Published: 09 December 2021
Location: London, UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that he would enact ‘Plan B’ in response to the omicron covid variant. New restrictions to be introduced next week include:
- Making vaccine passports mandatory for some venues, including nightclubs, indoor venues holding more than 500 people and outdoor venues with a capacity of more than 4,000 from December 15th
- Ordering people to work from home where possible from Monday 13 December
- Making face masks mandatory in almost all indoor settings, but not pubs, restaurants or gyms
- Requiring anyone who has been in contact with anyone with covid to test themselves daily
- A mandatory 10-day self-isolation period for anyone in contact with anyone with the omicron variant, whether vaccinated or not.
- Separate rules still apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The vaccine passport rule for nightclubs has been introduced despite a government report in June concluding the impact of bringing them in would be out of proportion to the public health benefits, the BBC reports. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief executive Michael Kill said they would have a "devastating impact" on the sector, highlighting the fact they have already caused a 30% and 26% drop-off in trade respectively in Scotland and Wales, where already implemented. He also questioned whether the move was an attempt to distract attention from a "damaging story about the Downing Street Christmas party," adding: "Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the Prime Minister to save his own skin”.
Government Spokesperson and Advisor Allegra Stratton has resigned following an angry backlash over a video of No 10 Downing Street staff joking about holding a Christmas party on 18 December 2020. At the time, London was under Tier 3 restrictions, meaning all inside gatherings of two or more people were banned and work parties were prohibited. The video, obtained by ITV, showed Stratton, then the PM's then-press secretary, laughing over how to describe the party should the news get out. She eventually settled on ‘a business meeting,’ when questioned by the PM's special adviser, Ed Oldfield, in a mock press briefing to practice what answers to give journalists. Other aides joked: "It wasn't a party; it was cheese and wine." Delivering a tearful statement, Stratton said she would "regret the remarks for the rest of my days". The Metropolitan Police says it will not be investigating any potential breaches following the release of the video, citing "an absence of evidence". The PM claims he has been assured repeatedly that there was no party and so no Covid rules were broken, however he has announced an investigation into the matter, to be led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, promising disciplinary action for all those involved.
The UK legal services sector is the largest such market in Europe, and it contributed £29.6bn to the UK in 2019, TheCityUK says. The sector posted a trade surplus of £5.6bn in 2020, is valued at £36.8bn in 2019, and is second only to the US globally, the new study adds. The nation’s position in legal services is helped by the "international prestige" of English common law, which forms the basis of the legal systems for some 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions, the report said, adding that the UK’s reputation as the leading centre for international dispute resolution is a strong driver for commercial parties to opt for their contracts to be governed by English law. London is seen as the world’s preferred centre for arbitration - the number of civil disputes resolved through arbitration, mediation and adjudication in the UK exceeded 43,000 in 2020.
The Resolution Foundation and Financial Fairness Trust are calling for family homes to be taxed by extending the scope of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to raise £11 billion. Soaring house price growth in the past two decades has delivered huge capital gains on the homes of the wealthy which are “unearned, unequal and untaxed”, a new report from the two claims, based on analysis that above-inflation house price growth of 86% during the past 20 years has meant capital gains on homeowners’ main residences worth £3 trillion. This represents a fifth of all wealth in Britain today, the report said, with those aged 60 and over seeing the biggest windfalls – around £80,000 on average, compared to an average of less than £20,000 for those under 40. They are suggesting owners pay a 28% CGT rate on all housing capital gains built up during the past 20 years when exit home ownership or die.
The price of coffee has hit an all-time high, with higher quality arabica beans reaching $2.50 a pound, almost double the cost at the start of 2021. Faced with shipping bottlenecks, a recent rise in demand and worries about a drought in Brazil, buyers are trying to lock in supplies at a set price in futures markets, which leave less scope to select produce, the Financial Times reports. Consequently, inventories have been drained from Intercontinental Exchange, one of the main venues for coffee trading; traders are struggling to book containers onto ships; freight prices have soared; and farmers are hoarding beans. "There is intense competition among exporters to secure containers and book loadings, all at costly prices," the US Department of Agriculture said in a report. "The three largest Arabica producers, Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia, are experiencing increased rates of default, where farmers fail to deliver coffee at agreed-upon prices so they can attempt to re-sell at current higher prices."
Upper Crust and Ritazza owner SSP reported widening full-year losses yesterday, because of Covid-related restrictions. In the year to 30 September, underlying pre-tax losses widened to £393.1m from £371.8m in 2020, with revenue down 41.8% to £834.2m. Compared to 2019, revenue was 70.1% lower. SSP said revenue trends have improved steadily over the summer and autumn, with revenue averaging 66% of 2019 levels in the first nine weeks of the new financial year.
Mercedes' sponsorship deal with Kingspan, a firm that made insulation material involved in the Grenfell Tower disaster, has ended a week after it was announced. The Formula 1 team were heavily criticised over the deal, with survivors of the June 2017 tragedy describing it as "truly shocking". "Both parties have subsequently concluded that it is not appropriate for the partnership to move forward at the current point in time," said Mercedes. "We have therefore agreed that it will be discontinued with immediate effect."
Tesco appears to have averted strike action by distribution workers after upping their offer of a below-inflation pay increase of 4% to 5.5%, back dated to July, with an extra 0.5% from February. More than 1,000 members of the Uniteunion had planned to strike, meaning stores may have been short of products during the peak Christmas trading period. Unite workers based in Antrim and Belfast in Northern Ireland, and Didcot and Doncaster in England, are now expected to vote in favour of the deal. However, the supermarket still faces potential strikes by Unite members at a distribution centre in Livingstone, Scotland, and warehouse workers who are members of the Usdawshopworkers' union. Talks about these disputes will be held in the next few days, Unite said.
Convenience retailer McColl's says its total revenue for the financial year just ended had declined 11.2% to £1.11bn, because of supply chain disruption in the second half, and the conclusion of its store optimisation programme. However, two-year like-for-like sales growth came in at 9.1%, with sales retained at a higher level than pre-pandemic, although on a one-year basis, like-for-like sales declined by 3.3% given 2020's results were inflated by changes to more local shopping amid Covid-19 lockdowns. The accelerated expansion of the 'Morrisons Daily' format stores across the 1,000-strong estate remained on track and was delivering "strong improvements" in performance compared to pre-conversion trading, McColl’s said. It’s target of 450 stores to be Morrisons branded in a year's time would "fundamentally re-shape" the business, the board said. "In less than a year's time we expect over half our revenues to be delivered by this fascia, bringing branded, supermarket-quality convenience to our customers, with material scope to deploy further into our estate," said CEO Jonathan Miller. McColl’s also operates Martin’snewsagents.
OneWeb has announced plans to spend £2.2 billion to transfer satellite production from the US to the UK. The firm is set to have a network of 588 satellites in space by the middle of next year.
Japanese-owned Komatsu, the world's second largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, has ramped up production and created more than 120 jobs and apprenticeships at its Birtley plant in County Durham to meet soaring global demand.
Crisis-hit Chinese property giant Evergrande is in the spotlight again: investors are waiting for news about whether tens of millions of dollars of overdue interest payments owed by the firm will be paid. The BBC says it understands Evergrande was due to make $82.5m (£62m) of interest payments on Monday, after a 30-day grace period expired. If the firm failed to make these payments on time, the stage could be set for a massive default by the world's most indebted property developer, the broadcaster said. Evergrande's shares closed at a new record low yesterday after falling by 5.5% in Hong Kong trade.Meanwhile, trading in shares of another embattled Chinese property developer, Kaisa, was suspended in Hong Kong yesterday. In an announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Kaisa did not give a reason for the halt in trading, however it came after reports Kaisa was unlikely to be able to meet a $400m offshore debt deadline on Tuesday. Kaisa is China's biggest holder of offshore debt among developers after Evergrande, with liabilities totalling some $12 billion.
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