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The Government has dropped plans to impose further checks on imports of chilled meats from the EU

   News / 29 Apr 2022

Published: 29 April 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


The Government has dropped plans to impose further checks on imports of chilled meats from the EU and border checks on plant and animal products in July this year, as planned, over fears they could disrupt supply chains and add to rising inflation. Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would be “wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports,” the Evening Standard said last night. It is believed the move will save British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs. However, Tim Morris, CEO of the UK Major Ports Group said: “Many ports have been working incredibly hard and have invested over £100 million of their own money to build a network of brand new border checks to meet the requirements the Government has been insisting on for several years. This now looks like wasted time, effort and money to develop what we fear will be highly bespoke white elephants. Government needs to engage urgently with ports to agree how the substantial investments made in good faith can be recovered.”
 
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said yesterday that new internet regulations being introduced in the UK through the Online Safety Bill signify a “new chapter” of accountability for the tech sector. She said the Bill would place requirements on platforms to “uphold their own promises to their users to protect people from toxic, racist and misogynistic abuse and protect children from cyberbullying and other harmful behaviour,” with large fines and access to sites being blocked as potential punishments. She also stressed, however, that the internet should be “a place where people’s rights to participate in society and engage in robust debate are protected,” and that attempts to challenge the “open and collaborative nature” of the internet, such as government-led censorship, should be prevented. Dorries was speaking at the launch of the Declaration for the Future of the Internet alongside government representatives from the US and some 50 other countries, which makes a commitment to protect a free and open internet that fosters competition, privacy, and human rights. The Online Safety Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and will see Ofcom become the new regulator for the sector.
 
Tech giants that saw good times during the pandemic are dealing with a "hangover" compounded by inflation and the war in Ukraine, AFP reports. Amazon, Apple, Meta and Google-parent Alphabet released figures for the first quarter of this year that showed they are not impervious to turbulence roiling global markets. "While it wasn't a party for these companies, the pandemic did boost their business in major ways," according to eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. “Rapid growth seen during the pandemic was not sustainable, and tech firms should have better anticipated that,” he added. Amazon posted its first quarterly loss since 2015 yesterday. The e-commerce giant lost $3.8 billion in the first three months of the year, plunging into the red on a $7.6 billion loss in value of its stock in electric truck maker Rivian. The news sent Amazon’s shares tumbling by 10% in afterhours trading. Applereported better-than-expected profits but warned the China Covid-19 lockdown and ongoing supply chain woes would dent June quarter results by $4 to $8 billion. Meanwhile, earnings at video-sharing website YouTube were "a big miss" according to Verna, because TikTok has piled on the pressure and become a significant competitive threat.
 
It has been revealed that the government has asked energy firms to delay the closure of UK coal-fired power plants because of concerns over possible disruption to Russian gas supplies to Europe due to the war in Ukraine. Plants were due to close in the autumn.  Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to EDF, Drax and Uniper this month to ask that they temporarily extend the operation of the coal plants, which are used for back-up generation.
 
The Energy Intensive Industries Compensation Scheme is to be extended for a further three years and its budget will be more than doubled. The scheme has already provided £2bn to energy intensive industries such as steel manufacturers and paper factories since 2013. UK Steel said the extension of the support was "much needed".
 
The amount of money UK households owe collectively to energy suppliershas more than doubled in the past year to £1bn, meaning 23% of consumers are now in energy debt, according to data from Uswitch. 6 million households - 2 million more than at any point in the last four years - owe an average of £188 to their energy provider, the switching service said. That average debt is also 54% higher than it was in 2019. In contrast, almost 11 million households have £1.4bn in credit balances, with more than 1 million bill-payers owed over £300.
 
The Kremlin has earned a record profit from its state-owned energy company Gazprom. Profits surged to two trillion roubles (£22bn) in 2021, the company announced on Thursday, with its finances expected to be buoyed again this year despite sanctions and countries scrambling to free themselves of dependency on Russian oil and gas, because it is cashing in on sharply higher gas prices for its European customers following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
 
Nearly six out of 10 businesses plan on rising prices over the next 12 months as inflation continues to rise, according to the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer, which revealed 58% of businesses anticipated higher prices for their products or services in response to ongoing inflationary pressures. Consumer price inflation hit 7% in March, more than three times higher than the Bank of England’s 2% target, with energy bills and fuel costs largely behind the rise. March’s reading was a fresh 30-year high, topping the record set in February.
 
A growing number of UK businesses are at risk of going under, as costs spiral and Covid loan repayments come due, according to insolvency and restructuring specialist Begbies Traynor. Construction and hospitality are the sectors struggling most, and loan repayment schedules should be extended to ease the pressure, the firm said. In the first three months of this year there was a 19% rise in businesses in critical financial distress compared to the start of 2021, partner Julie Palmer said, and that without further action to help struggling businesses there would be a “wave of business failures”. Begbies Traynor says 1,891 firms now fall into the category of ‘critical’, suggesting their outlook is precarious in the face of supply chain disruption, rising energy prices, recruitment difficulties, and a hike in wage and National Insurancecosts.
 
The number of individuals going bankrupt across England and Wales has risen to the highest level in more than three years, figures from the Insolvency Service show. In the first quarter of this year there were 32,305 personal insolvencies, marking the highest total since the final quarter of 2018 when 33,768 cases were recorded. Total personal insolvencies were also 14% higher than in the first quarter of 2021.
 
Six-time Grand Slam tennis champion Boris Becker could be sent to jail today. He is being sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after being found guilty of flouting the terms of his 2017 bankruptcy by transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds from his business account and failing to declare a property in his home town of Leimen, Germany. Becker, now a BBCcommentator, was also convicted of hiding an €825,000 (around £700,000) bank loan and 75,000 shares in a tech firm. Each offence carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment under the Insolvency Act. He told jurors during his trial that his $50 million (£38 million) career earnings were swallowed up by an expensive divorce to his first wife Barbara Becker, child maintenance payments and “expensive lifestyle commitments”. He was declared bankrupt in 2017 over an unpaid loan of more than £3 million on his estate in Mallorca, Spain. Becker has a previous conviction for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany in 2002.
 
The government has launched a consultation on its plans to overhaul rules governing insurance companies by changing the European Union's Solvency II, which currently governs the regulation of insurance firms in the UK, as part of its post-Brexit reforms. John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: "Our reforms will unlock tens of billions of pounds of investment in the UK economy, spur innovation in the market while protecting policy holders, and will cement the UK's position as a global hub for financial services." The consultation will run for 12 weeks and close on 21 July.
 
Insurers expect the bill for damage caused by Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin that hit much of the UK during February to amount to nearly £500 million, PA Media reports. Around 177,000 claims have been made for damaged homes, businesses, and vehicles, with total payouts of £497 million predicted, according to the Association of British Insurers. Of these claims, 169,500 relate to property damage, costing around £473 million. There were also 7,522 claims for damage caused to vehicles, leading to claims worth around £23 million; emergency payments to relieve immediate hardship totalling £13 million; and some £2.2 million will be paid in arranging alternative temporary accommodation for policyholders whose homes were uninhabitable while repairs were carried out. The scale of the total bill is similar to an estimated £543 million paid in storm and flood claims following Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge in February 2020.
 
Whitbread is back in profit. The Premier Inn owner said profit before tax for 2021 came in at £58.2m, compared with a loss of around £1bn the year before because of coronavirus restrictions. The group said bookings are now above pre-Covid levels, with UK accommodation sales surging 198% from last year. Food and drink sales at its Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains also rose 170.2%. Total group revenue increased to £1.70bn during the period, up from £589.4m.
 
FTSE 250 engineering group Weir said it would take a hit of up to £20m due to loss of sales as it announced an exit from Russia due to the Ukraine war. The Glasgow-based group had already suspended operations in the country, but yesterday said it has would now exit fully by the end of the year "given the evolution of the situation".
 
Energy giant Shell has been fined £50,000 by The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) for breaching production consents. The NSTA raised concerns with Shell back in November 2020 that it had failed to comply with the maximum and minimum volumes specified in the production consents for five North Sea fields that year. An investigation by the regulator confirmed the failure – with a review by Shell finding it had failed to conduct an effective handover following a restructuring exercise.
 
The US economy contracted in the first three months of the year partly due to trade disruption from the Ukraine war, the BBC reports. Figures from the Commerce Department showed that GDP fell at an annualised rate of 1.4%. Slower growth had been expected but the figure was worse than forecast, marking the first fall since the covid-induced recession in 2020. However, analysts said a surge in imports, as exports fell, made the economy look worse than it was and that although inflation is running at a four decade high, households have not yet pulled back purchases. Consumer spendingremained healthy, rising at an annual rate of 2.7% in the quarter, up from the end of last year.
 
Tesla chief Elon Musk sold 4.4 million Tesla shares on Tuesday and Wednesday according to filings Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US market regulator, about $4 billion worth. To finance his $44bn takeover of Twitter, confirmed on Monday, Musk has pledged up to $21 billion from his personal fortune, with the rest financed by debt. Twitter's stock is trading at a significantly lower price than Musk's offer of $54.20 a share. It closed last night at $49.11 on Wall Street. Meanwhile, Reuters claims that Musk told banks approached to help fund his acquisition of Twitter Inc that he would cut jobs and executive pay at the social media company to slash costs and develop new ways to monetize tweets. Twitter released quarterly earnings yesterday showing that revenue reached $1.2bn and daily users increased to 229 million.


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