’s handful of big PC vendors added suppliers, sped up shipping and teased better models launching next year. It has not been enough.

Prendergast said Acer has been absorbing the cost to fly laptops directly to its education customers, ditching boats and trains to cut a month off shipping. Yet with assembly lines behind, some customers must wait four months to get shipments.

Components including screens and processors are hard to get even with many factories long past virus shutdowns, analysts said. They added 2021 sales forecasts would be higher if not for the supply issues.

Ishan Dutt, a Canalys analyst, recalled a customer telling a vendor in April that any device with a keyboard would suffice as long as shipments arrived in a week. That urgent need has subsided, but people now want to upgrade, maintaining pressure on the industry, Dutt said.

Additional government stimulus money for schools and businesses in several countries may add to the crunch until 2022, said Ryan Reith, vice president at analyst firm IDC.

Some computers coming to market in the next few months address new needs. They feature better cameras and speakers for video conferencing, analysts said. More models will have a cellular chip, aiding users who can access 4G or 5G mobile signals but not traditional Wi-Fi.

Sam Burd, president at PC maker Dell Technologies Inc, this month said the industry “renaissance” would soon bring devices with artificial intelligence software to simplify tasks like logging on and switching off cameras.

Dell’s online orders from consumers surged 62% in the third quarter compared with last year. Over Black Friday, teams that would normally ring bells at Dell’s Texas headquarters to celebrate big sales gathered like many other people in 2020 – over Zoom from PCs at home.

Reporting by Paresh Dave



Lufthansa airlifts fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK amid lorry chaos

( via – – Wed, 23rd Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Germany's Lufthansa is airlifting fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK on Wednesday as firms seek to beat the lorry chaos at sea ports

The airline said it is carrying 80 tonnes of food from Frankfurt to Doncaster Sheffield Airport for grocers including Tesco and Sainbury's.

Almost 3,000 lorries remain stuck in Kent despite moves to re-start cross-Channel access from Dover.

There are concerns that testing drivers for Covid could delay food supplies.

France shut its border with the UK on Sunday for 48 hours to stop the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus found in the UK.

“Lufthansa Cargo is currently examining whether additional special cargo flights can be offered during the next days. We are also checking if a regular flight might be possible,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

“This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining if we could use passenger aircraft for freight flights only,” she added.

Lufthansa said the delivery, sent by freight firm Venus International Transport, was destined for Tesco, Sainbury's, the Co-op and Aldi.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport told the BBC that in January, the “planned increase” in the number of flights of perishable goods had risen from three a week to eight.

The airport will be handling 700 tonnes a week in food freight, up from 300 tonnes a week. However, the airport said the increase was due to companies wanting to mitigate anticipated Brexit congestion, rather than the current issues at Dover.

“We have seen a general increase in freight traffic in the period since the pandemic began in March by around 40% year-on-year,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of enquiries for flights as a result of border closures and we are handling additional flights, such as today's, where possible. Naturally, this is already a busy period for the air-freight sector as a result of Christmas and Covid.”

Some firms have been chartering private aircraft to move goods such as food, textiles and livestock as the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel closed.

French residents and nationals who can prove they have had a negative coronavirus test will be able to travel from Wednesday, and lorry drivers can do so after a rapid lateral flow Covid test.

The food imports will be flown from Frankfurt, a major food distribution centre in Europe that receives goods from food producers all over the continent including Spain, the Netherlands and France.


Although France has given the go-ahead for travel from the UK to resume, the International Road Transport Union warned that testing truck drivers will cause significant delays.

“We don't think testing will work. The backlog can't be cleared if the tests take 30 minutes per driver,” said Raluca Marian, the union's general delegate to the EU.

Britain imports nearly half of its fresh vegetables and the majority of its fruit, both mainly from the EU.

Tesco and Sainsbury's warned earlier this week that if the port chaos continued, the UK could see shortages of lettuce and some citrus fruits – which are typically imported from Spain and Italy.

Tesco has introduced purchasing limits on some products including eggs, rice, soap and toilet roll. Customers are allowed to buy up to three of each item.

On Wednesday, Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that some shortages could worsen.

“It is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible. Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods,” he said.

In the past, the UK has turned to other means when fresh produce has been under threat.

In 2018, thousands of iceberg lettuces were shipped from Los Angeles to the UK due to a summer heat wave increasing demand for salad, while the hotter weather made it difficult to actually grow lettuces.

Last year, Frankfurt Airport handled 2.09 million tonnes of cargo, according to Airports Council International.

German companies imported €11.1bn (£10bn) of fresh fruit and vegetables – equivalent to 19% of the combined imports of all European countries, latest data from the Netherlands' Center for the Promotion of Imports (CBI) shows.

The airport's cargo terminal has 12,000 sq m of temperature-controlled warehouses, including 2,000 sq m (21,530 sq ft) of cold storage.


Brains and Marston’s Pub Deal to Save up to 1300 jobs

( via– Wed, 23rd Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

The chairman of Brains says recent trading restrictions in Wales have put huge pressure on the business.

Brains said recent trading restrictions in Wales – aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic – had put huge pressure on the 138-year-old business.

It closed all of its pubs a few weeks ago after rules would have forbidden them from selling alcohol and opening after 6pm.

Brains chairman John Rhys said: “This agreement marks the formation of a lasting strategic relationship with Marston's which secures the future of Brains' pubs and 1,300 of our employees within them.

“We know and trust Marston's to be excellent custodians of our pubs and, while this is not a decision we have taken lightly, we are confident that both our pubs – and our pubs teams – will thrive under their stewardship.”

Marston's already has 1,368 pubs in the UK.

Under the deal, it will also take over operations at 156 pubs in Wales which will continue to be run under the SA Brain brand and sell the Welsh brewer's beer.

The deal is expected to close in February.

Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay said the move was consistent with the company's long-term strategy and “strengthens our representation in south and west Wales while protecting the heritage and independence of an iconic Welsh business”.

“These high quality pubs are a great fit with our existing estate and will benefit from Marston's scale and operational expertise to further unlock their excellent long-term potential,” he said.

“We look forward to the pub teams joining us and to welcoming guests and the communities which they serve, back into these pubs as the country emerges from the pandemic over the weeks and months ahead.”

Sky's business presenter Ian King said Brains was “synonymous with the Welsh brewing sector” and is a “great brand, very well-established” but that it had been “absolutely hammered by the lockdowns in Wales”.

“What we don't know is what happens to the brewery itself.

“Brains used to own a brewery in the city centre of Cardiff but that was closed, and the company only last year opened a new brewery on the outskirts of Cardiff.

“We have to assume this is going to remain open because the statement to the Stock Exchange from Marston's this morning says the pubs will continue to operate under the Brains banner and will continue to stock Brains beer.”

Shares in Marston's were up 2.3% in early Wednesday trading.



Toyota to stop production at British and French plants early due to Covid border chaos

( via – – Tue, 22nd Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Japanese carmaker says it is expecting shortages of parts as a result of transport delays

The Japanese carmaker said it was expecting shortages of parts as a result of transport delays, after France’s 48-hour ban on accompanied freight or cargo from Britain led to queues of lorries miles long stuck near Dover.

Toyota said it had decided to bring forward the “planned seasonal stop” at its engine plant in Deeside in north Wales and its factory at Burnaston in Derbyshire, where it makes the Corolla. About 3,000 people are employed at the two plants.

Its French site will also stop production two days earlier than planned.

The European factories would ordinarily have closed for an annual shutdown on Christmas Eve and remained shut until 4 January.

Toyota said it wanted to “help ensure the safety and security of our employees and all our stakeholders, particularly our logistics partners and in consideration of society’s wider needs”.

The car manufacturer said it had taken the decision “in light of the traffic bans that a growing number of countries have issued for travel from the UK and due to the uncertain nature of how long the borders will be closed for logistics activities”.

The extended shutdown caps a tumultuous year for the automotive industry, which halted production in the spring as the first wave of the pandemic took hold.

The French government is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday about reopening transport links with the UK.

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Paris failed to lift its 48-hour ban on freight and passengers from Britain over fears about the new coronavirus strain, despite a phone call on Monday evening between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron.

France is one of more than 40 countries that have suspended flights and trains from the UK, including Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Turkey and Canada.

Coronavirus board game sells out by the thousands for Christmas

( via — Tue, 22nd Dec 2020) London, UK —

WIESBADEN, Germany (Reuters) – At a loose end during Germany’s first lockdown, the four Schwaderlapp sisters decided to put their long hours indoors to good use – by inventing a coronavirus board game that is selling by the thousands.

“Corona” can be played by up to four players, who compete to buy all the groceries on a shopping list for an elderly neighbour who is shielding against the virus.

The players collect and swap game cards, and the winner is whoever delivers all the items first. Hurdles along the way include encountering the virus, which sends you into quarantine, or finding that hoarders have already snapped up all the pasta or toilet rolls.

“The basic principle is one of solidarity,” 20-year-old Sarah told Reuters TV from the family home in the western city of Wiesbaden.

The sisters worked on the game most evenings during the spring lockdown, gradually incorporating more elements from news broadcasts about the pandemic.

“That was the case with hoarding. And we saw about the balcony concerts in Italy and turned that into a playing card too,” added sister Rebecca.


So far he’s sold 2,000 copies, and signed up a toy store as a secondary distributor.

“Because the game has been so popular it’s been quite a challenge for our family-based operation – packing and posting 500 games within a very short period,” he said.

“Demand has been massive from across Germany.”

Reporting by Reuters TV


Evans part of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia brand sold to Australia’s City Chic for £23m

( via– Mon, 21st Dec, 2020) London, Uk – –

Administrators Deloitte said that there had been “significant” interest in all Arcadia's brands, which also include Topshop.

Australian-listed City Chic is acquiring the business after Arcadia was driven into administration by the coronavirus crisis hammering Britain's high streets.

But the deal does not include any of the 90-year-old brand's store network, though these will “continue to trade for the time being”, administrators Deloitte said.
Retailers hope for seasonal rush

Evans, a plus-size clothes and footwear retailer – one of Arcadia's smaller brands, has five standalone stores with its goods also sold at other shops.

The deal includes its e-commerce and wholesale business, Deloitte said.

Evans, established in 1930, generated £23m in online sales and £3m wholesale revenues in the year to August.

City Chic, which also specialises in plus-size women's fashion, is listed on the Australian stock exchange and operates mainly online in Australia, New Zealand and the US.

The deal is expected to complete on Wednesday.

Deloitte said the process to secure owners for the other Arcadia brands – which include Topshop, Topman and Dorothy Perkins – was ongoing.

“There have been significant expressions of interest for all brands,” the administrators said, adding that a further update was expected in the new year.

Sky News revealed last week that retailer Next was in talks with American investment firm Davidson Kempner about a joint bid to gain control of Arcadia.



Center Parcs shuts five UK sites due to concerns over new variant of coronavirus

( via – – Mon, 21st Dec 2020) London, Uk – –

Center Parcs has temporarily closed its five UK sites due to concerns over the new variant of coronavirus.

The holiday firm said continuing to accept visitors would go against the government's “strong advice” to stay local and minimise social contact.

It said it regretted disappointing customers, and those who had booked stays could reschedule with a discount or get a full refund.

The five sites will remain shut until at least 7 January, it confirmed.

In a statement the company said: “It is clear that the threat of the virus with the new variant is now at an extremely delicate stage and [the government's] strong advice is to stay local, minimise social contacts and take care to protect ourselves and others.

“It is therefore with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to close all our UK villages”.

Those with bookings for immediately after 7 January have been told to regularly check both government advice and news directly from Center Parcs.

In March, all the company's sites were closed in line with government guidance.

Subsequently, the resorts have faced several changes depending on national restrictions, with most having only recently reopened at the beginning of December.



How A $16 Hat Made Carhartt A Billion-Dollar Brand

Source: CNBC

Carhartt has been the unofficial uniform of America’s blue-collar workforce since 1889. The Detroit brand cut its teeth outfitting railroad workers with bib overalls before expanding its offerings for laborers from farmers to carpenters and construction workers. Once the hip-hop community adopted the workwear style, Carhartt became a pop culture icon.

Today, it's almost impossible to walk around any major city from New York to Los Angles, from Tokyo to London, without seeing Carhartt jackets, Carhartt beanies, and Carhartt pants. The beanie is actually called the Carhartt watch cap and it's by far its most popular product with Carhartt selling about 4 million of them a year. A wide range of celebrities from Jamie Foxx and Kanye West o Rihanna, Bella Hadid and Drake all wear Carhartt gear.

The company says it has never sought out that kind of attention. In fact, fast fashion and the fleeting exposure that comes with it are anathema to its mantra: outworking the mall since 1889.