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Friday's Business and Politics round-up

21 Jul 2017

Business person stood up, reading a newspaper

IoD in the news

Bloomberg - Firms Facing ‘Cliff-Edge’ Pressure May on Brexit Transition
Reuters - Few compromises at Brexit talks
Sky News - Deutsche boss warns staff of 'worst' Brexit outcome
BBC News - A glimpse inside the Goldman Sachs nursery

Good morning,

School is now officially out for summer. The Prime Minister is off to the Alps, MPs are heading back to their constituencies, and most political journalists are de-camping from Whitehall to various, far-flung parts of the country where tweeting is still something only birds get up to.

Veni Vidi Vince

Sir Vince Cable has replaced Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats after running unopposed for the top job in his party. Sir Vince, who won back his old parliamentary seat of Twickenham said that he would ‘serve as long as I need to’, stressing that he did not intend to be a ‘caretaker’ leader. At 74, the former Business Secretary becomes the oldest party leader in the House of Commons, and is just two years younger than his predecessor Paddy Ashdown, who led the party between 1988 and 1999.

After being announced as leader, Sir Vince heaped praise on Tim Farron, saying that he had rebuilt party membership to record levels after taking the helm at a tough moment for the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, Tim Farron said his successor would be a ‘strong and cable’ leader (a pun worthy of the morning round-up but I would feel too guilty plagiarising).

Sir Vince comes in a fraught time for the Lib Dems, who’s electoral results - while an improvement on their dire 2015 numbers - still sit well behind where they have been over the past few decades. Under his leadership, the party will continue to try to occupy the pro-EU ground, and key to this will be to push for a second referendum once the final terms of a deal have been hammered out.

Speaking to supporters yesterday, he said that ‘voters should be asked, “Do you wish to accept what is coming down the track, jumping off the cliff and hoping there’s a tree to catch you, or do we want to stay within the European Union?”’

Brexit: a report card

With two negotiating weeks now banked in the Brexit talks, Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s Chief negotiator Michel Barnier stood side by side yesterday to deliver their respective verdicts on how things are going. In essence, the message amounted to an entirely predictable ‘we have made some progress, but there is still a long way to go’.  

Both men were keen to stress that the negotiating teams had ironed out areas of common ground, but Mr Barnier also used the press conference as an opportunity to press the UK negotiating team for more clarity on issues like citizens’ rights, the final financial settlement, and a settlement for Northern Ireland. The EU’s top negotiator said ‘we require this clarification on the financial settlement, on citizens' rights, on Ireland…and the other separation issues where this week's experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear’.  

Particular issues he highlighted were questions over which court backs the rights of EU citizens in the UK and future arrangements for people employed by EU-based companies working for long periods in other countries.  

David Davis rejected the idea that his team had not provided enough clarity, particularly on the issue of Northern Ireland, where he said they had sought ‘a flexible and imaginative solution to address the unique circumstances around the border’. He added that the talks had been ‘robust and constructive’.

Mike the best of it

Mike Ashley hasn’t had the smoothest ride over the past couple of months. First, the retail tycoon had to deal with stories about him vomiting in a fireplace being splashed across the front pages, now he’s contending with a profit slump at Sports Direct of 60%. The primary reason given for the fall is the impact of lower Sterling on the company’s bottom line. Like many other retailers buying goods from abroad, Sports Direct has had to deal with higher import costs on the back of a post-Brexit slide in the pound.  

Responding to the figures, Mr Ashley said that the company is trying to ‘conservatively manage the currency volatility that is reflected in our full year results’. He added that the main strategic goal for the company remains to become the ‘Selfridges of sport’.

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