The EU and Japan have agreed
a trade deal which will reduce the costs of exporting EU goods to the country by €1 billion.
The agreement has been touted as one of the ‘new generation’ of trade agreements which cover a wide range of areas including financial services, corporate governance and data protection.
It must now go through the legislative ratification process.
Both sides are pushing for the deal to be in force by mid-2019, which is ambitious if precedents are anything to go by. The EU is mindful of stumbling blocks after Wallonia vetoed the CETA agreement in 2016.
It will be hoping to use the Japan agreement to show its support for free trade in the face of rising protectionism.
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The morning's top stories, rounded up for your convenience.
Patten down the hatches!
The House of Lords has defeated
the Government on the subject of staying in a customs union with the EU post-Brexit.
Lord Patten, an ex-EU Commissioner who threw his support behind the amendment, said the UK would be worse off unless current arrangements continued.
Peers voted 348 to 225 in favour of requiring ministers to report on steps to negotiate a customs union arrangement.
However, Brexit minister Lord Callanan said it would mean the Government was enacting something it had “clearly ruled out”. The Government has said it will not negotiate staying in the EU’s Customs Union.
The defeat is the first as the House of Lords debates the EU Withdrawal Bill. Other amendments that might prove controversial are regarding Northern Ireland and a plan to scrap the Government’s decision to fix Brexit for 11pm on 29 March 2019.
Nipping it in the bud
The Government is poised to propose
a ban on cotton buds and plastic straws in England as part of its strategy to reduce plastic waste. Ministers are set to announce a consultation on the ban.
The Prime Minister will encourage Commonwealth leaders in London later today to follow the UK’s example in tackling the environmental problem.
Theresa May has said Britain is a leader on the world stage in combatting plastic waste, from introducing charges for plastic bags to announcing a consultation on a deposit return scheme for drinks in England.
She has described plastic waste as “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world” and the Government is “rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics”.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove had trailed the idea of a plastic straw ban in February and will launch a consultation later this year.
Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth said this week’s announcement is a “step forward” but more action would be needed.
The calm after the storm
London's construction sector was resilient in the first quarter despite torrid weather conditions, according
to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' UK Construction and Infrastructure survey.
Around 12% of chartered surveyors in the capital recorded their workloads rising. New work and repair maintenance activity was on the up but it was private commercial business that saw the strongest increase in workload to 16%.
At the same time, around two-thirds of respondents said the bad weather had been a limiting factor during that period.
A spokesperson for the RICS said “While a short-lived snowstorm may have snarled logistical supply chains and site works at the end of February, it was not enough to negatively impact on workload order books”.
“Risk aversion by both lenders and developers, in the wake of Carillion and ongoing Brexit negotiation, will continue to weigh on investment decisions.”
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