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Monday's Business and Politics round-up

18 Sep 2017

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

Terror threat in the UK has been lowered to 'severe' from 'imminent', after two individuals were arrested on suspicion of being linked to Friday morning's tube attack. A bomb explosion, which left over 30 people injured, shook London. Thoughts go out to everyone affected.

In political news, Liberal Democrats' annual conference kicked off this weekend and it is fair to say the party's leader Sir Vince Cable is not messing about. He has insisted that it is "perfectly plausible" he could become next prime minister, saying that Lib Dems were well placed to capitalise on the "open civil war" within the Conservative party and the "suppressed" divisions within the Labour party.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is travelling to Canada today to discuss plans for a post-Brexit trade deal. UK Government hopes to use the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (Ceta) between Canada and the EU, which took seven years to negotiate, as a model.

Lastly, a particular warm welcome goes out to all our new IoD99 joiners - I hope you enjoy this daily news round-up.

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Backseat driving

It seems that the 'open civil war' amongst the Tories has intensified over the course of the weekend after the foreign Secretary Boris Johnson published a 4,000 word piece in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, in which he outlined his plans for Brexit. He stated that 'a lot' of the £350m weekly contributions that the UK reportedly pays to the EU should go to the NHS - a statement that was famously adopted by the Vote Leave campaign in the run up to last year's referendum.

In the piece, which many have perceived as a leadership bid, Mr Johnson also said he opposed making temporary payments to the EU in order to get access to the single market during the transitional period. The statement comes as opposition to Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis, who have indicated that some kind of payment could be made to the EU for up to three years after March 2019.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd commented that while it was fine for Mr Johnson to show enthusiasm about Brexit, he has to remember that he is "not driving the car". Ms Rudd added that the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson "has a point" when she criticised Mr Johnson for publishing the article after London suffered from a terrorist attack.

Mr Johnson also received criticism from the UK Statistics Authority about the use of the £350m figure. In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove said he was 'disappointed' at the use of the figure and commented that it 'confuses gross and net contributions to the EU.' 'It also assumes that payments currently made to the UK by the EU, including for example for the support of agriculture and scientific research, will not be paid by the UK government when we leave. It is a clear misuse of official statistic,' he added.

Sir Vince Cable commented that the Prime Minister's authority would be undermined if she does not sack Mr Johnson from the Cabinet following the article. However, there are no reports that Theresa May is planning to follow Sir Vince's advice. Mr Johnson has meanwhile insisted that he is 'all behind' Mrs May.

All eyes will be on the Prime Minister when she delivers her big speech in Florence on Friday, in which she is expected to announce a deal on transitional arrangement payments.


Budget airline Ryanair cancelled 82 flights yesterday after saying it had "messed up" pilot holidays. As many as 400,000 flights - 40-50 flights every day - will also be cancelled over the next six weeks, the airline has revealed. The cancellations follow the company's decision to change the holiday year from April to March to January to December, which has resulted in a backlog of staff leave towards the end of the year.

Ryanair tried to appeal to angry passengers yesterday by publishing all cancelled flights until Wednesday. However, consumer group Which? has said this is not enough and urged the airline to publish a full list of flights that are planned to be cancelled. The Commission for Aviation Regulation has also stated that the company will have to pay out compensation to all passengers whose flights have been cancelled with less than two weeks' notice.

Ryanair has said that the move will result in only 2% of their flights being cancelled and would help to hit its annual 90% punctuality target.

PwC pay gaps

PwC has revealed that black, asian and minority (BAME) staff who work in its UK division earn almost 13% less than other employees. The firm added that this is due to the fact that more of them work in administrative and junior roles, rather than senior ones. PwC said it published the data, which companies are currently not required to do under Government regulation, in order to tackle the issue. "The more transparent we are with our diversity and social mobility data, the more we hold ourselves accountable to achieving real change," said PwC chairman Kevin Ellis.

The accountancy firm has been voluntarily publishing its gender pay gap figures since 2014, which it says has helped "shine a spotlight on gender issues".

BAME figures were published alongside PwC's annual results, which have revealed that the firm's revenues have increased by 3%. Nevertheless, profits fell by 1% as a result of uncertainty and fragile business environment following Brexit, which has also led to pay cuts for senior executives.

"This is a strong set of results from what we found to be a tough set of conditions following Brexit,” said Mr Ellis. “We have now moved on and have seen a pick-up in the [first six months of 2017], which was better. By [January] it does appear that the log jam moved on and businesses were more active."

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