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Monday's Business and Politics round-up

27 Feb 2017
Smart devices resting on a Business paper

IoD in the news

Financial Times - Brexit provides opportunities for IoD, says new head
City AM - Alarm bells sound for UK business 
City AM - Home Office considering plans to hand new visa powers to MAC
BBC News - Business rates a 'ticking time bomb' for small firms

Labour's Love Lost

It’s been a tough few days for Jeremy Corbyn. After presiding over a crushing by-election defeat in Copeland last week, he spent the weekend shoring up his position as leader of the Labour Party. A number of senior Corbyn backers were reluctant to comment on his position over the weekend and it fell to the Labour leader himself to rally supporters at the Scottish Labour gathering in Perth yesterday. Speaking to the conference, he defended the policy positions he has taken over the past few months, saying that the party must do more to convince the public of their merits. ‘The policies and ideas we are setting out are policies whose time has come’ he told delegates, ‘but to win that fight we need to remain united’.

Meanwhile, his Deputy Leader Tom Watson hit the airwaves to accuse Mr Corbyn’s core supporters of ‘peeling away from him’ in the wake of the Copeland defeat. He particularly singled out the leader of the Unite Union, Len McCluskey, who has long been a key bulwark for the Labour leader against detractors in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Mr McCluskey’s silence over the weekend will be interpreted as a sign that Corbyn’s support amongst the unions is beginning to erode. For now, though, he continues to cling on.

Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t the only party leader in the spotlight this weekend, though. UKIP’s newly anointed leader Paul Nuttall was also facing internal pressure after his party failed to make a dent in the electoral landscape in either of last week’s two by-elections. At one point, UKIP had been slated to cause an upset in Stoke-on-Trent, with Mr Nuttall feeling confident enough to put his own name forward for the ballot. However, he was beaten into third place in the wake of a campaign littered with embarrassing revelations. Senior kipper Peter Whittle said that Nuttall was taking a break after the ‘gruelling time’ he had gone through during the election.  

E - merger - ncy

A planned £25bn merger between the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Deutsche Börse (DB) has been thrown into doubt this morning after the UK exchange failed to strike an eleventh hour deal with European regulators. The collapse comes on the back of a disagreement between the LSE and European competition authorities over its majority (60%) ownership of MTS, a fixed income trading platform. EU watchdogs had given the London-based exchange until midday today to produce a proposal for selling MTS as a condition for its approval. However, a statement from LSE yesterday said that ‘taking all relevant factors into account, and acting in the best interests of shareholders, the LSE Board today concluded that it could not commit to the divestment of MTS.’

The London Stock Exchange has been working towards the merger with its German counterpart for over a year, although many in Brussels have suggested that the rationale for the deal changed in the wake of last summer’s Brexit vote. The deal also come under fire from other European stock exchanges, who worry that a link up between Frankfurt and London would stifle competition across the continent. The demand from regulators is the latest sign that the Commission is becoming much more activist on questions of competition.  

A rate nightmare

Business rates never seem far from the top of the news nowadays, and with rising concern over the impact of the recent re-valuation on small companies, Labour are getting in on the action. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will meet senior business representatives (including the IoD) later today to discuss how to relieve the pressure on small firms. He will be joined by the new Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey, who said yesterday that ‘business rates are a ticking time bomb’.

The IoD has long been vocal about the need to update business rates to suit a world where revenue and profits are often generated far from the main physical base of a business. However, the sizeable rates bill now facing many small firms (particularly in urban areas) has given this campaign a new impetus. Andy Silvester, Deputy Director of Policy at the IoD, said yesterday that ‘this is a 20th century system and in a 21st century economy, it looks painfully out of date’.

The Government has established a £3.6bn transition fund to help firms facing a big rate hike in April and the Chancellor is also expected to unveil further measures during next month’s budget. Watch this space.

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