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Thursday's Business and Politics round-up

10 Jan 2019

Person sat at a table reading a newspaper

Good morning!

The Parliamentary merry-go-round continues to spin, as the Government tasted defeat yet again on Brexit in the House of Commons.

The defeat means that, in the event May's Withdrawal Agreement is voted down, the Prime Minister must now return to the Commons within three days to set out her plans. The intention of the amendment is to reduce the Prime Minister's ability to run down the clock to Brexit Day (thus notionally making her deal appear more attractive to those fearing a no-deal scenario).

Even the tabling of the amendment was highly controversial: Speaker John Bercow broke from precedent to allow it, sparking fury from some for his perceived departure from impartiality.

The second defeat in as many days illustrates the power of cross-party opposition to the Brexit Deal as it stands, but sheds a lot less light on the feasibility of any potential alternative.

In other news, scientists have detected mysterious radio signals from a galaxy far, far away. Perhaps an alien invasion is the only thing that could break the Brexit deadlock...

The morning's top stories, rounded up for your convenience. 

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What's the beef?

Japan is to lift its ban on beef and lamb imports from the UK, in a move worth a potential £127m to British farmers over the next five years according to Downing Street forecasts.

The prohibition had been in place for over twenty years, a relic of the mad cow disease epidemic. Today, Japanese leader Shinzo Abe announced this was to change, ahead of a meeting with Theresa May. The two premiers are also expected to announce joint funding for green transport and other technologies, however Abe's main aim may be to press Japanese industry concerns over Brexit.

Meanwhile, more positive trade news emerged from the ongoing negotiations between the US and China. US officials disclosed that the two parties were looking for 'guidance on next steps', implying that progress had been made on substantive issues.

The news boosted the FTSE 100 to its highest level in a month. However, JP Morgan's chief market strategist suggested that any agreement at the close of the talks "would have to be extremely far-reaching for the markets to breath an enormous sigh of relief".

The Producers

Latest figures have revealed that the UK's productivity growth fell to a two-year low in the third quarter on 2018.

Output per hour rose a mere 0.2 per cent in the three months to September, continuing a long-running trend that has led economists to dub the years since the financial crisis as a 'lost decade' for productivity growth in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics' Head of Productivity Katherine Kent pointed out that the level of growth represented "around a tenth of its historical rate". 

Commenting in the Financial Times, IoD Senior Economist Tej Parikh said that the "dismal data illustrates the magnitude of the challenge we face in raising our productivity."

Parikh added that the "government’s industrial strategy has been reined back by Brexit negotiations since it was announced in 2017, but this year the business community need to see tangible progress, otherwise we risk eating into our future competitiveness at the expense of politics today."

Jags and cuts 

Jaguar Land Rover is cutting up to 5,000 jobs out of its 40,000 UK workforce, it is to announce today.

The move comes as part of a £2.5bn cost-cutting plan, as the firm adjusts to headwinds including Brexit concerns and a slump in diesel sales. Around 90 per cent of Jaguar's vehicles are diesel-powered.

Sales in China, the firm's biggest market, have also fallen by 50 per cent. Figures released today show that total car sales from all manufacturers in the country have fallen for the first time in over 20 years.

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Contact Press Office

Donjeta Miftari, Head of Communications  

020 7451 3285

Euan Holmes, Press Officer

020 7451 3280

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