Brexit: Keep single market for transition period – Labour

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Labour would keep the UK in the EU single market and customs union for a transitional period after leaving the EU, the party has said.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer set out Labour’s new position in the Observer.

The shift in policy would mean accepting the free movement of labour after leaving the EU in March 2019.

Sir Keir said the transition would be “as short as possible but as long as necessary”.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis urged the European Commission to have a flexible approach to talks.

Labour’s leadership has been criticised by opponents for a lack of clarity on what deal Britain should seek immediately after the EU.

Sir Keir said a transitional period was needed to avoid a “cliff edge” for the economy, so that goods and services could continue to flow between the EU and UK while complex negotiations on the permanent deal continued.

“Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU,” he wrote.

“That means we would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period.

“It means we would abide by the common rules of both.”

‘Unlimited migration’

He compared this with the government’s preference for “bespoke” transitional arrangements, which he said were highly unlikely to be negotiated before March 2019.

He did not say how long the transitional period would be – only that it would be “as short as possible, but as long as is necessary”.

The customs union is the EU’s tariff-free trading area, while the single market also includes the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

“Those who campaigned to leave the EU are likely to be concerned that this could see unlimited migration continue for some time after Brexit,” said the BBC’s political correspondent Iain Watson.

After the transitional period, Sir Keir said, the new relationship with the EU would “retain the benefits of the customs union and the single market”, but how that would be achieved “is secondary to the outcome”.

Remaining in a form of customs union with the EU was a “possible end destination” for Labour, he said, but that must be “subject to negotiations”.

“It also means that Labour is flexible as to whether the benefits of the single market are best retained by negotiating a new single market relationship or by working up from a bespoke trade deal.”

He said a final deal must address the “need for more effective management of migration”.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s office confirmed that the proposals had been agreed with him and were official policy.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “sensible and reasonable” approach to take, and would give working people “certainty” on their jobs and rights at work.

But Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said it was “all spin and no principle”.

‘Temporary customs union’

The government has also called for a transition period to help business adjust after Brexit.

But chancellor Philip Hammond and trade secretary Liam Fox said the UK would be “outside the single market and outside the customs union” during this period.

A paper subsequently published by the government said it could ask Brussels to establish a “temporary customs union” after March 2019.

But during this period, it would also expect to be able to negotiate its own international trade deals – something it cannot do as an EU customs union member.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis will meet the European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday to formally open Brexit discussions.

The government said this week’s negotiations were “likely to be technical in nature”, ahead of more substantial talks in September.

It said both sides must be “flexible and willing to compromise” when it comes to solving areas where they disagree.


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The RBS department set up to help companies in trouble mistreated many of its clients, a leaked report for the Financial Conduct Authority says.

It found some “inappropriate action” – such as interest charges being raised or unnecessary fees added – was experienced by 92% of viable firms seen by RBS’s Global Restructuring Group.

GRG operated from 2005 to 2013 and at its peak handled 16,000 companies.

The banking giant denies systematic abuse of its customers.

GRG would step in when businesses had skipped a loan repayment, or seen their sales and profits dip notably and was marketed as an expert service that would turn around a business.

But the report, seen by the BBC, commissioned for the City watchdog, the FCA, found struggling companies that were placed in the recovery group had a slim chance of emerging from it.

It said just 10% returned intact to the main RBS bank.

As of the end of 2014, 69% of firms, were still in the successor to GRG, which was supposed to return them to health.

‘An undertaker’

Many of those businesses remained tied into complex loans with the bank in the form of derivatives linked to interest rates, from which it is often too expensive to leave.

Others ended up in administration, liquidation or a trade sale. According to one BBC source, instead of getting firms back on their feet, GRG was more like their “undertaker”.

The 361 page leaked report also says the bank provided only “narrow compliance” to investigators.

Sources told the BBC investigators would regularly ask for details from the bank on certain matters and RBS would only provide the absolute minimum information.

RBS disputes this though. It says it provided investigators with “circa 323 gigabytes of data, comprising more than 15 million physical pages and 270,000 emails.”


Provident Financial appoints new boss to home credit arm

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Troubled doorstep lender Provident Financial has made a management change at its consumer credit division.

The firm lost two-thirds of its share value on Tuesday after it issued its second profit warning in three months.

Chris Gillespie has been appointed managing director of the home credit business, replacing Andy Parkinson.

His task is to re-establish relationships with customers, bring collections back to a normal level and stabilise the operation of the company.

The FTSE 100 company expects to make losses of £80m to £120m after its debt collection rates fell to 57%, compared with a 90% rate in 2016.

Bradford-based Provident recently changed the way it collected its loans, replacing self-employed agents with “customer experience managers”.

Chief executive Peter Crook resigned earlier this week.

Manjit Wolstenholme, Provident Financial executive chair, said she was seeking to “turn the home credit business around and to putting a plan in place to deliver good results for the company”.

Also joining the firm’s home credit business are Luke Enock, who currently works for Provident subsidiary Satsuma, and Greg Cant, also currently employed at Provident.

FCA probe

The company has some 2.5 million customers, many of whom would not qualify for a standard bank loan and are therefore categorised as “sub-prime”.

Provident had first flagged up problems in June.

At the time, it said not enough of its self-employed debt collectors had applied to become employed by the company.

It had also been less effective at collecting money and selling new loans, while a greater number of agents than normal had left.

The company said then it expected profits to be £60m at its consumer credit division.

Its other divisions – Vanquis Bank, sub-prime car loan business Moneybarn and consumer credit brand Satsuma – are trading in line with expectations.

However, Vanquis has been under investigation by watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, which had concerns about one of its products.

Provident agreed to suspend all sales and is awaiting the outcome of that inquiry.


Car crashes into front of popular Wigan restaurant

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A man was seriously injured when a car hit the front of a restaurant this morning. A police spokesman said the vehicle flipped and hit the Olive Garden, on Preston Road, Standish, at 6.20am.

Emergency services attended and found a man with serious injuries, who was taken to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment. An ambulance service spokesman said the man, who is in his mid-20s, suffered injuries to his neck and back. Preston Road has been closed to traffic between Coppull Moor Lane and Pepper Lane. Photographs of the damaged restaurant and car have been posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page. The post said the man walked out of the car, but it has since been confirmed that he was badly injured. A building inspector will be visiting the restaurant to check on the damaged building.

Police enquiries are continuing to establish what happened. Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, quoting incident 341 of August 24. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

 


Cars and keys stolen from car park near Manchester Airport

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Up to 130 sets of car keys have been stolen from a site used by a meet-and-greet company offering long-stay parking near Manchester Airport.

Four cars were also taken from the Car Park Manchester site in Hale, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Police said the full numbers involved were not yet known because many of the vehicles’ owners are still on holiday.

Car Park Manchester said it had reported the 18 August burglary but declined to comment further.

The company is not affiliated with Manchester Airport.

Cheryl Wilden said she discovered her sister’s car keys had been stolen after the pair returned from a holiday in Barcelona.

‘Absolutely devastated’

She said they had to retrieve a spare set of keys from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, before being taken to where the car had been left in a “muddy field”.

They then struggled to drive the brand new Hyundai out of the site because it was stuck in mud, Ms Wilden said.

“It was horrendous, there were lots of high value cars there. We were quite horrified,” she added.

“They eventually had to get the car out for us. It was not pleasant.

“I’m just absolutely devastated because I booked it.”

A spokesman for Manchester Airport said: “We would like to remind passengers that the airport offers a wide range of secure, official car parking facilities, and is also well connected via public transport.

“Anyone with any doubts about their car parking can verify it with our customer services team.”


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