Theresa May is braced for “howls of rage” as ministers finalise tariffs that would apply if there is no Brexit deal. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, wants a move to zero tariffs in as many areas as possible, but other ministers are demanding protection for producers, including farmers, who would struggle to compete with cheaper imports from outside the EU. - The Times.
Britain will soften its demand that the EU reopen the Brexit withdrawal agreement to solve the Irish backstop issue. The Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay suggested to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier during talks this week that the government could accept legal guarantees that fell short of renegotiating the draft withdrawal treaty. - The Times .
Labour has accused the business secretary, Greg Clark, of misleading MPs by failing to tell parliament that a £61m package of state aid had been granted to Nissan, despite assuring the Commons that he would do so. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said that as a result the cabinet minister had “dodged scrutiny” over the promises he had made to Nissan in October 2016 to boost manufacturing in Sunderland after Brexit. – Guardian.
Business leaders have demanded the prime minister answer 20 crucial questions before the 29 March deadline to prevent a chaotic no-deal Brexit. The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), the UK business trade body, said that without greater clarity over import and export duties, border controls and customs procedures, Theresa May risked thousands of companies suffering a potentially catastrophic shock when the UK quits the European Union. - Guardian.
The gathering storm of human-caused threats to climate, nature and economy pose a danger of systemic collapse comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new report that calls for urgent and radical reform to protect political and social systems. The study says the combination of global warming, soil infertility, pollinator loss, chemical leaching and ocean acidification is creating a “new domain of risk”, which is hugely underestimated by policymakers even though it may pose the greatest threat in human history.
Drug companies would delay applying for UK licences to sell expensive, groundbreaking medicines if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, ministers have suggested. The claim, made in a Whitehall impact assessment signed off by ministers in the department of health, represents the first time the government has admitted that access to new drugs could be delayed under no-deal. - The Times.
The government has sought to buy Theresa May more time to put together a workable Brexit deal by promising MPs another say by the end of the month, as business leaders said the process was now in the “emergency zone”. The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said that if no finalised deal were put to the Commons by 27 February, MPs would again be given an amendable motion to consider. - Observer.
Britain will cut taxes and slash tariffs under secret plans drawn up by officials to kick-start the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, has led a cross-departmental team examining the "economic levers" that can be used to make Britain more competitive. - Telegraph.
Housebuilding declined sharply in London and the Midlands last year as political and economic uncertainty around the shape of Brexit hit the housing market, according to industry figures. The number of new homes in London registered by housebuilders with the National House Building Council (NHBC) in 2018 fell 10% from the previous year to 16,069, the biggest annual drop since 2016. In the east Midlands and West Midlands, registrations were also down 10%, to 13,447 and 13,087 respectively following two strong years.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral is telling shop staff to sign up as many gamblers as possible to online accounts if they want to avoid being among 5,000 employees it plans to make redundant, the Guardian has learned. According to letters circulated among employees – and seen by the Guardian – the bookmaker will close up to 1,000 of its 3,500 shops over the next 18 to 24 months, blaming imminent curbs on £100-per-spin fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). – Guardian.
Theresa May will insist she can find a way to deliver a Brexit deal that can win the backing of MPs when she visits Belfast in an attempt to reassure businesses and politicians in Northern Ireland she can break the deadlock in Westminster. The prime minister is due to chair a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning before departing for a two-day visit to Northern Ireland to underscore her commitment to avoiding a hard border. - Guardian.
The Conservative Party’s fragile Brexit truce was close to collapse yesterday after hardline Brexiteers ruled out two of Theresa May’s proposals for solving the Irish backstop question. Eurosceptics said they would not accept either a unilateral withdrawal clause or an end date to the backstop as a compromise to reach a deal with Brussels, which one one cabinet minister said was “non-negotiable” and was “setting the prime minister up to fail”. - The Times.
Nissan has confirmed it is abandoning plans to build a new model of one of its flagship vehicles at its Sunderland plant, as it warned that uncertainty over Brexit was affecting businesses. The Japanese car manufacturer announced in 2016 it would be making the new version of the X-Trail SUV at the factory in north-east England after receiving unspecified assurances about Brexit from the government, but now says it would be produced in Japan. - Observer.
Nearly one in three British businesses are planning to relocate some of their operations abroad or have already shifted them to cope with a hard Brexit, according to a leading lobby group. The Institute of Directors (IoD) warned that 29% of firms in a survey of 1,200 members believed Brexit posed a significant risk to their operations in the UK and had either moved part of their businesses abroad already or were planning to do so. – Guardian.
Theresa May is preparing to entice Labour MPs to support her Brexit deal with a cash injection into deprived areas that supported Leave, including former mining communities. The prime minister’s allies believe that she needs the backing of about 20 Labour MPs for a modified agreement to offset the number of Tory rebels, even if she wins the support of the DUP. - The Times.
Mike Ashley could be about to make the leap from sportswear to sofa retailing with yet another takeover deal, this time of the online furniture specialist Sofa. com. The Sports Direct founder has been on a buying spree over the past year, snapping up struggling retail chains including House of Fraser and the bike specialist Evans Cycles amid a high street crisis. He is also currently in the running to acquire the collapsed entertainment chain HMV. – Guardian.
The owner of Oddbins has warned staff of job losses in the near future as the off-licence business said it had appointed advisers to look at options for the future after an “extremely tough” Christmas. In an email to staff at European Food Brokers group, which also includes Wine Cellar Trading and Whittalls Wine Merchants, directors said they had concluded that its retail businesses “cannot continue in their current form” and may have to be sold. – Guardian.
The UK will be unable to have frictionless, tariff-free trade under World Trade Organization rules for up to seven years in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to two leading European Union law specialists. The ensuing chaos could double food prices and plunge Britain into a recession that could last up to 30 years, claim the lawyers who acted for Gina Miller in the historic case that forced the government to seek parliament’s approval to leave the EU. - Guardian .
British taxpayers face a £24bn bill for tax relief awarded to oil and gas companies removing hundreds of North Sea wells, rigs and pipelines, the UK public spending watchdog has said. The National Audit Office (NAO) said the figure would climb if companies collapse and are unable to pay for cleaning up their operations, leaving the government to pick up the tab. – Guardian.
Fears are growing internationally that a no-deal Brexit poses a threat to the stability of the global economy, the head of Britain’s leading business body has warned. Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said the failure to sort out Britain’s departure from the European Union was damaging Britain’s brand abroad and had joined a list of systemic risks to the world economy. - Guardian.