Hinkley delayed over security fears?
I wrote yesterday about the astonishment and concern in the energy industry — and in Paris and Beijing — over the government’s surprise decision to delay signing the Hinkley nuclear deal. The deal includes not only Hinkley, but also a commitment to allow the Chinese to build further nuclear plants in the UK. Several papers report that the real reason for the delay is concern over security matters, and the risk that the Chinese might include a cryptic key in the software enabling them to turn off British nuclear plants remotely. Sounds like science fiction — but it could be an issue. It could also create an international incident.
According to the FT, Chinese officials are “surprised” by the decision, which may put UK/China trade ties in jeopardy.
EDF boss Vincent de Rivaz has written an open letter to staff expressing confidence that the project will go ahead, and (rather generously) saying that he understands the British government’s position. Others may be less forgiving.
China trade war over steel imports? If the Chinese are being restrained over the Hinkley issue, they’re making their feelings clear over European steel imports. The Commission has belatedly applied higher anti-dumping tariffs to Chinese steel, and the Chinese don’t like it. They say it runs counter to G20 rhetoric on free trade. But free trade doesn’t include the right for China to corner the world market in steel at artificially low prices.
People Smugglers are making over £100k per crossing
Following the jailing of two British people smugglers, the Telegraph reports that British people smugglers are making over £100,000 per crossing bringing illegal immigrants across the Channel. We need to control our borders — but we need to have the aircraft and patrol boats to make the Channel and the North Sea impassible for smugglers.
The Scots would prefer the UK
The “i” reports new research indicating that by a small margin the Scots don’t want a new referendum on independence, and would rather stay in a post-Brexit UK than be “independent within the EU”. Maybe they’ve realised that “independence within the EU” is an oxymoron. The economic case for the Scots to remain in the UK is clear-cut.
The end of “benefits”: The National, a Scottish paper, reports that Scotland’s new benefits system may drop the word “benefits”, as demeaning. We’ve reached a sorry pass when “benefit” can be regarded as negative and pejorative.
Scottish SNP MP accused of hypocrisy: Paul Monoghan, MP for Caithness, has been accused of hypocrisy after he complained of the British Supreme Court Decision against Scotland’s “state guardian” plan for children. Why? Because he’s also a pro-remainer — and therefore should be happy that “foreign” courts can overrule Scottish government decisions.
European banks fail stress tests
The European Banking Authority has conducted stress tests on 51 major banks in the EU, and many produce very poor results – in Italy and Ireland, but also in Germany, where Deutsche Bank profits have collapsed. The Bank of England has moved quickly to reassure the financial sector that UK banks have the resources and resilience to deal with foreseeable challenges– although RBS reportedly performed poorly, taking the bottom position amongst UK banks and well down the list amongst European banks.
Barclays backs Britain post-Brexit: Meantime Barclay’s Chief Executive Jes Staley has vowed to support Britain’s post-Brexit economy, saying that mortgage lending has been strong since the Brexit vote.
Bank of England mulls action to counter “Brexit hit”: Reuters reports that the Bank of England is reviewing plans to cope with a “Brexit hit” to the economy. But there is mixed news on the economy — and some of it very positive indeed. Foreign investment, talk of trade deals, a tourism boost. Meantime the more realistic valuation of the Pound is boosting exports. Maybe the Bank of England should take time to look at the reality on the ground before it responds to prejudice and Project Fear.
UK tourism surges after Brexit decision
The Evening Standard reports that London is enjoying a tourism surge following the Brexit vote, triggered partly by the lower value of the Pound. One estimate puts tourist numbers up by 18% compared to last year, with hotels and airlines all reporting a spike in business. Along with new foreign investments and countries eager to talk bilateral trade deals with Britain, this augurs well for the post-Brexit economy.
But Europe suffers: The New York Times reports that tourism is depressed in continental Europe following a spate of terrorist attacks — and says this could have a significant economic impact. But we should avoid hubris or schadenfreude. The UK will undoubtedly be targeted sooner or later by ISIS, and that could affect our tourist arrivals as well.
Bad news from Ford
The Indy, trawling as always for anti-Brexit stories, reports that Ford will consider closing its engine plants at Dagenham and Bridgend, where (as the Indy spitefully adds) people voted in favour of Brexit. It quotes the SMMT saying (rightly) that UK auto makers value access to the Single Market. But after Brexit they will have access to the Single Market. A few years ago Ford moved its van operations out of the UK to Turkey — which is out of the Single Market. Obviously being in a country in the EU didn’t matter too much to them then.
Unaccompanied child migrants abused
The Telegraph carries a report from Save the Children noting a surge in unaccompanied child migrants, may of whom are being forced into prostitution or child labour. Maybe Europe is not such a safe place as it appears to be from war-torn Syria. And from a broader immigration perspective, it seems likely that children are sent first, with the rest of the family following later, and claiming a right to family reunion and family life.
ISIS trains child terrorists: The Indy reports that ISIS is training hundreds of children — believed to be the children of ISIS fighters — as the “new generation” of terrorists. There are claimed to be up to fifty British children amongst them.
Return of the British passport?
Michael Fabricant MP has asked in parliament whether the Home Office has any plans to reintroduce the former blue British passport. Home Office Minister Robert Goodwill (an MEP 1999/2004) replied that “there are no immediate plans”. Let’s hope that plans are brought forward. The restoration of the British passport will be a cause for celebration, and perhaps street parties.
Quote of the week from the Indy’s Patrick Cockburn:
“Five years ago I thought that Syria could become like Turkey. Now Turkey is becoming like Syria”.
Exports take off outside the EU
The Telegraph leads its business section with the headline “Exports take off as firms look beyond the EU”. Overall export growth has exceeded the global rate of expansion for the first time in ten years, with non-EU exports exceeding EU exports by a significant margin — despite poor overall global economic prospects. The data come from 2015, before the Brexit vote, and are partly the result of poor economic performance in the eurozone. But it seems likely that the EU debate was prompting British firms to look further afield and to re-engage with world markets, even before the Referendum. Once again, Brexit is something to celebrate.