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Tuesday's Business and Politics round-up

22 Jan 2019

Person reading a daily news round up on their tablet

Good morning!

A BBC interview with the New Zealand Prime Minister has raised eyebrows after she was asked if she plans to propose to her partner.

When Jacinda Ardern laughed and said she wouldn’t, presenter Victoria Derbyshire asked if she was a feminist. 

The exchange prompted many on social media to note that a male prime minister would not be asked the same question. 

One New Zealand political commentator said “Certainly a lot of New Zealanders would see such probing of the prime minister about her relationship with her partner and her plans for marriage as being inappropriate.”

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Amend to a means

MPs have started to table proposals which could change the outcome of next week’s Brexit vote. It follows as yesterday the Prime Minister confirmed she would focus on altering the Irish backstop. 

An amendment put forward by Labour says MPs should be able to vote on their preferred outcome of a closer relationship with Europe, with a permanent customs union. In addition, it compels MPs to decide if there should be a further referendum on the final Brexit plan once it is approved by the Commons.

Speaking yesterday, May did not rule out a no-deal Brexit and said she did not believe there would be a majority in the House for a second referendum. May reassured MPs that they would have more say in the Brexit process going forward, as talks begin on the topic of the trade relationship with the EU. 

Reacting to the statement, Allie Renison, the IoD’s Head of Europe and Trade Policy, said around four-fifths of business leaders reject the idea of a no-deal outcome and “we desperately need politicians to be serious about finding a way forward”. 

She added the government’s decision to waive the fee for settled status was “a welcome step”, but businesses need more information about how the scheme will work in the event of a no-deal. 

Other Labour amendments include one which obliges her to prevent no-deal by seeking an extension to the Article 50 deadline. Another amendment would compel May to hold a binding vote on four options: reconsider May’s deal, no-deal, seek to renegotiate the deal or a second referendum. 

May’s Brexit deal suffered a heavy defeat in the Commons last week. She had promised to yesterday come back to the Commons with a ‘Plan B’ that MPs could vote on come 29 January. 

Pipe dream 

Several of the world’s biggest infrastructure investors have introduced a “blanket ban” on Britain due to its “negative” and “hostile” political and regulatory environment, according to the Financial Times. 

Some investors have said it is “highly unlikely” they would make further investments in the UK’s current climate. Last week Japanese firm Hitachi said it will pull out of its £16 billion plans for a nuclear plant in Wales. Last month’s purchase of a controlling stake at Gatwick by a French group was at a much lower price than anticipated. 

Investors note the government has adopted some Labour policies in infrastructure. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has criticised private water companies, arguing they are “playing the system for the benefit of wealthy managers and owners”. One investor commented, “There is no one in the political area defending us anymore”. 

Uncertainty around Brexit was also cited as a key concern of investors but it is not the main reason for investment boards’ reluctance to commit to Britain. 

The water regulator Ofwat has issued a warning saying the next five-year regulatory period which starts this year will be a “tough regime”. One investor said “Water is the bellwether for UK infrastructure as most of the major global infrastructure investors are in it”.

The UK has historically been able to attract considerable foreign investment from international pension and wealth funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Such funds have contributed to UK water, airports and electricity projects in recent years. 

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Contact Press Office

Donjeta Miftari, Head of Communications  

020 7451 3285

Euan Holmes, Press Officer

020 7451 3280

Press office