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Monday's Business and Politics round-up

20 Nov 2017

Person reading the news on their smartphone on a train

Good morning!

“Leadership means knowing when it’s time for change and that time is now”.

This weekend was momentous for two polemic leaders - but two very different leaders, and under very different circumstances at that.

Given that recent headlines have been dominated by President Mugabe and the ‘bloodless coup’, you would be forgiven for assuming this quote came out of Zimbabwe. Over the course of a turbulent few days, Mugabe was expelled by his own party and placed under house arrest.

But the saga culminated in a press conference yesterday, during which he refused to step down. “The [ruling Zanu-PF] party congress is due in a few weeks and I will preside over its processes”, he said. In response, Zanu-PF has said it will impeach Mugabe today if he fails to step down by midday local time, or 10:00 GMT.

Mugabe is a controversial figure who has dominated the country’s political scene for four decades.

So historic was the news that it overshadowed a separate development much closer to home. Gerry Adams – who uttered the quote above - has confirmed he will step down as Sinn Féin leader next year and will not stand for re-election for his seat in the Dail. Adams has been president of the party since 1983.

Throughout his time in politics, Adams has been a divisive figure. He is seen as having played an important role in the Northern Ireland peace process, but at the same time many view him as a key IRA figure during the worst of the Troubles.

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Pay pals

According to the Financial Times, the Prime Minister is on the verge of securing the go-ahead from her Cabinet to increase the UK’s financial settlement offer to the EU.

Today, Theresa May will convene key ministers to discuss how much to offer the bloc in the divorce bill. With time running out before the UK must leave the EU in March 2019, May will set out to up the €20 billion offer the UK has reportedly already made. One unnamed minister predicts the sum could rise to €40 billion, although the EU has been demanding €60 billion.

Yesterday Chancellor Hammond said the talks were “on the brink of making some serious movement forward”.

May wants the negotiations to move on to the second phase in order to discuss the future UK-EU trading relationship. She also wishes to secure an in principle agreement on transition arrangements for after Brexit.   

The move comes amid reports of divisions in May’s Cabinet over Brexit strategy, and weeks before December’s crucial European Council summit, which will determine whether the talks can move on to future trading arrangements.

Tough gig 

Businesses in the “gig economy” are exploiting loopholes in employment law to the disadvantage of workers, according to a group of cross-party MPs.

In a draft bill, two Commons committees suggest companies should be fined if they falsely classify workers and deny them benefits such as holiday pay and sick pay.

The proposed legislation comes from the work and pensions committee and the business, energy and industrial strategy committee. It seeks to put pressure on the Government to respond to Matthew Taylor’s report on the modern job market which was published earlier this year.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, who chairs the business committee, said “companies should pay higher wages when they are asking people to work extra hours or zero-hours contracts”.

A spokesman for the Government said it recognises the “labour market is not working for everyone”.

Gig economy businesses such as Uber and Deliveroo argue their workers are self-employed, although Uber has lost several legal cases over the issue.

Phil the builder

Chancellor Philip Hammond has outlined the Government’s plans to build 300,000 new homes annually.

Speaking ahead of the Budget later this week, Hammond said there is no “single magic bullet” to solve the UK’s housing supply problem, and added the Government would not simply “pour money in”.

Outlining the Government’s “pledge to the next generation”, Hammond explained it is “not acceptable” that young people have so much difficulty buying a home and saving for a deposit.

The Government plans to clean up polluted industrial sites for house building, make town hall bosses allocate land to small developers and guarantee loans by banks to small house builders.

In response to the news, Labour said ministers “still have no plan to fix the housing crisis”.

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