Published: 08 July 2021
Location: London, UK
Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade has told the International Trade Committee that the UK's forthcoming trade agreement with Australia will not allow hormone-injected beef to make its way into Britain. She was responding to a letter that garnered cross-party support from campaign group Best for Britain which warned that offering a tariff-free, zero quota access to the UK agricultural market risked undercutting British farmers. It said: "the importing of products derived from conditions, agricultural practices and hormone treatments banned in the UK is not acceptable". "It's very important to note we are not lowering our food import standards,” Truss told MPs. “What is allowed to be shipped into Britain we are not changing at all in any trade deal, and we have protected that in our deal with Australia, so there will be no hormone-injected beef allowed into the UK". The government has heralded the deal, agreed in principle, as a post-Brexit win. It is the first one negotiated from scratch.
24 hours after the Government said it would not intervene, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a review of the takeover of Welsh-based Newport Wafer Fab, Britain’s largest producer of silicon chips, by Chinese-owned firm Nexperia. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the takeover was not reviewed under Britain’s new national security legislation, which is meant to stop high-risk foreign takeovers of critical infrastructure firms, and appears to fly in the face of the G7’s recent commitment in Cornwall to protect and promote “secure, resilient, competitive, transparent and sustainable and diverse digital, telecoms, and information and communication technology infrastructure supply chains”. The deal was rumoured to be worth as much as £63m but this has not been confirmed and Newport Wafer Fab did not respond to requests for comments.
The European Union said yesterday that it will remove the current post-Brexit requirement for UK drivers to carry ‘green cards’ proving they have valid insurance in place when taking their vehicles to EU countries. The EU is expected to provide timings for the change in the next few days.
The Guido Fawkes website reports that the European Commission’s planned carbon tax on jet fuel, which will be presented for legislation on July 14, will carry exemptions for private jets and cargo flights on the grounds that such journeys “aid to the conduct” of business. A further exemption will also be granted for “pleasure flights” where the aircraft is only used for “personal or recreational” purposes. “Apparently multi-millionaire celebrities jetting around the continent to visit their second homes is now classified as ‘business aviation,’ the website said, noting that the tax will therefore only apply to scheduled flights, “which will be a relief to those jetting to Davos to discuss climate change”.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye has told Sky News that 50,000 passes have been handed back by staff who no longer have a job at the airport, such has been the impact of lockdowns on the airline industry, and the lack of government support for the business.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon is criticising the Government’s “unfair” VAT proposals. The government reduced VAT on food for the hospitality industry to 5% last year, but it will rise to 12.5% on 1st October and then revert back to 20% on 1st April 2022. Wetherspoons says the initial increase alone means it will have to put up food prices by about 40p per meal. Highlighting the fact that supermarkets pay zero VAT on food, the pub chain said in a statement that “taxes should be fair and equitable” but that “one area of undoubted unfairness, which creates economic distortions, relates to VAT”. “The proposed September VAT rise will make the entire hospitality industry less competitive vis a vis powerful supermarkets,” the pub chain said. “Apparent tax benefits to the Treasury, from higher taxes on food for the hospitality industry, are a chimera, since tax distortions cause lower growth,” it added.
British-headquartered money transfer business Wise celebrated a successful stock market listing yesterday which valued the company at around £8 billion. Kristo Kaarmann co-founded Wise - originally known as TransferWise - in London in 2011 with fellow Estonian Taavet Hinrikus. The pair baulked at the high fees charged for international money transfers and set about using technology to push costs down. The company now transfers over £5bn for customers each month and claims to save them £1bn a year in fees.
London hedge fund Marshall Wace is planning investments in digital assets in the latest sign that surging interest in cryptocurrencies and related infrastructure is attracting large investors, the Financial Times reported. The focus will be on investments in blockchain technology, payments systems for digital currencies and stablecoins, and the firm may buy stakes in privately owned digital finance companies at a later, a person familiar with the plans told the paper. Marshall Wace has been looking to hire staff in the digital assets sector and could expand its interest rapidly with the potential to trade digital currencies, the report said. The launch will be led by Amit Rajpal, chief executive of Marshall Wace Asia and co-founder of Niyogin, an Indian fintech that lends to small businesses.
Gambling firm Rank Group has signed a new two-year £25m revolving credit facility agreement with Lloyds Bank. The FTSE 250-listed firm highlighted that the new facility was in addition to the group's existing £55m revolving credit facility and its remaining £108.4m term loan.
Private hospital operator Spire Healthcare is delaying a vote on its takeover by Australia's Ramsay Health Care. On Monday, Ramsay upped its bid for its London-listed rival to 250p a share from 240p, noting that this would be its final offer. Spire said this offer was in the best interests of shareholders and unanimously recommended that they vote in favour at the Court Meeting and General Meeting, which had been due to be held on 12 July. However, that meeting is now adjourned to 19 July as a number of investors requested a short extension to the process to allow them to exercise voting rights.
Logistics firm Wincanton said yesterday that its profits are up "significantly" on the same period last year but acknowledged pressures related to the availability of drivers. Wincanton was awarded two contract extensions by Ikea to operate the Swedish retailer's customer distribution centres in Kent and Essex, which it said "underlines the sustained progress in the development" of its digital and eFulfilment offer.
Online room/home rental site Airbnb says it plans to ban from its site any landlord who evicted a tenant for non-payment of rent. The ‘COVID-19 Renter Protection Policy’ will continue until the end of 2021. To police which landlords are "offenders", Airbnb has set up a new department called the ‘COVID-19 Housing Policy’ and named a department head whose job is to "engage cities" so they would tell the company which landlords have evicted non-paying tenants. In a blog post explaining the new policy, which the US-based MillionAcres real estate investment resource suggested “might make your head spin,” Airbnb claimed it “has always been a platform dedicated to helping people stay in their homes."
Reuters reports that Germany's largest consumer protection group filed a lawsuit yesterday against car maker Daimler that it said would make it easier for Mercedes owners to gain redress over the diesel emissions scandal. The lawsuit, filed by the VZBV at a regional court in Stuttgart, seeks to set a precedent to enable owners of Mercedes GLC and GLK cars to gain compensation over software that was allegedly used to trick emissions tests. "Those who may have been affected will obtain certainty over whether Daimler AG deliberately installed illegal defeat devices in several vehicle models," VZBV chief Klaus Mueller said in a statement. "Despite official recalls, Daimler AG to this day denies it deliberately manipulated the emissions of its cars. The Stuttgart regional court should declare this. That would bring legal clarity for many consumers who have been affected." Daimler said it considered the claims to be baseless and would contest the case.
Computer vision technology company Seeing Machines has signed an agreement with Airservices Australia to integrate its technology into the air traffic control environment. The AIM-traded firm said the initial programme of work was valued at around AUD 0.25m (£0.14m) and would pursue the development and integration of head, eye and face tracking, and related high-level signals. Seeing Machines said those signals would include workload, fatigue and attention monitoring, and would "support and optimise" safe and effective controller performance in an increasingly automated air traffic control environment.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp. and TotalEnergies SE are joining a satellite-based effort to track methane emissions from offshore oil and gas platforms. The project will rely on observations from GHGSat Inc. satellites, which use infrared sensor technology to identify the potent greenhouse gas as it absorbs sunlight bouncing off the surface of the Earth. Tracking offshore emissions would fill a crucial gap in the effort to halt leaks because nearly 30% of the world’s oil and gas production is offshore. Halting methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry is viewed as some of the lowest hanging fruit in the fight against global warming because leaks are both wasted product and a source of reputational damage for operators, says Bloomberg. Methane, which is the primary component of natural gas but can also be released during coal and oil production, traps roughly 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide in the short term.
Since its hugely successful New York Stock Exchange Launch a week ago, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has seen a 20% fall in its share price in response to a ban on its app by Chinese regulators. Now the firm is being sued by US shareholders who claim Didi failed to disclose ongoing talks it was having with Chinese authorities about its compliance with cybersecurity laws and regulations. The lawsuits, filed in federal court in New York and Los Angeles on Tuesday, named Didi's chief Executive officer Will Wei Cheng and several other executives and directors. The lead underwriters for the company's share sale - Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase - were also named as defendants.
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