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UK imports from Russia fell to a nearly two-year low

   News / 13 May 2022

Published: 13 May 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


UK imports from Russia fell to a nearly two-year low in the month following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. New Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that imports from the country dropped by 70% in March, their value falling from £1.8 billion in February to £545 million in March. The ONS figures, released yesterday, also show that total imports of goods increased by 9.3%, with steep rises in imports from both in, and outside of, the EU. Exports to the EU rose by 1.7%, while exports to countries outside the block increased 2.1%.
Exports to Russia dropped from £268 million in February to just £95 million in March.
 
Russia's oil revenues are up 50% despite Western sanctions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday. A boycott from global companies has not stopped the Kremlin earning around $20bn (£16.4bn) each month so far this year from combined sales of crude and products amounting to about 8 million barrels a day. Despite preparing to announce a complete ban on the import of Russian oil, the EU remained the top market for oil exports in April, according to the IEA's monthly market report.
 
President Vladimir Putin claimed yesterday that the West had triggered a global economic crisis and a wave of ruinous inflation by imposing severe sanctions on Russia. He said the sanctions would “whiplash” against the European Union and trigger famine for some of the world's poorest countries. "The blame for this lies entirely with the elites of Western countries who are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world to maintain their global dominance," Putin said at a televised government meeting on the economy. He insisted Russia was coping with the pressure.
 
Energy giant Shell has agreed to sell more than 400 of its petrol stations in Russia to the country's second largest oil producer, Lukoil. Lukoil is Russia's largest oil producer after state-backed Rosneft. Shell Neft, the firm's subsidiary in Russia, will be sold for an undisclosed sum. Shell said the deal, which includes 411 petrol stations, will protect 350 jobs. The sale also includes a lubricants blending plant around 200km north-west of Moscow. Shell announced in February that it would sell its Russian assets because of the invasion of Ukraine.
 
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC yesterday that he is “pragmatic” about the idea of introducing a windfall tax on energy companies, despite insisting he is not “naturally attracted” to the idea. “I find there are two camps of people, actually: there’s some people who think windfall taxes can never be the answer, and then there are other people who think windfall taxes are an easy, quick, simple answer to solve every problem,” he said. “I’m not in either of those schools of thought…But what I do know is that these companies are making a significant amount of profit at the moment because of these very elevated prices. “What I want to see is significant investment back into the UK economy to support jobs, to support energy security, and I want to see that investment soon. If that doesn’t happen, then no options are off the table.” The Prime Minister has also refused to rule out targeting energy companies to help ease the cost-of-living crisis.
 
Rishi Sunak will put Britain's energy security at risk if he imposes a windfall tax on oil companies, the head of BP has warned. Bernard Looney said that a tax raid on his industry would make the UK a less stable environment for investing and potentially hold back plans to wean the UK off its dependence on foreign oil and gas.
 
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has told the BBC that the Government’s nuclear power push may initially increase energy bills, but that “nuclear is back on the table” because it is a sustainable energy source that would provide cheaper power eventually.
 
Bank bosses should face jail if they fail to prevent money laundering, a cross-party group of MPs has said. Launching a manifesto to tackle economic crime, members of parliamentary groups on anti-corruption and fair business banking warned that Britain’s defences against dirty money had been “overrun” and called for wide-ranging reform. As well as making senior executives criminally liable for failing to prevent economic crime, the group called on the Government to treble the amount of money it spent on enforcement over the next three years to £300 million and provide more protection for whistleblowers. Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge said: “Our financial services and our defences against dirty money have been overrun. London is now the laundromat for washing dirty money and we can’t go on like this.”
 
Water companies and broadband providers will be slapped with hundreds of thousands of pounds in penalties for botched works that leave potholes or poor quality roads under a crackdown by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. He is to roll out a new inspections unit to address “the plague of potholes” on the country’s roads. Firms that dig up the road to fix broken drains or install fibre broadband fail to return it to a minimum standard on nearly one in 10 occasions, the Department for Transport said. However, officials refused to disclose the worst offenders claiming it was “commercially sensitive information” and the Government does not have plans to name and shame companies fined, The Telegraph says.
 
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee is to investigate the increasing popularity and impact of connected devices such as smart speakers and what needs to be done to ensure they are safe and secure to use. The new inquiry will explore how devices such as smart hubs, powered by virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri, as well as wearable tech, have reshaped life in homes and workplaces.
 
BT boss Philip Jansen yesterday hailed the telecom giant’s roll out of top speed internet, saying the Openreach arm “continues to build like fury” and has now reached 7.2 million premises. However, he aims to ratchet up the speed at which so-called FTTP – ultra fast Fibre To The Premises broadband – is rolled out still further, from 3 million to 4 million premises a year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially pledged to get fast internet to every home in Britain by 2025.
 
London School of Economics (LSE) academic and prominent Brexit critic Dr Swati Dhingra is the first Asian woman to be appointed to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.  Chancellor Rishi Sunak has chosen her to replace Michael Saunders in August. Dhingra is associate professor at the LSE and a trade specialist who has previously called on the government to “cancel Brexit”.  When she takes up her post, one-third of the nine-strong policymaking group will be women for the first time since 2005.
 
Nearly 66,500 people filed their 2021/22 tax return on the first day of the new tax year, HM Revenue and Customs says.
 
Fewer than one in ten companies have told staff they must come back to the office full-time, new data reveals as employees around the world insist on working from home. The majority of businesses surveyed by estate agent CBRE expect to push for a return to more regular office life in the coming months, but just 6% are planning to enforce full-time commuting. The survey of 120 companies across various sectors found 39% of bosses expect their workers will be at the office for three or more days a week.
 
A tight labour market in the UK on the back of a combination of "robust" demand for workers and scarce candidate supply saw starting pay inflation hold close to records highs in April, a new report has found. Analysis from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggests demand for staff and increased competition has driven many firms to up pay offers for permanent and temporary workers. The overall availability of candidates fell for the 14th consecutive month in April.
 
KPMG UK has been fined £14.4m for forging documents and fabricating meeting minutes in an effort to mislead regulators over botched audits at the collapsed outsourcer Carillion. It is the biggest penalty in its history and the second largest levied on any accountant. Five of KPMG’s auditors - Peter Meehan, the partner responsible for auditing Carillion, senior managers Alistair Wright, Richard Kitchen and Adam Bennett, and junior auditor Pratik Paw - were all found guilty of misconduct by a tribunal. Stuart Smith, a sixth auditor involved, settled with the Financial Reporting Council earlier, accepting a £150,000 fine and a three-year ban as a qualified accountant. Carillion became Britain's biggest corporate failure for decades when it went bust in 2018.
 
More than 100 products containing cooked chicken – including sandwiches and wraps sold at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Aldi, the Co-op, Pret a Manger and Marks & Spencer – have been removed from sale and purchasers asked to return items after a salmonella scare at major supplier Cranswick Country Foods. Cranswick said in a statement that it was working with the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) to try to resolve the issue.
 
House prices have risen faster in rural areas than in urban locations over the past five years, according to analysis by Nationwide Building Society. Property values in areas which are mainly rural have risen by 29% over the past five years, while those in predominantly urban areas have increased by 18%, the building society said.
 
Food delivery giant Deliveroo has signed a recognition deal with the GMB union which covers the company’s 90,000 self-employed riders. The GMB said it is a “historic” agreement giving it rights to collective bargaining on pay, and consultation rights on benefits and other issues, including riders’ health, safety and wellbeing.
 
Fashion giant Zara has become the latest retailer to charge shoppers who return items bought online. Customers now must pay £1.95 to return clothes, with the cost taken from their refund. Items bought online can still be returned for free in stores. High Street firms such as Uniqlo and Next already charge for online returns, the BBC says.
 
Nissan reported a positive full-year net profit for the first time in three years yesterday, citing cost-saving efforts and a stronger US market, but issued cautious forecasts. An annual net profit of 215.5 billion yen (£1.37 bn) surpassed its forecast of 205 billion yen. However, the car manufacturer warned of a market environment "more severe than in fiscal year 2021, due to semiconductor supply shortages, higher raw material prices and logistics costs, the crisis in Ukraine as well as the impact of lockdowns on parts supplies in China."
 
Twitter has fired two high-profile employees. Head of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour and head of Revenue Bruce Falck have left the social media company, with Beykpour fired by current CEO Parag Agrawal while on paternity leave, The Independent says. In an email to staff, Agrawal said changes were happening to Twitter - some that were in their control, and others that were not. He added these changes would be hard but they were right for the company, and that it was vital to have correct leadership in this moment. Beykpour tweeted: “The truth is that this isn’t how and when I imagined leaving Twitter, and this wasn’t my decision. Parag asked me to leave after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction”.
 
Cryptocurrency owners are rushing to withdraw their funds amid a historic market panic that has been likened to a run on banks, The Telegraph says. Bitcoin is teetering on the precipice of an abyss, according to some crypto market analysts, with its price hitting its lowest level since July 2021. The Independent reports that the cryptocurrency has lost more than 50% of its value over the last six months amid a market-wide downturn that has wiped more than $1.5 trillion from the overall crypto market.
 
The US Senate yesterday confirmed Jerome Powell to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve.


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