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Tuesday's Business and Politics round-up

20 Jun 2017
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IoD in the news

The Times - The British business wish list: how we'll make a difference
Yorkshire Post - It is vital that business voices be heard over Brexit talks
The Guardian - Brexiteers call it useless red tape, but without it people die
The Times - Businesses pile on pressure to stay in the single market
Herald Scotland - Weak UK outlook flagged as plea on EU workers made by business

Good morning,

Happy sunny Tuesday! 'It's too hot for suits and ties,' said the TUC yesterday, urging employers to relax their workplace dress codes during this exceptionally hot weather - hope you are all surviving the heatwave.

A particular welcome goes out today to all the new IoD99ers joining the round-up. Hope you find it useful and please get in touch with any thoughts.

No concessions

Brexit negotiations began yesterday, almost a year after the historic referendum vote. David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said talks got off to a 'promising start'. The tone on the other side appears to have been slightly more stern nevertheless. EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the bloc was not prepared to give concessions to the UK. Speaking at a joint press conference after the first day of negotiations, Mr Barnier said he was 'not in the frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions.'

Yet both sides agreed that a deal was achievable. 'For both the EU and the UK, a fair deal is possible and far better than no deal,' said Mr Barnier. That is what I said to David today, that is why we will work all the time with the UK and never against the UK. There will be no hostility on my side.'

One concession has indeed already been made from the British side - Brussels longstanding demands for the structure of the negotiations (agreeing the terms of divorce before talking about what the new relationship will look like) have been implemented, despite Mr Davis' earlier comments that this would cause the 'row of the summer.' Both sides agreed to prioritise settling the exit bill and the rights of British and European expats.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver the postponed Mansion House speech today, in which he will pledge to be a 'voice of business' during negotiation process. He is expected to admit that the Government has so far given too little emphasis on the needs of business. However, it is unlikely that there will be any promises for a 'soft' Brexit, as Mr Hammond will instead emphasise the importance of a pragmatic approach to negotiating transition periods and avoiding a cliff edge. Meanwhile, the boss of Rolls-Royce warned yesterday against any drastic change to UK's relationship with the EU to minimise the impact on business after Brexit. The intervention comes after five major UK business bodies, including the IoD, called for Britain to stay in the single market until a new deal is reached earlier this week.

There will be one week of negotiations every month, with a pause in between for consultations and technical work.

DUPut Ireland at ease

Ireland's new Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he is 'reassured' about a potential deal between the Conservative party and the DUP after meeting with Theresa May yesterday. Last week Mr Varadkar expressed his concerns about a possible coalition between the two parties, saying that the British and Irish governments must remain impartial in Northern Ireland, as stipulated by the Good Friday Agreement.

At a conference after the meeting with Mrs May, the Irish Prime Minister said he was 'very much reassured by what the prime minister had to say about the agreement, once it is reached, will be published so it will be there for everyone to see.'

The talks between the Tories and the DUP over a confidence and supply agreement are continuing. The agreement would see the unionist party's 10 MPs back Mrs May's Government. Mrs May said she expects details of her arrangement with DUP to be resolved today or tomorrow.

Gig economy under scrutiny

The Law Society has urged action on gig economy workers, stating that the Government should take on greater powers to decide whether gig economy companies are treating their staff wrongly. The call by the professional body which represents solicitors is the latest intervention in the movement pressuring the Government to do more to about enforcing employment rights in Britain.

The body has argued that the current tribunal system does not work. 'If workers cannot access the rights parliament has given them then it is questionable whether these rights truly exist,' said the Law Society in their submission to the Taylor Review. The number of employment tribunals has dropped by around 70 per cent since 2013 when the Government introduced a fee for claimants to bring a case.

The Law Society has called for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to be given the responsibility to whether individual companies were attributing the correct employment status to their staff. It has also said the tribunal fees need to be abolished.

The independent Taylor Review into modern employment practices is due to be published this month. Theresa May has pledge to act on its findings.

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