Post-Brexit controls on vehicles taking goods to the EU eased by UK

( via — Tue, 20th Apr 2021) London, UK —

Britain on Tuesday eased controls designed to prevent a backlog of trucks in southern England caused by new post-Brexit paperwork, saying vehicles taking goods to the European Union would no longer need a special permit to enter the port region.

The government said the relaxation showed goods transport companies had adapted to the new requirements, and were arriving at the border fully prepared.

The permit system was introduced in Kent when Britain completed its exit from the EU at the end of 2020 to mitigate fears of trade being brought to a standstill due to ports being blocked by vehicles trying to travel without the correct documentation.

Before Christmas, thousands of trucks were held up at the port of Dover as some companies stockpiled ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU and after France shut its borders following an outbreak of a new coronavirus strain, prompting fears of severe disruption when the new Brexit rules came in.

The government said freight volumes between Britain and the EU were operating at normal levels and cited official data showing a 46% increase in exports in February.

The same data also showed British goods exports to the EU, excluding non-monetary gold and precious metals, were 41.4% below year-ago levels in January but partially recovered to be 12.5% below year-ago levels in February.

Imports, which dropped 19.2% on year-ago levels in January, were 11.5% below year-ago levels in February.


Deliveroo’s orders double in first quarter after dismal IPO

( via — Thur, 15th April 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) -Food delivery company Deliveroo said its orders more than doubled in the quarter to end-March in its first trading update since its highly-anticipated listing in London last month flopped.

Growth accelerated for the fourth consecutive quarter, the company said, with group orders up 114% year-on-year to 71 million and gross transaction value (GTV) up 130% year-on-year to 1.65 billion pounds ($2.27 billion).

Chief Executive Will Shu said demand was strong in both UK and Ireland and its international markets, driven by record new customer growth and sustained demand from existing customers.

“This is our fourth consecutive quarter of accelerating growth, but we are mindful of the uncertain impact of the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

“So while we are confident that our value proposition will continue to attract consumers, restaurants, grocers and riders throughout 2021, we are taking a prudent approach to our full year guidance.”

The company said it was maintaining its guidance for full-year GTV growth of between 30% to 40% and gross profit margins of 7.5-8.0%.

Deliveroo said it was difficult to know how much of the growth was driven by the lack of opportunity to eat out in cafes and restaurants in COVID-19 lockdowns, adding that it expected the rate of growth to slow as restrictions eased.

Deliveroo’s float in London was heralded at the debut of the decade, but it soured when the stock fell 30% on the first day, wiping more than 2 billion pounds off the company’s initial 7.6 billion pound valuation.

Some of Britain’s biggest investment companies shunned the listing, citing concerns about gig-economy working conditions and the share structure.

The shares have continued to decline and closed at 268 pence on Wednesday, 31% below the 390 pence they were priced at in the float.

($1 = 0.7260 pounds)

Reporting by Paul Sandle

Covid lockdown eases as pubs gardens, shops and hairdressers reopen in England

( via – – Mon, 12th April 2021) London, Uk – –

For the first time in months pub gardens, shops and hairdressers are reopening in England, as rules are also eased in the rest of the UK.

Some pubs and salons opened at midnight, with one landlord saying there was a “sense of celebration”, and shoppers queued outside Primark stores.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged everyone to “behave responsibly”.

Northern Ireland's “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are also being relaxed in Scotland and Wales.

The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight pubgoers.

“I'm hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said.

But the British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

Marika Smith, general manager of Hough End Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester, says she “has not slept the last two nights” in anticipation of reopening.

“All of the swimming is fully booked, you can't get on any, and the same for the busy parts of this evening, 6-7 o'clock is fully booked,” she said.

Another business that reopened at midnight in England was Secret Spa, which offers at-home salon and spa treatments in London, Manchester and Brighton.

Co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks said it had “been such a long time coming”, saying: “Everyone has really missed the social contact of the day-to-day job and making clients happy.”

She said they have experienced a “surge of bookings”, including “a lot of 6am haircuts”.

PureGym at Coventry Skydome reported more than 50 members using its gym in the opening 30 minutes on Monday morning.

The rule changes in England from Monday include:

  • All shops can reopen
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
  • Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Non-essential journeys between England and Wales are allowed
  • Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals
  • Children can attend any indoor children's activity
  • Care home visitors will increase to two per resident
  • Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 will return to the classroom. The stay-at-home message is being relaxed and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden.

  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen
  • ‘Everyone's raring to get back to the gym'

In Scotland, pupils at schools in six council areas go back to school today. Not everyone is returning on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays.

After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students will return to face-to-face teaching on Monday.

Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed.

Analysis: By Simon Jack

Shoppers, gym fans, domestic holiday makers, outdoor drinkers and diners, plus those in need of a haircut will share the government's hope that today is an irreversible step towards old and cherished freedoms.

So will the business owners who will be welcoming them back.

But this significant easing of lockdown is also an important test.

Will customers want or be able to return in sufficient numbers for firms to break even and if they don't, what will it take to make the economy work again?

Only two in five hospitality venues have any outdoor space and the rules over future inside opening are still unclear.

The government and the opposition have distanced themselves from requiring Covid certificates for day-to-day life but the government has also hinted individual businesses may require them if they wish.

Hospitality chiefs have told the BBC they fear having to choose between two different ways to lose money – half empty venues without certificates or full ones with extra staff and hassle to check Covid status.

Demand may vary by sector.

Hairdressers are booked solid, retailers are hopeful of high footfall and are welcoming longer opening hours but some holiday parks are reporting subdued bookings as many of their public amenities remain closed.

It is a test for everyone – but a welcome one for most.

In a statement, the prime minister said the rule relaxations are “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom”.

“I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” he added.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

The rule changes in England marks the third easing since the country's third national lockdown began on 6 January.

There is a gap of at least five weeks between each step on the government's “roadmap” out of lockdown, to allow the impact of changes on infection rates and hospital admissions to be assessed.

  • Pupils begin full time return to secondary schools
  • NI's ‘stay home' order lifted as restrictions ease
  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen

The next significant date is 17 May, when up to six people from different households could be allowed to socialise indoors.

Will cases now rise?

By BBC health correspondent Anna Collinson

As restrictions are eased, infections are expected to rise.

The government argues that the UK is in a strong position – with almost 40 million combined first and second vaccine doses now administered.

It doesn't view the reopening of non-essential shops and beer gardens as particularly risky – as long as people stick to the rules.

However, there are some scientists who fear today's relaxation has come too soon and they are concerned about virus hotspots in the East Midlands and parts of Yorkshire.

There are strict criteria that must be met before moving to the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions, including the continued success of the vaccine rollout and protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed with cases.

The next stage will be the planned return of indoor mixing and foreign travel on 17 May at the earliest – and it's these steps that are expected to pose the greater risk.

More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and of those 7.4m have had their second dose.

A record total of 475,230 second doses were administered on Saturday – along with 111,109 first doses.

Mr Johnson praised the “record-breaking day” on Twitter, writing: “Thanks to everyone involved in this extraordinary effort which has already saved thousands of lives.”

The number of people dying in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test continues to fall steadily, with seven further deaths reported on Sunday.

That is the lowest daily death toll by this measure since 14 September 2020. However, there can be a lag in reporting coronavirus statistics during weekends.

Grant Shapps transport secretary: People can now think about booking foreign holidays

( via– Fri, 9th Apr 2021) London, Uk – –

The change in advice came as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

People can “start to think” about booking foreign summer holidays, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News.

The cabinet minister issued the change in advice, as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

It comes just days after Downing Street published an official document that urged people “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer”.

However, the government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from 17 May – and where Britons will be able to travel without self-isolating on their return.

Mr Shapps also insisted he is trying to make foreign travel as affordable as possible amid criticism that a coronavirus testing requirement will drive up holiday costs

The traffic light “framework” includes making all UK arrivals take pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 tests.

Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.

This has led to a backlash from the travel industry which has warned foreign holidays this year would be “just something for the wealthy”.

The sector wants travellers returning from low-risk countries to be allowed to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

UK budget holiday airline Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays until late June due to uncertainty over government travel plans.

Asked on Sky News if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps said: “I'm not telling people that they shouldn't book summer holidays now, it's the first time that I've been able to say that for many months.”

He added: “For the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad or perhaps a summer holiday but we are doing it very, very cautiously as we don't want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”

Mr Shapps said he was looking to “make it as affordable as possible to travel” and “drive down the costs” of tests.

He said: “Costs are definitely a concern. It is one of the factors this year. We have to accept we are still going through a global pandemic.

“We do have to be cautious and I am afraid that does involve having to have some tests and the like.

“But, I am undertaking today to drive down the costs of those tests and looking at some innovative things we could do.

“For example, whether we can help provide the lateral flow tests people need to take before they depart the country they are in to return to the UK and also drive down the costs of the tests when they get home if it is in the green category.

“We are trying to make it as practical as possible.”

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said the framework “does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers”.

He added: “The insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing – even for low-risk countries – will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people.”Twice-weekly tests now available for free in England

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the plan was “a blow to all travellers” and risked “making flying only for the wealthy”.

He added: “As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News' Ian King Live programme: “The main concern is about the cost of all of this testing, particularly for people who are looking to go on a family holiday or for small businesses, who are on a very tight budget.

“The cost of all these PCR tests could be enormous.

“The government risks shooting itself in the foot here. I think the prime minister needs to deliver on his commitment to make testing cheap and easy.”

Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation ABTA, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.

It has also been revealed the Civil Aviation Authority will be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that breach consumer rights, after many passengers struggled to obtain refunds when flights were grounded.

UK home movers have a spring in their step, with stamp duty holiday extension, says Halifax

( via – – Fri, 9th April 2021) London, Uk – –

The extension of the stamp duty holiday put a “spring in the step” of home movers in March, according to the UK's biggest mortgage lender.

The Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group, said there was “something of a resurgence” in the UK housing market in March.

Extensions to stamp duty holidays in England, Northern Ireland and Wales were key to the rise in activity.

As a result, the average house price was 6.5% higher than a year ago.

It meant the typical home was valued at £254,606 in March.

Although rising house prices will be welcomed by some, it will frustrate those wanting to buy a home for the first time – particularly if Covid uncertainty has affected their income and ability to borrow through a mortgage.

There was some support announced in the Budget as a government guarantee means first-time buyers should get a wider choice of mortgages that require a deposit of just 5% of the loan.

The economic fallout of the pandemic could affect longer-term pricing of property, according to Russell Galley, managing director at the Halifax.

“With the economy yet to feel the full effect of its biggest recession in more than 300 years, we remain cautious about the longer-term outlook,” he said.

“Given current levels of uncertainty and the potential for higher unemployment, we still expect house price growth to slow somewhat by the end of this year.”

Defying expectations

The Halifax said that UK house prices rose by 1.1% in March compared with February, according to figures based on the lender's own mortgage data.

That meant they had risen in cash terms by £15,430 over the last year – a 12 months dominated by Covid, with various lockdowns and other restrictions.

“Casting our minds back 12 months, few could have predicted quite how well the housing market would ride out the impact of the pandemic so far, let alone post growth of more than £1,000 per month on average,” Mr Galley said.

Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of asset manager SPI Capital, suggested that lockdowns and rising living standards had encouraged existing owners to buy bigger properties.

However, she said inequality among generations and incomes meant many would need to rent instead, which could increase demand in that sector.

The UK housing market is judged by average prices, but there are a host of local markets in which schools, housing development and regional employment that can affect property values.

By By Kevin
Peachey Personal finance correspondent

Goldman Sachs prepares staff to return to London office after Easter break

( via – – Tue, 6th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Investment bank could see 200 of its 6,000 London workers back in the office after Easter break

Goldman Sachs is preparing for hundreds more staff to go back to its London office this week as it eyes a return to pre-pandemic working conditions.

As many as 200 of the US investment bank’s workers could return to the main London office from Tuesday, joining several hundred staff who have been at their desks throughout several lockdowns. Goldman Sachs employs about 6,000 workers in London overall.

Bankers were classed as key workers if their jobs support the functioning of the economy and financial stability, meaning some have been allowed to work in the office throughout the pandemic.

At Goldman’s London office, between 200 and 300 workers such as financial traders have been travelling into work during the lockdowns because of their need to use specialised computer equipment.

Other banks are looking at similar plans. A small number of staff are expected to start returning to Credit Suisse from Monday 12 April, for example, although the return will be staggered.

The rapid pace of the UK’s vaccination programme and the easing of rules on travel have meant that some companies have considered plans to bring workers back to offices that have been vacated for a large part of the last year.

The government eased some lockdown restrictions on 29 March, although its official guidance remains that people should work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys made.

Views on the future of work after pandemic restrictions ease appear to differ even within the banking sector. HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, has said it will cut its property footprint by as much as 40% in the long term, and Lloyds Banking Group, the bank with the biggest UK high street presence, has said it will bring in working from home as a permanent lifestyle change, allowing it to cut 20% of its office space.

However, Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, has described working from home as an “aberration” that must be rectified “as soon as possible”.

Goldman’s working conditions have come under scrutiny during the pandemic after junior US analysts compiled a report in which they claimed they were subjected to 100-hour working weeks. After the report was leaked Goldman acknowledged that some people might be quite “stretched” by working from home, in part because the bank has enjoyed record trading volumes during the pandemic.

Based on the experience of England’s previous easing of lockdown rules it is thought that Goldman could accommodate about 1,000 workers in its London office while still observing social distancing rules, which are expected to remain in place in some form until at least 21 June.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

By Jasper Jolly

UK’s lowest-paid workers to get pay rise as household bills increase

( via – – Thur, 1st Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Statutory minimum wages go up on same day as inflation-busting increases to utility and phone bills

Approximately 2 million of the UK’s lowest-paid workers will receive a raise from Thursday after increases to statutory minimum wage rates. However, many workers are unlikely to feel better off as the pay rise comes on the same day as inflation-busting increases hit household bills.

Workers aged 23-24 are expected be the biggest beneficiaries after the government announced that they will start receiving the new minimum living wage of £8.91 a hour – up from the £8.20 a hour they are currently entitled to.

Previously only workers aged 25 and older received what is now called the national living wage. The increase, a 2.3% rise for 25-year-olds, is worth £345 a year for older full-time employees, according to the government.

The hourly rate for workers aged 18 on the minimum wage will rise by 11p an hour to £6.56, which is a 1.7% increase. The earnings of low-paid colleagues aged 21-22 will rise to £8.36 a hour.

Ministers said the increase meant a full-time worker on the national living wage would be taking home £5,400 more annually than they were in 2010. The move would particularly benefit workers in sectors such as retail, hospitality and cleaning and maintenance, they added.

However, low-paid workers who live in rented accommodation will almost certainly be worse off, as council tax bill increases averaging 4.3% also come into force across England. On the same day, gas and electricity prices for more than half of households are expected to rise by more than 9%, while most of the mobile phone companies and TV and broadband suppliers have put up prices too. The TV licence fee will increase by £1.50 to £159, while English prescription charges will also rise.

The prime minister said: “The national minimum and living wages have increased every year since they were introduced, supporting the lowest paid, and despite the challenges we have faced recently, this year will be no different. That’s why we are providing a well-earned pay rise to 2 million people, which will be a welcome boost to families right across the UK.”

Laura Gardiner, the director of the Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary real living wage rates – currently £10.85 an hour in London and £9.50 outside the capital – said: “The introduction of the national living wage has delivered a solid pay rise to minimum wage workers, and it is welcome to see the government continuing to commit to ambitious increases.

“However, there is still a substantial gap between this wage rate and one based on the cost of living, with national living wage workers falling billions of pounds short of a real living wage over the past five years.”

By Miles Brignall

UK ‘risks falling behind’ EU on workers’ rights – TUC

( via – – Wed, 31st March 2021) London, Uk – –

The UK is at a “real risk” of falling behind the EU when it comes to workers' rights, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) says.

The union body said the EU had “various initiatives” in the pipeline which would improve standards once they became law.

But it said the UK had no similar legislation on the way.

The government said in protecting workers' rights the UK already “goes further than the EU in many areas”.

The TUC's call comes three months after a new post-Brexit trade deal came into force between the UK and EU.

Both sides have committed not to lower labour standards in a way that impacts trade or investment – but that does not mean they have to match each other.

Gap widening?

Nonetheless, the TUC said the UK had already failed to implement directives it agreed to while still a member of the EU, including:

  • A work-life balance directive, which gives fathers the right to day-one paid paternity leave and gives all workers the right to request flexible work
  • And a transparent and predictable working conditions directive, which gives workers compensation for cancelled shifts, predictability of hours for zero hours contracts, and a right to free mandatory training.

It said further initiatives were being considered by the EU that could improve conditions for “platform workers” and give employees the right to “digitally disconnect” outside working hours.

The bloc is also looking at ways to make employers accountable for the rights of workers in their supply chains.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said that “as a bare minimum, the government must keep the pace with the EU on rights”.

“Just three months after the UK-EU deal came into force, we're already at real risk of losing ground to the EU on workers' rights.

“Again and again, Boris Johnson promised that his government would protect and enhance workers' rights. It's high time the prime minister lived up to his word.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the UK offered workers “generous holiday pay and high standards for workplace safety”.

BEIS cited as examples that the UK annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks compared favourably with the four weeks required in the EU. The UK allows parents to share paid parental leave, which the EU does not, BEIS said. It also said the UK had one of the highest minimum wage rates in Europe.

“We have a strong record of protecting and enhancing workers' rights and are committed to going further to make the UK the best place in the world to work,” the spokesperson said.

‘Raising standards'

However, Ms O'Grady noted the government had promised to introduce a new employment bill to improve people's rights at work in 2019 but was yet to bring it before Parliament.

She said the bill could “end exploitative work practices like zero-hours contracts, once and for all”.

In January, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng scrapped a planned review of workers' rights amid fears it would lead to an erosion of job protections, such as the 48-hour week, holiday entitlements and overtime pay.

At the time, Mr Kwarteng stressed the government had never intended to water down standards and if anything wanted to raise them.

The government said an employment bill designed to enhance workers' rights would be brought forward “when parliamentary time allows”.View comments

Suez Canal Ever Given ship refloated, traffic finally moving again

( via– Mon, 29th March 2021) London, Uk – –

The stranded container ship blocking the Suez Canal has been freed, allowing traffic in the channel to finally resume.

Egyptian authorities said other vessels were moving again after the gigantic Ever Given ship was refloated, which was seen by witnesses for the Reuters news agency.

The Ever Given has started heading towards the Bitter Lakes area, according to Egyptian television.

Efforts to get the ship moving again appeared to have been frustrated after high winds swung it back across the channel after its partial refloating earlier on Monday.

There had been intensive efforts to push and pull it with 10 tug boats and vacuum up sand with several dredgers at high tide.

Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, confirmed the ship had responded successfully to “pull-and-push manoeuvres”.

Speaking earlier, he said workers had almost completely straightened the vessel's course and that the stern had moved 102 metres (334 feet) from the canal bank.

The oil price fell as news of developments in the canal emerged, with the price of Brent crude down by 2% to just over $63 (£46) a barrel.

It had been feared the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship might be stuck for weeks.

Dredgers overnight shifted more than 27,000 cubic metres of sand – to a depth of 18m (59ft) – with work taking place around the clock.

The skyscraper-sized Ever Given became stuck in Egypt's Suez Canal last Tuesday and the resulting disruption to the vital waterway has held up £6.5bn in global trade each day.

Hundreds of other vessels had remained trapped in the canal waiting to pass, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle.

More than two dozen vessels opted for the alternative route between Asia and Europe around the Cape of Good Hope, adding around a fortnight to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The 400m (1,312ft) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds.

As of Saturday, 321 boats were waiting to get through the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.

US warns it could put tariffs up to 25% on UK exports in ‘tech tax’ row

( via – – Mon, 29thMarch 2021) London, Uk – –

The US has warned it could put tariffs of up to 25% on a host of UK exports in retaliation for a UK tax on tech firms.

Ceramics, make-up, overcoats, games consoles and furniture could all be hit, according to a list published by the Biden administration.

The duties are designed to raise $325m, the amount the US believes the UK tax will raise from US tech companies.

A UK government spokesperson said it wanted to “make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax”.

They added: “Should the US proceed to implement these measures, we would consider all options to defend UK interests and industry.”

Washington is pressing ahead with the action, initiated under President Trump, and has scheduled hearings on the list.

It argues the recently introduced digital services tax – which taxes tech firms on their revenues – has “unreasonable, discriminatory, and burdensome attributes”.

Similar actions have proceeded against similar taxes in India, Austria and Spain, but action against the European Union as a whole was dropped.

The US Section 301 action is designed to apply domestic political pressure within the UK and other countries over the imposition of such taxes.

The UK and US held talks about the digital services tax on 4 December, and UK government sources stressed that the tariff list was being seen as procedural rather than an escalation.

The tariffs are now subject to a consultation in the US over the next few weeks.

At the Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility calculated the digital services tax would raise £300m in the current financial year, and as much as £700m in future years.

‘Public frustration'

Brought in last April it taxes at 2% the revenues – not profits – of search engines, social media services and online marketplaces which derive value from UK users.

It followed years of claims in Europe and elsewhere that big tech firms do not pay enough tax in the countries where they operate.

Last August, Facebook agreed to pay the French government €106m (£95.7m) in back taxes to settle a dispute over revenues earned in the country.

Earlier that year, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said he recognised the public's frustration over the amount of tax paid by tech giants.


A UK government spokesperson said: “Like many countries around the world, we want to make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax. Our digital services tax (DST) is reasonable, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

“It's also temporary. We're working positively with the US and other international partners to find a global solution to this problem and will remove the DST when that is in place.”

There are signs the Biden administration wants a more conciliatory relationship on trade with the UK than Donald Trump did.

Last month, Washington agreed to suspend tariffs on UK goods, including single malt whiskies, that were imposed in retaliation over subsidies to aircraft maker Airbus. However, the UK is still lobbying the US to drop duties on British steel brought in in 2018.

By Faisal Islam
Economics editor

IMF Silently Creates New Money Layer, Why You Need to Leave the Banks: Willem Middelkoop

Source: Stansberry Research

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

The International Monetary Fund’s special drawing right (SDR) – the international reserve asset created in 1969 to prepare for a new dollar crisis – is undergoing a renaissance with important worldwide repercussions says Willem Middelkoop, author of the Big Reset. “The announcement of the largest-ever increase in SDR allocations, which will greatly improve the liquidity of many developing nations, signals alignment between the US and China in a key area of global monetary power,” he tells our Daniela Cambone.

Small local grocery stores likely to benefit from shift in shopping habits beyond pandemic – poll

( via – – Tue, 23rd March 2021) London, Uk – –

Survey suggests small stores likely to benefit from permanent changes in the way Britons shop for food and drink

Small local grocery stores and online retailers are likely to benefit from permanent changes in shopping habits after a year of Covid-19 restrictions, according to a report one year on from the first lockdown.

More than nine in 10 of people who have shopped locally say they will continue to do so, a survey by Barclaycard found.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers in the UK have chosen to buy closer to home in the past year, leading to a 63% rise in spending at specialist food and drink stores such as butchers, bakeries and greengrocers last month, the debit and credit card operator said.

Neighbourhood stores have been boosted by the shift to working from home and strengthened interest in supporting businesses that have kept communities going through hard times.

However, the trend for online shopping, which has piled pressure on high street retailers and city centres across the country in recent years, is also expected to continue.

Shoppers have received an extra two deliveries a month since March 2020 on top of an average of five before the pandemic. Half of consumers expect to continue with at least that number in future, and 10% expectto order more.

Trends for online grocery shopping, DIY meal kits and concierge-style services, whereby clothing is delivered to a home to be tried on with the courier waiting to take unwanted items back, are all expected to outlast the restrictions introduced because of the pandemic.

Tom Cheesewright, a consultant on future trends, said:“Echoes of this pandemic will be heard long after lockdown is lifted through a sustained shift in our buying behaviours. Changes we expected to happen over a decade have been condensed into a year.”

By Sarah Butler

BoE welcomes signs of economic recovery, but is split over outlook

( via –Thur, 18th March 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England said Britain’s economic recovery was gathering pace thanks to the speed of COVID-19 vaccinations but its policymakers were split over the prospects for longer-term improvement, dampening speculation about a reversal of stimulus.

The government’s tough pandemic restrictions – which will cause the economy to shrink again in early 2021 – could be lifted “somewhat more rapidly” than thought last month, the BoE said on Thursday after its March policy meeting.

Britain is on track to have given a first COVID-19 shot to half of all adults in the next few days, making it one of the fastest countries to roll out vaccines and pushing up sterling and British government bond yields this year.

Since the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee met in February, “the news on near-term economic activity had been positive, although the extent to which that news changed the medium-term outlook was less clear,” the British central bank said.

“Different MPC members placed different weights on the balance of risks around the outlook.”

Those differences – over whether the economy will grow too slowly or too fast and generate too much or too little inflation – have been on full show in recent weeks.

BoE Chief Economist Andy Haldane has likened the economy to a “coiled spring”, with consumers primed to spend savings they have amassed while locked up at home. Speaking at an event on Thursday he said a rapid recovery was more likely than not.

Other MPC members sound much more wary as Britain also faces the drag of its new, less open, trading relationship with the European Union and the prospect of higher taxes after a short-term stimulus boost from finance minister Rishi Sunak.

Governor Andrew Bailey said on Monday that his increased optimism came “with a large dose of caution”.

The disagreements were spelled out more clearly in the minutes of the March meeting than in February, ranging from the degree of spare capacity, whether demand would fuel inflation pressure during the recovery, and whether a post-pandemic recovery required a different approach to previous upturns.

The pound weakened moderately against the U.S. dollar as investors took the announcement as a sign that the BoE was in no rush to start dialling back on its stimulus programmes. British government bond yields were little changed.


The BoE kept its benchmark interest rate at an all-time low of 0.1%, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

The central bank also left unchanged the size of its 895 billion pound ($1.25 trillion) bond-buying programme.

“The tone of the meeting has remained cautious, in line with the stance adopted by the other major central banks over the last week,” said Silvia Dall’Angelo, senior economist at the international business of Federated Hermes.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve pledged to keep U.S. rates near zero at least until 2023 even as it forecast a sharp jump in economic growth and inflation in 2021.

But the European Central Bank said last week it would accelerate money-printing to keep a lid on borrowing costs as euro zone countries struggle to roll out their vaccine programmes.

JP Morgan economist Allan Monks said the BoE would probably upgrade its economic forecasts in May, which would “at least implicitly acknowledge that the next move in rates is up”.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley said the March minutes “did not signal a hawkish shift” as the BoE said it was ready to pick up the pace of its bond-buying if needed.

The BoE said it planned to keep the pace of its purchases of British government bonds steady at around 4.4 billion pounds per week, but reiterated that it could slow the pace in the future.

($1 = 0.7157 pounds)

By David Milliken, Andy Bruce, William Schomberg

New rules to end ‘rewards for failure’ in boardrooms to be unveiled by ministers

( via– Wed, 17th March 2021) London, Uk – –

Kwasi Kwarteng will publish the long-awaited white paper on audit and corporate governance reform on Thursday, Sky News learns.

New rules to end ‘rewards for failure' in boardrooms are to be unveiled by ministers this week with the release of a long-awaited white paper on audit and corporate governance reform.

Sky News has learnt that the consultation document, which will be published on Thursday, will propose a further review that could make it mandatory for all listed companies to incorporate ‘malus and clawback' arrangements in directors' pay arrangements.

The move, if implemented, would represent a significant strengthening of the current regime covering executive remuneration.

Under the proposals, companies would be expected to recover bonuses or share awards already paid – clawback – or cancel outstanding awards – malus – in circumstances including where directors can be demonstrated to have failed to protect customers' and employees' interests.

According to a senior audit firm executive, the provisions would also be triggered in circumstances such as a material misstatement of a company's accounts, and would last for at least two years after an award is made.

The revised arrangements would be implemented by strengthening the UK's Corporate Governance Code following a consultation led by regulators, with consideration subsequently given to extending their remit by amending listing rules.

Malus and clawback provisions became embedded within bank pay structures since the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

While many companies outside the banking sector have also adopted similar measures since then, few of them are triggered by risk management failures or issues which cause damage to a company's reputation.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, will publish the white paper – called Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance – after weeks of talks in Whitehall.

The source, who said he been briefed on the document's contents, said on Wednesday that it would also propose a statutory levy to fund the new Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA), which is being set up to replace the discredited Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

That would replace the partly-voluntary arrangements which provide the FRC's annual budget.

Central to the government's proposals will be a new regime to make directors personally liable for the accuracy of their company's financial statements, with fines and bans as punishments for breaches of the rules.

The plans, which were reported by the Financial Times in January, triggered by a fierce backlash from parts of the business community, but are not expected to have been changed since then.

Mr Kwarteng will also confirm that the big four auditors – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers – will be required to ‘operationally separate' their audit and consulting businesses in an attempt to minimise conflicts of interest.

The white paper has been drawn up on the back of public and political anger over prominent audit failures at companies such as BHS, Carillion and the owner of Patisserie Valerie.

Another executive at a big four firm said the document ran to more than 230 pages and would represent the most fundamental shake-up of UK corporate auditing in its history.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Hand gel sanitiser and loungewear used to calculate UK’s cost of living

( via – – Mon, 15th March 2021) London, Uk – –

High demand amid the pandemic for items such as hand sanitiser and loungewear mean they are now being used to calculate the cost of living in the UK.

Hand weights used by gym-goers who are stuck at home have also been added to the basket of goods used to measure the movement of prices.

The annual review by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also added smartwatches and electric cars.

But white chocolate and sandwiches bought at work are out.

The ONS said it decided to add men's loungewear bottoms and women's sweatshirts to the basket of more than 700 goods, which is used to calculate inflation, to reflect a move towards more casual clothing.

“This is especially relevant as the coronavirus lockdowns appear to have accelerated this trend and retailers are increasingly labelling clothing items as loungewear,” said Sam Beckett, head of economic statistics at the ONS.

Retailers such as Boohoo and M&S have recently reported a boost in sales because of pandemic fashionistas buying comfy joggers and hoodies.

But the ONS's list also included less obvious picks such as smartwatches, which have been used to track exercising at home, and WiFi lightbulbs, as people stuck indoors during lockdown upgraded their living spaces.

Hybrid and electric cars were also added to the basket as the UK moves closer to 2030, when sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned.

White chocolate bars are no longer in favour, and were removed from the basket, replaced by Maltesers and other malted chocolate sweets.

Ground coffee was swapped for coffee sachets, and Axminster and Wilton carpets were taken out because they are mainly being bought for commercial spaces.

Changing consumer habits

Some 180,000 prices are measured across thousands of UK outlets to calculate inflation, which is used as a benchmark for our finances.

This basket of goods reflects contemporary habits and technology to work out the inflation rate, which charts the changing cost of living.

The ONS also aims to ensure that each sector of goods and services, and where items are bought, are reflected adequately in the calculations.

That is why, for example, fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies were added, to allow the ONS to follow a growing healthy-eating trend, it said.

“These annual changes are only a small percentage of the items sampled,” Ms Beckett pointed out.

“This year we've added 17 items, removed 10 and left 729 unchanged.”

Last year, reusable drinking bottles and gluten-free cereals were added to reflect changing consumer behaviour linked to rising environmental concerns and food allergies.

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak raise corporation tax in effort to recover COVID debt

( via– Wed, 3rd Mar 2021) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out an extra £65bn in COVID support for employees and businesses – but announced a freeze on income tax thresholds and a rise in corporation tax to help pay back the UK's rising debts.

In his budget speech, Mr Sunak set out a three-part plan to “protect jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.

But he warned that “corrective action” would be needed to tackle the UK's rising debt, as he set out how the government was now committed to spending £407bn on coronavirus support with borrowing at levels last seen in the 1940s.

Among his key measures, the chancellor announced:

  • an extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September and more support for the self-employed
  • the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit will continue for another six months
  • the rate of corporation tax will rise to 25% in 2023, but with protections for smaller businesses
  • a freeze of the income tax personal allowance from next year until 2026, with a freeze in the higher rate threshold over the same period
  • a new “super deduction” scheme to allow companies to reduce their tax bill by 130% of the cost of new investments
  • the UK economy is forecast to grow by 4% this year and by 7.3% in 2022 but, overall, is set to be 3% smaller than it would have been due to the COVID crisis, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The chancellor said the COVID crisis had caused “acute” damage to the UK economy and acknowledged it would take “this country – and the whole world – a long time to recover from this extraordinary economic situation”.

But he vowed: “We will recover”.

“I said I would do whatever it takes; I have done and I will do,” the chancellor said, as he reiterated his promise to support workers and businesses through the pandemic.

The chancellor said the government had borrowed a record £355bn this year, which he said was the “highest level of borrowing since World War Two”.

Having told MPs he wanted to be “honest” about his plans to begin fixing the public finances, Mr Sunak revealed part of his action will include an increase in the rate of corporation tax, paid on company profits, to 25% in 2023.

And the chancellor announced that personal tax thresholds will be frozen from next year until 2026, which has been described by some as a “stealth” rise in people's tax bills as it will drag more people into paying extra.

The OBR judged that the tax rises announced in the budget increase the tax burden from 34% to 35% of GDP in 2025-26, its highest level since Labour's Roy Jenkins was chancellor in the late 1960s.

But, in an eye-catching move, Mr Sunak unveiled a two-year “super deduction” scheme to allow companies to reduce their tax bill by 130% of the cost of new investments.

“Under the existing rules, a construction firm buying £10m of new equipment could reduce their taxable income, in the year they invest, by £2.6m,” the chancellor explained.

“With the ‘super deduction', they can now reduce it by £13m. We've never tried this before in our country.”

Mr Sunak confirmed an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September, with business being asked to contribute 10% of their furloughed employees' wages in August and 20% in September.

The chancellor also set out the details of more support for the self-employed, including for those who missed out on initial government help.

And Mr Sunak announced the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit will continue for another six months.

In a package of support for businesses, the chancellor revealed:

  • a continuation of the business rates holiday to the end of June, with a two-thirds discount for the remaining nine months of the financial year.
  • an extension of a reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism sectors until the end of September

Those buying houses will also enjoy an extension of the stamp duty holiday on purchases below £500,000 until the end of June, while Mr Sunak also confirmed a government guarantee on mortgages.

Setting out economic forecasts for the next few years, the chancellor said the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated the UK economy would grow by 4% this year and by 7.3% next year, before growing by 1.7%, 1.6% and 1.7% in the following three years.

Furlough scheme extended until September by Rishi Sunak in 2021 Budget

( via – – Wed, 3rd March 2021) London, Uk – –

he furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September by the chancellor in the Budget later.

Rishi Sunak said the scheme – which pays 80% of employees' wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic – would help millions through “the challenging months ahead”.

Some 600,000 more self-employed people will also be eligible for government help as access to grants is widened.

But Labour said the support schemes should have been extended “months ago”.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected more than 11 million jobs since its inception last March and had been due to close at the end of April.

It has been credited for slowing the pace of job losses as tens of thousands of businesses remain shut.

Employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens.

Speaking ahead of the Budget, the chancellor said: “Our Covid support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK.

“There's now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it's only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.” However, he is expected to warn in his Budget that there are tough economic times ahead.

‘The jobs are the great hope'

Analysis: Faisal Islam

It is incredible to think that last year's Budget did not even contain the word “furlough”. Official confirmation of a pandemic came hours after its publication, swiftly rendering most of its numbers obsolete.

But so far in this crisis, unemployment has gone up only modestly. Furlough and the separate support scheme for the self-employed have prevented mass unemployment.

These extensions now aim to prevent a rapid rise in joblessness at the end of the schemes. The BBC understands that unemployment forecasts will be revised down on Wednesday as the chancellor promises to deploy his “full fiscal firepower” to “protect livelihoods” – the theme of the Budget red book.

At more than £10bn, this intervention is almost worthy of a Budget in and of itself.

But the full document will reveal whether the chancellor's borrowing spree is limited to the “rescue phase” of this crisis, or if his confidence in a jobs bounce-back means the economy does not need further stimulus and could even sustain some business-focused tax rises.

After the jabs, the jobs are the great hope.

Economic think tank the Resolution Foundation's chief executive, Torsten Bell, said the phased tapering-off of the furlough scheme would avoid a “risky cliff-edge” for employers, but warned that the “peak of unemployment is ahead rather than behind us”.

However, Bridget Phillipson, Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the changes to support schemes “could have been made months ago” – accusing Mr Sunak of focusing on “getting his moment in the sun rather than protecting jobs and livelihoods”.

The SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, has said furlough must be in place “as long as businesses and devolved governments need it”.

He said he was “concerned companies are going to have to step in and pay greater contributions”.

‘Kicking the can'

And Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said that while the extra months of furlough support offer “some stability in the rocky months ahead”, the scheme should be extended until 2022.

But Chris Wootton, chief financial officer at Sports Direct, said that although the furlough extension was helpful, other assistance was needed for businesses such as his, chiefly through business rates, payment of which has been suspended for almost a year.

He told the BBC: “What we really want is structural reform. This is just kicking the can down the road.

“We don't know what the systemic changes to consumer behaviour are going to be. We said even before Covid happened that a number of House of Fraser stores where we're working very closely with landlords, paying zero rent, they are still losing money because the business rates are far from fair.”

UK’s National Grid to invest 10 billion pounds in grid by 2026

( via — Tue, 2nd Mar 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Britain’s transmission system operator National Grid said on Tuesday it broadly accepted a price control proposal from regulator Ofgem and will invest around 10 billion pounds ($13.87 billion) by 2026.

In December, Ofgem gave the go-ahead for 40 billion pounds ($53.4 billion) in spending on utility networks between 2021-26 to help prepare for more renewable power, including a higher-than-planned limit on grid operators’ returns.

National Grid said it was pleased to see the increase in allowances and accepted the overall package for its role as electricity system operator, while broadly accepting the package for electricity and transmission businesses.

The price controls take effect from April 2021.

“This package will allow the critical investment required to maintain the resilience and reliability of our networks,” National Grid said.

At nearly 2 billion pounds per annum on average, investment would be substantially higher than under the previous price control period (RIIO-T1), it said.

However, National Grid will submit a technical appeal to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding Ofgem’s proposed cost of equity and downward adjustment to allowed returns in expectation of future outperformance, it said.

If accepted, the six-month appeal process would begin from April and final determinations could be expected in early October.

National Grid said it expected credit metrics to remain below the required threshold levels of a BBB+/Baa1 debt rating on an ongoing basis due to the increased investment programme.

However, it said it was confident of retaining broad access to debt markets even if agencies were to downgrade the ratings of the National Grid Group.

National Grid also said it had reviewed its dividend policy and aimed to deliver annual dividend per share growth in line with UK CPIH inflation from the full business year 2021/22.

($1 = 0.7209 pounds)

Reporting by Nora Buli 

UK retailers see fall in sales as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate

( via — Tue, 23rd Feb 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British retail sales fell in the year to February as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate, with only supermarkets reporting any growth during the latest COVID-19 lockdown, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s gauge of retail sales stood at -45, up only slightly from January’s eight-month low of -50. The measure points to falling sales and is below the consensus forecast of -38 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Retailers’ expectations for March – when non-essential shops will remain closed to the public as part of lockdown measures – fell to -62, the lowest since the series began in 1983.

In another sign of a changing consumer habits during lockdown, the survey’s gauge of internet retail sales hit a new record high.

“With lockdown measures still in place, trading conditions remain extremely difficult for retailers,” said Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI.

“Record growth in internet shopping suggests that retailers’ investments in on-line platforms and click-and-collect services may be paying off, but the re-opening of the sector can’t come soon enough to protect jobs and breathe life back into the sector.”

Job losses among retailers accelerated according to a quarterly question in the survey. For the distribution sector as a whole, which includes wholesalers and car dealers, employment fell at a record rate, the CBI survey showed.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

Over 50% of UK firms plan to hire new staff in the first quarter of 2021

( via – – Mon, 22nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

More than half of UK employers intend to recruit staff in the next three months, according to new research.

The human resources body, the CIPD, said it was the first positive signs for employment prospects it had seen in a year.

About 56% of 2,000 firms surveyed planned to hire in the first three months of 2021.

The sectors with the strongest hiring intentions include healthcare, finance and insurance, education and ICT.

“Our findings suggest that unemployment may be close to peak and may even undershoot official forecasts, especially given the reported fall in the supply of overseas workers,” said Gerwyn Davies from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which carried out the survey with recruitment firm Adecco.

The survey also found that the number of firms planning to make redundancies in the first quarter of 2021 dropped from 30% to 20%, compared with the previous three-month period.

The most recent unemployment rate – for September to November – was 5%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That is an increase of 0.6% over the previous three months, and means that 1.72 million people were unemployed.

There were 819,000 fewer workers on UK company payrolls in November than at the start of the pandemic, ONS figures show.

According to figures released by the Insolvency Service in response to a BBC Freedom of Information request, some 292 British employers made plans to cut jobs in January, the lowest figure since the pandemic began.

Hospitality was the worst hit sector, accounting for a third of the job losses, followed by retail.

Only 36% of hospitality employers were intending to recruit new staff, the CIPD and Adecco found.

The government's furlough scheme, which is meant to end on 30 April, has slowed down the number of redundancies.

Nearly 10 million people were furloughed between the start of the scheme and 13 December (the latest date for which figures are available).

The scheme has enabled many businesses to keep their staff by furloughing them instead of making them redundant.

However, the body for HR professionals cautioned that it could not rule out further private sector redundancies if the government does not extend the furlough scheme to the end of June, or if the British economy were to suffer any further “shocks”.

“It would be hugely counterproductive if the government's financial support faltered, while some of the biggest sectors of the UK economy are still in survival mode,” said Mr Davies.