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News Brexit - Press releases

Monday's Business and Politics round-up

10 Dec 2018

Person reading the news on their smartphone on a train

Good morning!

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to address the nation this evening following four consecutive weekends of protests against fuel tax rises, high living costs and other problems. 

Macron has kept a low profile and not spoken publically since the protests began. Yesterday Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire branded the demonstrations a “catastrophe” for businesses and the economy.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Charles Michel is battling for his political survival as the largest party in his coalition quit the government. 

The nationalist New Flemish Alliance, the biggest of the four coalition parties, took issue with a UN migration pact which Michel wants to commit Belgium to.  

For now, Michel must lead with a minority government. He has pleaded with federal MPs not to force an election. 

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May day

Theresa May is holding a series of meetings with backbench MPs in a last-ditch effort to win backing for her Brexit deal.

The House of Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement is scheduled for tomorrow. Number 10 has shut down reports which emerged over the weekend suggesting the Prime Minister would delay it. 

It is widely expected that the government will lose the vote. Labour, the Lib Dems, the DUP, the SNP and a large number of Conservative MPs have said they will vote down the deal. 

European Council President Donald Tusk has tweeted that this is "an important week for the fate of Brexit". The Prime Minister has said that rejecting her deal could possibly lead to “no Brexit” at all. 

The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed at political level by the UK and the EU, but it now requires ratification in both parliaments. 

The purpose of the withdrawal treaty is to ensure continuity on exit day by ‘copying and pasting’ EU law into UK statute books. However, the text also contains the controversial Irish backstop. 

Wates updates 

A new code for the corporate governance of large private companies should be viewed as “the start of a journey” rather than a “diktat”, according to its author. 

New regulations, introduced earlier this year by the Financial Reporting Council, require large private businesses to include a statement about their corporate governance in their annual reports – but compliance will be voluntary rather than compulsory. 

James Wates, who chairs one of Britain’s biggest family-owned construction firms, is in charge for formulating the guidelines. He said “Good corporate governance can only be achieved if companies think seriously about why they exist and how they deliver on their purpose”. 

The Wates principles come into force next month. Rather than making specific rules for the number or length of tenure of board directors, they say individual directors should have “sufficient capacity to make a valuable contribution” and possess “a clear understanding of their accountability and responsibilities”. 

Research carried out in 2016 revealed that less than two-in-three FTSE 100 businesses were in full compliance with the existing code. 

High street spent

The amount of people out shopping has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis, according to retail experts.

Retail performance analysts at Springboard estimate that footfall at shopping centers, retail parks and high streets has fallen by 3.2%. It anticipates a 4.2% year-on-year decline this month. 

The analysis suggests Black Friday delivered no benefits to physical stores. Instead, it encouraged more people online over a longer period of time. 

Springboard’s marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said Brexit is having an impact, particularly that “both retailers and consumers alike are in the midst of the greatest degree of uncertainty in recent times”. 

She added that having the parliamentary vote on Brexit so close to Christmas could drive shoppers to make purchases sooner, “in an attempt to outrun inflationary pressures that are expected should the Brexit deal not be ratified."

The rise of online shopping is also a key challenge for retailers. Springboard warned that more high street chains could collapse in the new year. 

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