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Thursday's Business and Politics round-up

08 Nov 2018

Person sat at a table reading a newspaper

Good morning,

Brexit fever cranked up a notch yesterday, as Ministers were reportedly invited to read the (almost) almost final draft of the crucial Withdrawal Agreement.

While Michael Gove described it rather undescriptively as a 'great document', it appears still to lack the final piece of the puzzle - the much-agonized-over Irish border backstop. As such, the Prime Minister stated that the deal was but "95%" done.

If you want to be 95% gobsmacked, take a moment if you haven't already to read this twitter thread on Alaskan political history - no really - which looked ahead to the US midterms. Since the elections, Trump has pushed out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a move the Washington Post links to the ongoing Mueller inquiry, and barred a CNN reporter he disagreed with from entering the White House. So perhaps it's not necessary to read the thread after all. 


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The nuclear option

Japanese firm Toshiba is withdrawing from its nuclear power arm in the UK, NuGen, after it was unable to find a taker for the business, which was developing Moorside power plant in the North West of England.

A company statement read, "After considering the additional costs entailed in continuing to operate NuGen, Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen."

The collapse, which will cost Toshiba over £100m, was previously described by the GMB union described as "depressingly predictable". It may come as a blow to the UK's efforts to reduce its carbon output.

It will also cause a headache for Business Secretary Greg Clark, who is at present on a trip to Japan, seeking to assuage fears that Brexit will raise issues for foreign investors. The Financial Times reports one 'industry figure' blaming Toshiba's predicament on the departure from the EU.

Change at the top 

A few famous business figures have announced they will be stepping down from their posts, led by Sir Charlie Mayfield of the John Lewis Partnership.

Sir Mayfield, who had held the post for eleven years, will depart from the role of chair in 2020. The move was largely expected within the organisation, and potential successors include Paula Nickolds, managing director of John Lewis's department stores. It has been suggested that the Partnership's particular structure could make an external candidate less advantaged in applying.

Meanwhile, Steve Morgan, executive chair of housebuilder Redrow, has also announced his retirement. Shares dipped slightly on the news, with one major shareholder saying, “It’s a pity really because he is a great name and he’s done a great job. He’ll be missed.”

Morgan, who founded the company, owns 28% and is now valued at around £1bn, will hand over to John Tutte, who has been chief executive. Morgan said, "As a major shareholder I will look forward to watching the continued progress of the business under John’s leadership.”

Finally, Jeff Fairburn has left construction company Persimmon, following months of outcry over what was originally an £110m pay packet awarded as part of a long term incentive plan. The Daily Telegraph reports that Fairburn could have saved his job by handing back some of the £50m's worth of bonus yet to be cashed in, but did not take up the offer.

Chair Roger Devlin said, "Given the continuing distraction around the scale of remuneration resulting from the 2012 LTIP, the board believes it is now necessary for there to be a change of leadership." Fairburn commented, "I had hoped that revealing my plans to create a charitable trust and to waive a proportion of the award would enable the Company to put the issue of the 2012 LTIP behind it."

Don't take the King's shill-ing

Several papers splash on the story of Prince Charles insisting that he will keep his views on controversial issues under wraps as sovereign. Multiple headlines quote him rebuffing claims that he might be a "meddling monarch", saying "I'm not that stupid."

The remarks have been trailed from a new BBC documentary that will mark the heir to the throne's 70th birthday.

In the programme, the Prince of Wales states that "you can't be the same as the sovereign if you're the Prince of Wales or the heir." He goes on to argue that "the idea, somehow, that I'm going to go on in exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two - the two situations - are completely different."

In 2015, a set of memos the Prince sent to ministers through 2004 and 2005 were released. They showed him discussing a range of sensitive political issues, from badger culls to the Iraq War.

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