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brexit (4)

Silver Level Contributor

UK plans fintech visa fast-track scheme

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to inveil a fast-track fintech visa to attract top tech talent to post-Brexit Britain.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Sunak is keen to ensure that the UK’s £7bn fintech sector maintains its global standing in years to come in his 3 March Budget.

The plan is said to be a recommendation from ex-Worldplay chief executive Ron Kalifa in his independent review on how to boost the fintech sector post-Brexit.

The move comes as PwC reports that more than half (52%) of financial institutions say they expect to have more gig-based employees over the next three to five years.

PwC believes that gig economy employees will likely perform 15% to 20% of the work of a typical institution within five years, driven by continuous cost pressure and the need to access digitally skilled talent.

John Garvey, PwC’s global financial services leader, PwC US, comments: “Leaders in the industry are looking seriously at their workforces to evaluate which roles need to be performed by permanent employees and which can be performed by gig-economy workers, contractors or even crowd-sourced on a case-by-case basis. Covid-19 and remote working have opened the door to accessing talent outside of a firm’s physical location, including outside of the country. What we are seeing now is a talent marketplace for gig workers in financial services, competing to take advantage of their specialist skill set and boost productivity within their businesses.”

Sunak's bid to lure tech talent back to the UK will be welcomed by the country's fintech sector, which has been alarmed by a mass-exodus of European workers in the wake of Brexit.

A recent Oxford University study reveals that about half a million EU citizens left the UK permanently in 2020, with the vast majority coming from London.
 
Originally published by
Finextra | February 22, 2021
Read more…
Bronze Level Contributor

Image: EPA

There will be "bumpy moments" for UK businesses and travellers as they get to grips with new EU rules, says government minister Michael Gove.

He said there would be "practical and procedural changes" when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

Mr Gove also urged people going to the EU to make extra checks, including mobile phone roaming charges.

EU ambassadors have approved the post-Brexit trade deal, paving the way for it to take effect on 1 January.

Under EU rules it can take effect provisionally, though the European Parliament will vote on it in January.

In the UK, MPs will vote on the deal on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she expects to sign a continuity trade agreement with Turkey this week - a move that was not possible until the deal with the EU was struck.

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast: "I'm sure there will be bumpy moments but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path."

He warned businesses that time was "very short" to make the final preparations before the transition period ends.

"The nature of our new relationship with the EU - outside the Single Market and Customs Union - means that there are practical and procedural changes that businesses and citizens need to get ready for," he said.

"We know that there will be some disruption as we adjust to new ways of doing business with the EU, so it is vital that we all take the necessary action now."

Businesses have been urged to make sure they understand the new rules on importing and exporting goods, including the different rules that apply to trade with Northern Ireland, and to consider how they will make customs declarations on EU trade.

Mr Gove also encouraged travellers to EU destinations from 1 January to take out comprehensive travel insurance, check their mobile phone provider's roaming charges and make sure they have at least six months left on their passports.

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Measures are being put in place around the UK as it prepares to enter its new trading relationship with the EU.

The Scottish government has signed a lease to use a former military airfield in Dumfries and Galloway as an emergency lorry park for up to 240 vehicles if there is disruption at Cairnryan port near Stranraer.

Meanwhile, travellers from Great Britain will need to declare cash of €10,000 (£9,049) or more when entering Northern Ireland from 1 January.

The basics

  • A Brexit deal has been agreed, days before a deadline. It means that the UK and the EU can continue to trade without extra taxes being put on goods
  • What took so long? The UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and actually left on 31 January 2020, but leaders had until the end of 2020 to work out a trade deal
  • There are big changes ahead. Although it's a trade deal that has been agreed, there will also be changes to how people travel between the EU and UK, and to the way they live and work

The trade deal was reached after months of fraught talks on issues including fishing rights and business rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would provide new legislative and regulatory freedoms to "deliver for people who felt left behind".

But fishermen's leaders have accused him of "caving in" and sacrificing their interests. Labour called it a "thin deal" that needed "more work" to protect UK jobs.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said the "bumpy moments" Mr Gove warned about were of the government's own making because it waited to strike the deal "so close to the wire".

She said the government had refused to engage with business on preparations, while dodging questions for months about the recruitment of customs agents and the development of IT systems.

"The government is treating its own incompetence as inevitable," she said.

'Lasting damage'

The SNP said it was "the understatement of the century" that the UK would face disruption, adding that millions of businesses would now face "a mountain of extra costs, red tape, bureaucracy and barriers to trade in just four days' time".

Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine has urged MPs and peers to abstain when voting on the deal, warning it will inflict "lasting damage" on the UK.

The former deputy prime minister said he would "in no way share the endorsement of the legislation", but that he would not vote against it because the consequences of a no-deal would be even graver.

Political parties in Northern Ireland that take their seats in Westminster - the DUP, the Alliance and the SDLP - are set to vote against the deal.

The DUP, which supports Brexit, said its eight MPs would oppose the deal because it did not address "damaging" issues caused by introducing customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Over the weekend, Chancellor Rishi Sunak sought to reassure the City of London that it will not be damaged by the deal.

He said they would be "doing a few things a bit differently" and looking at "how we make the City of London the most attractive place to list new companies anywhere in the world".

The chancellor said the deal was "an enormously unifying moment for our country" and it brought reassurance to those who were concerned about the impact on businesses.

Originally published by
BBC News | December 28, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Getty Images

With time running out for the UK and EU to reach a trade agreement - and the prospect of no deal back on the agenda - the government has been talking again about an "Australian-style" relationship with the EU in the future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, "There is now a strong possibility that we will have a solution that is more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU".

Just to be clear though, an Australian-style Brexit would mean no trade deal with the EU and would see the UK trading instead under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

This is what Australia largely does but its former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull says "Australians wouldn't regard our trade relationship with Europe as a satisfactory one".

He's warned the UK, "be careful what you wish for".

So how does Australia trade with the EU?

Although Australia doesn't have an overall free trade deal with the EU, it does have a series of agreements on things like agricultural goods, wine and product standards, which make trade easier.

If the UK's talks with the EU were to break down abruptly, the UK would not have any such agreements. With no deal, it would be facing an even more limited trading relationship with the EU than Australia has (although Northern Ireland would be treated slightly differently).

It's also important to remember that trade between Australia and the EU is very different to trade between the UK and the EU.

Australia is on the other side of the world, whereas the UK is the EU's next-door neighbour. That means Australia doesn't do nearly as much trade with it as the UK does.

And it doesn't rely on the EU in the way the UK does, for the operation of just-in-time supply chains in sectors such as cars, pharmaceuticals and food.

In other words, border checks and delays - which happen much more when you don't have trade deals - have far less impact on EU-Australia trade than they would on EU-UK trade.

Even so, Australia wants to improve its trading relationship with the EU - the two sides have been negotiating a free trade deal since 2018.

Mr Turnbull told BBC Question Time, "Australians would not regard our trade relationship with Europe as being a satisfactory one...there are very big barriers to Australian exports of agriculture products in particular and a lot of friction in the system in terms of services."

How does trade between the UK and the EU work now?

The EU is the UK's biggest single trading partner. In 2019, it accounted for:

  • 43% of UK exports
  • 51% of UK imports

As an EU member state, the UK was part of its trading system - the customs union and the single market. This meant there were no tariffs (or taxes) on goods traded between the two, and minimal border checks.

The UK is still in this system until the end of December (as part of the transition phase with the EU).

Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

 

Both sides have until then to reach a new free-trade agreement, which would get rid of tariffs and quotas but not new border bureaucracy.

If they can't, then they'd have to trade on WTO rules - as Australia does.

What is the WTO?

The WTO is the place where countries negotiate the rules of international trade - there are 164 members and if they don't have free-trade agreements with each other, they trade under basic "WTO rules".

Every member has a list of tariffs and quotas (limits on the number of goods) that they apply to other countries with which they don't have a deal. These are known as WTO schedules.

Don't other countries trade with the EU on WTO rules?

Yes, examples include the United States and China and Brazil.

In fact, it's any country with which the EU has not signed a free-trade deal. That's when WTO rules kick in.

But like Australia those big economies don't just rely on basic WTO rules - they have all done other deals with the EU to help facilitate trade.

The US, for example, has at least 20 agreements with the EU that help regulate specific sectors, covering everything from wine and bananas to insurance and energy-efficiency labelling.

Why is the government talking about Canada?

The government has said repeatedly that it wants a free-trade deal along the lines of the one the EU has with Canada.

But the UK and the EU have been trying to negotiate an agreement that would have no tariffs or quotas at all.

Whereas the EU's deal with Canada does include tariffs and quotas (on some agricultural produce for example) and it had to be negotiated line by line over a long period of time.

What happens if there's no trade deal?

The UK would have to trade with the EU on WTO rules - at least, initially.

In this scenario, the EU would impose its tariffs on imported UK goods.

The average EU tariff is pretty low (about 2.8% for non-agricultural products) but in some sectors tariffs can be quite high.

Cars would be taxed at 10% with some agricultural tariffs higher still - rising to an average of more than 35% for dairy products.

This would have a big impact on UK businesses selling their goods to the EU.

What would the UK do?

The UK would do the same, and impose its tariffs on imported EU goods.

It has already released details of the tariffs it will charge from January 2021 to countries with which it does not have a free trade deal.

In some areas, they will be imposed to protect UK producers - in the car sector, for example, and on most agricultural products, to avoid "additional disruption for UK farmers and consumers". That will lead to higher prices in the UK for some EU goods.

But the government is also removing some of the tariffs it has been charging as part of the EU - in areas, for example, where there isn't that much domestic UK production that needs protecting.

Here are some items that are having their tariffs cut to zero.

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It's important to remember that the WTO's "most favoured nation" rules limit room for manoeuvre in the event of no deal.

The UK couldn't for example lower tariffs for the EU alone, in order to keep trade going. It would have to treat the rest of the world in the same way, which could lead to cheap imports flooding the UK economy, and harming domestic businesses.

And it's not just about the tariffs - there are also what are called "non-tariff barriers". In many areas of the economy they are far more important.

Non-tariff barriers include things like product standards, safety regulations and sanitary checks on food and animals. Some of them will apply with or without a deal, but businesses that trade with Europe fear that no deal in particular could lead to lengthy delays.

Eventually negotiations on some kind of deal would have to begin again, but it could take some time.

What about services?

All of this refers only to the trade in goods.

The trade in services between the UK and the EU is also of critical importance. The kind of trade deal the two sides have been trying to negotiate wouldn't say very much about services anyway.

But no deal would be an even greater challenge.

And companies on both sides would be having to adjust to that change at the same time as trying to deal with the impact of coronavirus.

Originally published by
Chris Morris | December 11, 2020
BBC News

Read more…
Silver Level Contributor

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is expected to be rolled out in the UK next week         Photo News

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has claimed Brexit allowed the UK to approve a Covid vaccine more quickly than other European Union (EU) countries.

"We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they're done because of Brexit," he said in an interview with Times Radio.

And the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, tweeted: "We could only approve this vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU."

The EU - through the European Medicines Agency (EMA) - has yet to approve a coronavirus vaccine.

But the idea that Brexit enabled the UK to press ahead and authorise one is not right.

It was actually permitted under EU law, a point made by the head of the UK's medicines regulator on Wednesday.

What are EU rules on approving vaccines?

Under European law a vaccine must be authorised by the EMA, but individual countries can use an emergency procedure that allows them to distribute a vaccine for temporary use in their domestic market.

Britain is still subject to those EU rules during the post-Brexit transition period which runs until the end of the year.

The UK's own medicines regulator, the MHRA, confirmed this in a statement last month.

And its chief executive, Dr June Raine, said on Wednesday that "we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exist until 1 January".

We asked Mr Rees-Mogg about his comment that: "Last month we changed the regulations so a vaccine did not need EU approval which is slower."

He replied with part of the text of an "explanatory memorandum" which accompanied new laws passed by Parliament last month.

"The regulation of human medicines is an area of shared competence between the EU and Member States under article 4 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU)," it reads.

"But in light of the EU's comprehensive exercise of the competence, Member States are precluded from exercising the competence nationally."

It is true that, in general, regulation of new medicines is done on an EU-wide basis. But that does not take account of the emergency provisions in EU law which Dr Raine refers to.

At the government briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked whether the UK's vaccine approval was down to a "Brexit bonus".

He refused to answer directly and thanked the NHS and the Vaccine Taskforce instead.

Moving faster

The MHRA is well-regarded as a world leader in the regulation of medicine, and it has certainly chosen to move faster with vaccine approval than the EMA.

"Our speed or our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review, and the rigorous assessment and independent advice we have received," Dr Raine said.

But again, the MHRA didn't have to rely on Brexit to do that.

For example, the European Commission confirmed earlier this week that Hungary - an EU member - could use a Russian Covid vaccine in its domestic market if it chose to do so.

'Most appropriate'

The EMA appeared to criticise the UK approach in a statement which said it is using a slightly slower method for licensing Covid vaccines than the UK.

It considers this approach to be "the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency, to grant all EU citizens access to a vaccine and to underpin mass vaccination campaigns".

The agency said this longer process was based on a wider body of evidence. The EMA has said it will decide by 29 December whether to grant provisional approval to the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.

EU distribution

That means distribution of the vaccine across the EU - if it is approved - won't start until January, when the relevant EU laws will no longer apply in the UK.

The government says it can be more nimble outside the EU, amidst an ongoing debate about how closely it should stick to EU regulations in all sorts of policy areas.

But the fact that the UK is the first country in the world to approve this vaccine has got nothing directly to do with Brexit.

Originally published by
BBC News | December 2, 2020

 

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