China has retaliated against Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium by signalling that it will hit US goods such as pork, apples and steel pipe with higher duties. As Asian stock markets plunged at the prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s commerce ministry urged Washington to negotiate a settlement as soon as possible but set no deadline. - Guardian.
America and the European Union have pledged to reach an agreement on President Trump’s steep steel and aluminium tariffs “as rapidly as possible”. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, expressed “cautious optimism” that the EU would persuade the US to offer an exemption from the duties. “Everything will be clear tomorrow,” he said. - The Times.
Partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers will be questioned by the work and pensions committee on Wednesday about the accounting firm’s role in the collapse of Carillion, with PwC accused of attempting to “milk the Carillion cow dry”. The committee said the correspondence between the Pensions Regulator and Carillion exposed the regulator’s weak position and the key role played by PwC. Most of the regulator’s negotiations were conducted via PwC, which advised Carillion’s directors on managing their pensions liabilities from 2012 to 2017.
The most important driver of UK economic growth is likely to slow further this year as PWC predicts that consumers will continue to scale back their spending in the face of higher inflation and squeezed incomes. The accountancy giant has forecast that consumer spending growth will slow to 1. 1 per cent this year, down from 1. 8 per cent in 2017, before edging up only slightly to 1. 3 per cent in 2019. - The Times.
The Gambling Commission is to recommend that the government reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, to Â£30 or less. However, in a move likely to come as a relief to bookmakers, the watchdog will not explicitly back a maximum Â£2 stake, instead suggesting measures to combat the risk of harm. - The Times.
Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels, The Times has learnt. EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market.
MPs have accused the government of a “deeply regrettable” failure to put in place strong guarantees that the UK’s green investment bank will continue to support renewable energy after its privatisation. The public accounts committee said it was unclear whether the bank would continue to support the government’s energy policy or climate change goals, because the bank’s new owner is not legally bound to stick to its green aims. – Guardian.
Hiring confidence among British companies has reached its highest level in more than a year and recruitment is set to pick up as businesses shrug off downbeat economic projections, according to a closely watched study. Low unemployment and strong demand for more workers means companies are increasingly forced to pay joining bonuses of 15pc or 20pc of salaries to entice new recruits. The poll of 2,102 employers across nine different industry sectors by the recruitment firm ManpowerGroup is used by the Bank of England as an early indicator for changes in the jobs market.
House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum. Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than Â£100,000 in value over the last 12 months. – Guardian.
Donald Trump pushed forward with plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on Thursday, arguing the levies were necessary for national security and to stop the “assault on our country”. Flanked by steel and aluminium workers and key staff, Trump said he had to act to stop the “decimation of entire communities” and insisted there would be a very fair process as the administration used the next 15 days to negotiate exemptions with allies. Canada and Mexico will be exempted.
Uber has confirmed that it is looking to secure a $1. 25bn (Â£900m) leveraged loan, less than a month after revealing that its losses ballooned to $4. 5bn last year. The ride-hailing company is thought to be contacting loan investors directly over the financing, which was first reported by Bloomberg, with Uber expected to meet with investors on Friday. – Telegraph.
Philip Hammond will insist on Wednesday that Britain can overcome EU opposition and include financial services in a post-Brexit free trade deal. The chancellor is expected to use a speech in the City to challenge the idea – voiced strongly by France’s finance minister on Tuesday – that financial services have never been included in trade deals because of their complexity and the risks to stability. – Guardian.
Philip Hammond has stressed the urgency of securing an implementation deal between Britain and the EU by the end of this month, warning that without it airlines will not know if they can safely schedule flights for spring 2019. The chancellor told a parliamentary committee that it was in the interests of both sides to agree to the terms of the transition period at the March EU council meeting. - Guardian.
Income tax bands could be scrapped to give average earners as much as Â£1,100 each without costing the government a penny, according to a report calling for radical changes to make theUK tax system fairer. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, just as much money could be raised by the government if it merged income tax with national insurance, scrapped existing tax bands and introduced individual rates that would be tailored around pay and would rise with higher earnings.
The European Union is set to reject Theresa May’s plan for a soft border in Northern Ireland, Ireland’s deputy prime minister said on Sunday. The prime minister suggested on Friday that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be avoided through technological solutions and by exempting small businesses, which account for 80 per cent of cross-frontier trade, from checks. - Sunday Times.
The board of Carillion dismissed a proposal that could have poured Â£218m into the government contractor’s ailing pension scheme, believing a month before the company’s collapse that they could still revive its fortunes. Details of a plan drawn up by accountancy firm EY, but rejected by directors, emerged as MPs conducting an inquiry into Carillion’s failure released evidence they said proved “pervasive institutional failings” at the company. - Guardian.
Britain will refuse to pay its multibillion-pound Brexit divorce bill until Brussels backs down on attempts to keep Northern Ireland subject to European Union rules, David Davis warned last night. In an uncompromising letter sent to Tory MPs, the Brexit secretary said that Britain would not finalise financial payments to the EU until “all the issues” of concern to Britain had been addressed. - The Times.
More than 5,500 retail jobs are at risk as two of the high street’s best known names teeter on the edge of collapse. Toys R Us, with more than 3,000 staff, is set to go into administration in the next 24 hours, and 11th-hour rescue talks designed to shore up Maplin are also said to have broken down, meaning that the 200-store electronics chain also faces imminent bankruptcy. – Guardian.
A senior Conservative MP has criticised the government for failing to make progress on a transition deal to smooth Britain’s exit from the EU, warning that businesses could relocate jobs outside of the UK without urgent action. Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Commons Treasury select committee, said businesses were “crying out” for details of a proposed period to cushion Britain’s withdrawal from the EU from March 2019, calling on ministers to swiftly resolve their differences and reach a deal with Brussels or face damaging consequences.