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Monday's Business and Politics round-up

13 Aug 2018

Person reading the news on their smartphone on a trainGood morning,

Hope you all enjoyed the weekend!

It was certainly an exciting one for space fanatics, as US space agency Nasa launched its mission to send a satellite closer to the Sun than ever before yesterday.

The probe is expected to be the fastest man-made object in history and will dip directly into the Sun’s outer atmosphere in approximately twelve weeks’ time. It will then travel around the star for seven years to collect data about the activity of the Sun’s atmosphere, where much of the activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.

Exciting few years ahead if you ask me!

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A spanner in the works

Companies are struggling to recruit staff, as the number of people coming to the UK from the European Union has fallen and unemployment rate is at the lowest level since records began, according to the latest study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).

The ratio of applicants per vacancy has dropped across all skill levels, although low-skill jobs continued to attract more applications than the specialist ones. Sectors relying on non-UK workers were particularly badly hit, such as IT, transport and storage and construction. This comes after it was revealed that the number of EU workers coming to Britain dropped from 148,000 in the first quarters of 2016-2017 to just 7,000 in the same period in 2017 and 2018.

Despite the shortage of applicants, firms have continued to be reluctant about pay rises. The survey showed that employers’ median expectations for pay rises were at just 2%, with the CIPD suggesting the main reason for that being low productivity record of UK’s workforce, as reported in the Financial Times.

Bothered Brussels

With Brexit talks expected to resume today, concerns about a no-deal scenario from the EU side have been reported. Senior Brussels figures have expressed worries that the immediate consequences of failure to reach a Brexit agreement would be worse for the EU than for Britain.

Although contingency planning is well underway, concern is growing in Brussels over whether EU institutions could act promptly enough. Officials are worried that many decisions would need unilateral approval by all member states and the European parliament, which could be a lengthy process. In addition, with European parliament elections taking place in May, the current parliament is scheduled to disband three weeks after Brexit and the new one will not meet until July, leaving a period of vacuum which could result in further delays in decision-making.

“In terms of getting decisions made quickly you need more notice than you do in the British parliament,” said Vicky Ford MP, a former chairwoman of the European parliament’s internal market committee, referring to the length of time it takes to change the EU’s underlying legislation.

A European Commission spokesman responded by saying that the bloc is carrying out contingency planning and would be ready to deal with all eventualities.

Tough row to hoe

The row over Boris Johnson’s burka comments continues, with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former adviser, saying yesterday that Mr Johnson has “nothing to apologise for” after the former foreign secretary came under further pressure from colleagues and commentators to apologise for his comments about women wearing burkas.

In an article to the Daily Telegraph last week, Mr Johnson said he opposed banning wearing of veils in public but added that it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

Conservative party has launched an investigation into whether Mr Johnson’s comments breached the party’s code of conduct, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying that he had “clearly caused offense”. Backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has attacked the party for launching the investigation: “Could it be that there is a nervousness that a once and probably future leadership contender is becoming too popular and needs to be stopped?”

Meanwhile, the UK’s largest Muslim organisation, the Muslim Council of Britain, is calling on Theresa May to ensure that the inquiry is not a “whitewash”. Reports show that there has been an increase in incidents aimed at women wearing the niqab or hijab over the past week.

There has been no word from the former foreign secretary, despite the row about whether he should apologise intensifying amongst his colleagues and the public. Instead, Mr Johnson chose to write about housing in his latest Telegraph column yesterday and when asked to comment by journalists waiting outside his home, said he had “nothing to say about this matter”.

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