Top stories

  • “Good progress” made on Brexit negotiations
  • Amazon experiences user data breach

Stat of the day

£8.8bn – the UK’s budget deficit in October 2018, an increase of £1.6bn on the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“Good progress” made on Brexit negotiations

Following their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening, prime minister Theresa May and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker reported “very good progress” on the outstanding issues in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration (Financial Times , £, p1). A second meeting, intended to finalise the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the future relationship, has been pencilled in for Saturday (Bloomberg , online only).

However, Politico (online only) reports that the EU leaders’ summit scheduled for Sunday is in jeopardy, with Spain threatening to block the draft Withdrawal Agreement without “tighter wording” to emphasise that the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU will be determined separately to that between the UK and EU.

Meanwhile, Cabinet meeting notes seen by the Daily Telegraph (£, p1) reveal that the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt labelled the draft Withdrawal Agreement a “turkey trap”, which he believed at least 60 Conservative MPs would vote against. A tally kept by Buzzfeed News(online only) suggests 81 MPs have committed to voting down a Commons motion to approve the deal.

At a Reuters event yesterday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell expressed “anxiety” that the outline of the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU does not include an aspiration for an “enhanced equivalence” framework for financial services (Financial Times, £, p2).

Amazon experiences user data breach

In a statement on Wednesday, e-commerce giant Amazon confirmed that it suffered a major data breach in which customer names and email addresses were disclosed on its website. Confirmation of the breach, the latest incident in a growing trend among large companies, came just two days ahead of Black Friday, its busiest day of the year for traffic and sales (The Guardian, online only).

To learn more about how to keep safe from fraud and protect your personal data online, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Latest from UK Finance

Simon Hills, Director for Prudential Policy at UK Finance, blogs on ways in which the financial sector can continue the progress it has made in improving firm conduct and culture.

News in Brief

Figures released by HMRC show that it collected £1.74 billion from the higher rate for additional dwellings in the year until September 30 2018. This compares with £2.01 billion in the previous 12 months, a 13.5 per cent fall.

A number of financial services stakeholders, including the Investment Association and AFME, have warned that Government proposals to grant ministers the right to “call-in” any merger, acquisition or investment on national security grounds are likely to be unduly politicised and may deter investment (CityAM, p1).

Transport for London has called for contactless payments to be accepted across the UK rail network, revealing paper tickets are “on the verge of obsolescence” in London (London Evening Standard, p8).

Unemployed and low-paid women are to be the focus of a new government drive to improve their lives, announced Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary and Minister for Equality, at a Women in Work conference in London (BBC News, online only).

The total revenue collected by HMRC from stamp duty on purchases of the most expensive properties buyers has fallen by more than 13 per cent in the last year (The Times, p55).

The Financial Conduct Authority will reveal plans today to introduce a cap on rent-to-own charges on household goods, subject to a consultation (CityAM, p5).

What the commentators say

Writing in The Times (£, online only), Simon Nixon argues that although the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Government is worse than the status quo, it is the best deal that could be achieved given the political constraints. However, he reminds readers that even if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by Parliament, the cliff-edge risks will simply be pushed back to the end of the transition period, unless a comprehensive free trade deal is agreed in the intervening period.

The Guardian’s (journal, p3) economics editor Larry Elliott argues that the Withdrawal Agreement and likely political declaration keep the UK too closely aligned to the EU after Brexit. He points to continued economic weakness and financial instability in the Eurozone, as well as the lack of European equivalents to the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook, as evidence that the UK should seek to strike its own independent path. He goes on to cite “German industrial goods and cheap labour” as holding back the UK’s manufacturing sector and frustrating wage growth.

Calendar

  • TheCityUK National Conference
  • ‘The Future of Capitalism’ event with FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey
  • Scottish First Minister’s Questions

For a full list of upcoming UK Finance statistics releases, please click here.

News in brief – 22 November 2018