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Friday's Business and Politics round-up

07 Dec 2018

Person reading the IoD's news round up with breakfast

Good morning and happy Friday!

What a week it has been – three Government defeats and what it seemed endless hours of Brexit debates in the House of Commons. MPs have headed back to their constituencies for the weekend, but all will resume on Monday, as they prepare for the crunch vote on the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday.

It sure won’t be a relaxing weekend for the Prime Minister, as she considers how to play her cards right. Senior Ministers have been urging her to postpone Tuesday’s vote to allow some time to try reach a better agreement in Brussels, as it’s looking like she’s set to lose the vote heavily.

In an attempt to gain more support from Brexiteers, a backbench amendment to the agreement was tabled last night, designed to give MPs more say over the backstop mechanism proposed to avoid the Irish border. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough for Mrs May to get the support she needs next week.

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Fruits of labour

A survey of over 1,000 IoD members has revealed that British employers hire EU staff because they are the “best person for the job”, with an overwhelming 85% of directors saying this was the top reason. Meanwhile, only 5% said that staff or hiring costs determined the choice of recruitment and 2% said that employing non-UK citizens removed the need to train existing staff, as reported in the Financial Times this morning.

Business leaders have been long awaiting the publication of the Government’s future immigration plans, which has been delayed repeatedly. Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that the new system would prioritise high-skilled workers.

Mrs May also suggested last week that companies across the UK were reluctant to train local workers because they are too reliant on being able to access foreign labour easily. However, the poll of IoD members shows the opposite, highlighting that business leaders employ people from abroad “because they bring valuable skills and perspectives, and fill gaps where there aren’t UK candidates,” said IoD’s Director of Policy Edwin Morgan.

Meanwhile, the Government yesterday published a policy paper on the rights of EU citizens in the UK in the event of no deal Brexit, outlining that the settled status scheme – giving EU citizens living in the UK similar rights to those they have today after Brexit – would still remain an offering in a no deal scenario. However, it would only apply to EU nationals who arrive before 29 March 2019, as opposed to the end of 2020 when the transition period assumed in the Withdrawal Agreement would come to an end.

Caved in 

Chinese telecoms provider Huawei has agreed to the demands by UK security officials to address risks found in its equipment and software in order to avoid being shut down from UK’s future 5G telecoms networks. Huawei has reportedly agreed to write a formal letter to GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in which it will outline the agreement.

This comes after Huawei was banned from being involved in 5G networks developments in Australia and New Zealand over national security concerns.  

Huawei has been dominating the headlines in recent weeks – a few days ago Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of founder and chief executive of Huawei, was arrested on US sanctions-busting charges, resulting in rising tensions between the US and China.

Western security organisations have been openly critical of Chinese technology groups, over fears that their equipment would expose a country’s telecoms networks to risks. There are particular concerns about the close links between Huawei and the Chinese military. Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and does most of its business overseas in markets like Europe and Asia.

Oops 

Mobile operator O2 has apologised for severe disruptions to its 4G networks, after millions of customers were unable to make calls or send texts yesterday. The problems were caused by the “faulty software” installed with some of the customers, said the company. The slower 3G data service was reinstated on Thursday evening to solve the issue and the company said it was carrying out “a complete and comprehensive root cause analysis.”

O2 is the second-largest mobile network in the UK and also provides services for the Sky, Tesco, Giffgaff and Lycamobile networks. Services that rely on the network, such as bus timetables in London, were also affected causing further disruption.

O2’s CEO Mark Evans said there would be a “full audit” across O2 and Ericsson to ensure this does not happen again. Affected customers should be able to claim a refund for what they would pay on a contract for the time they were unable to use their phone, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, although O2 have not confirmed compensations.

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