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Wednesday's Business and Politics round-up

24 Apr 2019

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Good morning,

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that US President Donald Trump will make a three-day state visit to the UK between 3 and 5 June. The President and First Lady Melania Trump will attend a ceremony in Portsmouth to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings. Mr Trump will also hold talks with the Prime Minister.
 
Mr Trump came to the UK in July last year on a working visit and met with the Queen at Windsor Castle. The visit was marked with demonstrations across the country – campaigners have said they would mobilise “huge numbers” once again in response to the upcoming visit.
 
Meanwhile, climate change activist Greta Thunberg met with UK Members of Parliament yesterday and described the UK's response to climate change as "beyond absurd". She has criticised the country for supporting new exploitation of fossil fuels and said the cuts to carbon emissions have been exaggerated. 



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Wild card

Theresa May has suggested plans to potentially introduce the Withdrawal Agreement bill as early as next week in order to implement the exit deal negotiated with the EU, according to the FT, despite the fact that it has been rejected by MPs three times. The legislation needs to be passed in order for the deal to be ratified.
 
It remains doubtful whether the bill would receive the majority of votes needed, seeing as last month MPs rejected the withdrawal treaty – the key part of the deal – by 58 votes. If the bill is rejected, it could not be introduced again in this Parliament, which “would be quite a big thing” admitted an ally of the Prime Minister.
 
Talks between the Government and the Labour party are continuing in an effort to find a compromise on the Brexit deal. Little progress has been made on this so far.
 
Meanwhile, Conservative party backbenchers met last night to discuss changing the rules to enable the party to challenge Mrs May’s leadership in the summer. Under current rules, the Prime Minister is safe from a further challenge until mid-December, after the last no-confidence vote failed.

Putting house in order

The Labour party has pledged to scrap the government’s scheme that allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into houses without planning permission. The party said the scheme has created “slum housing and rabbit hutch flats” and enabled developers to avoid building affordable homes.
 
The scheme was introduced in 2013 in an effort to boost house building. The government said scrapping it would “cut house building and put a stop to people achieving home ownership”.
 
Permitted development has received criticism in the past – in one of the schemes in Ilford, an office block has been turned into flats measuring as little as 13sq metres each, despite the national space standards stating the minimum area for a new one-bedroom one-person home is 37sq metres.
 
Labour said they would build 250,000 new homes a year in England and 100,000 of those would be “genuinely affordable”.

Robotaxis

Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has said he expects the company to have self-driving “robotaxis” on the road in the US by 2020. This comes as the electric car company announced the creation of an improved microchip for its driverless vehicles.
 
Mr Musk has claimed that the microchip the company has unveiled contains hardware that has “full self-driving” capabilities.
 
Mr Musk said he expects “robotaxis” to operate in a similar way to Uber or Airbnb, enabling owners of the cars to make money when they’re not using their vehicle.
 
A number of technical and legal challenges still remain around driverless cars, but Mr Musk said he is confident he can convince regulators by the end of next year that self-driving Teslas are safer than a human driver.
 
Tesla’s boss has previously predicted that self-driving cars would be on the road by 2018.


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