Blog: Pound drops after Johnson tells UK to prepare for no deal Brexit – business live – The Guardian


Lancashire is reportedly going to be placed under the very high alert level tier 3 Covid restrictions.

The FTSE 100 has lost of some its steam, and is trading higher by around 0.6% (compared to the 1%+ it was trading at about an hour ago).

But rather than taking theirs cues directly another local lockdown announcement, investors seem to be pulling back in line with the pound’s ascent, on the back of hopes that the UK will continue with Brexit talks.

Follow our news live blog for further updates on Lancashire:


My colleague Rob Davies has been live tweeting the Wetherspoons press conference this morning, where chief executive Tim Martin has been criticising government Covid rules and explaining the company’s first ever loss.

Here are some highlights:


BREAKING: British Airways fined £20m for data breach

The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined British Airways £20m for failing to protect the personal and financial details of over 400,000 customers.

The ICO said the airline was processing a significant amount of personal data without having adequate security measures in place.

Not only did that failure to have proper security measures in place break data rules, but BA was also hit by a cyber attack in 2018 that was not detected for over two months.

ICO said its investigation found BA did not detect the attack on 22 June 2018 themselves, but were alerted by a third party more than two months afterwards on 5 September that year.

The ICO added that addressing those security issues would have prevented the cyber attack from being carried out in that way.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:

People entrusted their personal details to BA and BA failed to take adequate measures to keep those details secure.

Their failure to act was unacceptable and affected hundreds of thousands of people, which may have caused some anxiety and distress as a result. That’s why we have issued BA with a £20m fine – our biggest to date.

When organisations take poor decisions around people’s personal data, that can have a real impact on people’s lives. The law now gives us the tools to encourage businesses to make better decisions about data, including investing in up-to-date security.


Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

Facebook-owned Instagram is to crackdown on social media influencers and celebrities who make posts without telling followers when they have been paid to do so, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA said it has been investigating the issue of so-called “hidden advertising” by social media influencers and has been concerned that Instagram has not been doing enough to tackle the problem.

The CMA is cracking down on hidden advertising on Instagram. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Social media influencers can make considerable income by charging fees to companies to promote a product with posts that can be seen by thousands of followers of their Instagram profiles.

Clear labelling of incentivised posts is required under UK consumer protection law so that people are not misled.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said:

For too long, major platforms have shied away from taking responsibility for hidden advertising on their site,” said “So, this commitment to tackle hidden adverts and overhaul the way people post on Instagram – making it difficult for users to ignore the law – is a welcome step forward.

These changes mean there will be no excuse for businesses to overlook how their brands are being advertised either – making life a lot harder for those who are not upfront and honest with their followers.

The CMA, which said that Instagram will now report its progress tackling the issue to it regularly, said that the commitments apply to all Instagram users in the UK as well as anyone globally who directs their posts towards UK users.


So, Brexiteer Nigel Farage has popped up again, this time with a daily newsletter meant to save subscribers cash.

In a tagline that sounds awfully familiar, his website claims people should subscribe to ‘Fortune & Freedom’ because “It’s time to take back control of your money.”

It goes on to say they’ll answer burning questions like “why aren’t you told about what really makes money?” and “why are you not warned early about big financial threats?”

The first post explains:

We cover everything from the benefits of holding gold, why the Euro looks doomed, the potential for cryptocurrencies and how cancel culture is making critical thinking and public debate toxic.

Nigel Farage has revealed Fortune & Freedom, his new subscription newsletter. Photograph: Freedom & Fortune

But if your burning question is more about whether this is actually real, the FT’s Alphaville (£) has already confirmed: “no, it’s not a spoof”.


Sarah Butler

Sarah Butler

More from our retail correspondent Sarah Butler, following the John Lewis announcement earlier this morning.

John Lewis is to become a major landlord, aiming to build homes for rent at 20 sites it owns around the country as part of its new strategy to rebuild profits to £400m within five years.

The company said building homes would offer it a new kind of income alongside other ideas including financial and digital services as future profits from retail were unlikely to be sufficient for it to pay staff at the level it wanted.

The retailer has outlined a huge array of ideas under chairman Sharon White and her newly appointed heads of the John Lewis department stores and Waitrose.

She has confirmed plans to ditch the department store’s long-held Never Knowingly Undersold price pledge for a new price promise to be finalised next year and to enable shoppers to recycle or reuse more products and is spending £1bn on expanding further online.

It is a bold effort to try and move a business under pressure into new markets. Others might have chosen to stick to the knitting in the department stores and run them as effectively as possible – while rivals such as Debenhams and House of Fraser shrink and potentially disappear.

Can John Lewis learn new tricks? The company’s move into online retail paid off in the past – that was brilliantly executed. Can they do the same with house building, gardening and insurance during tough economic times? We’ll see.



Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

JD Wetherspoon has slumped to a £95m annual loss as sales plunged during the coronavirus lockdown, with the pub chain’s outspoken founder renewing his criticism of the UK government’s restrictions to control the pandemic, my colleague Mark Sweney writes.

The chain, which reported a £95m profit in its previous financial year, said revenues slumped by 30.6% to £1.26bn as its pubs were hammered by the lockdown.

The pre-tax loss includes £60m of exceptional one-off costs, including £29m Covid-related costs for stock losses, staff costs and equipment.

The pub chain said it is in consultation to reduce the 1,000 staff at its pubs at six UK airports by 450, which it announced last month. It is also reducing head office staff numbers by 108.

Confirmation of the cuts come a day after the pub and brewer Marston’s announced it was axing 2,150 jobs, the biggest cuts in the sector since the pandemic began. Last week, Greene King said it is cutting 800 jobs and closing 79 pubs and restaurants.

Wetherspoons said since 4 July 429 employees have tested positive for coronavirus, 1% of its 43,000 total staff. The company said that is in line with the 0.9% rate testing positive in the total UK population and less than the 1.5% Amazon reported among its US employees.

Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said:

If pubs were, indeed, ‘centres of transmission’ it might be expected that infection rates would be higher among employees than those of either the general population or companies like Amazon.


Raab’s Brexit comments have lifted the pound, which has pared its losses and is now nearly flat against the US dollar at 1.2909.

The pound pared losses against the US dollar after Raab raised the prospects of a Brexit deal. Photograph: Tail1/Refinitiv


UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab has claimed the UK is close to a Brexit deal.

However, speaking to Sky News this morning, Raab said he was disappointed by the EU’s demand that the UK give further concessions to secure a trade deal.

Reuters reports Raab as saying:

We’ve been told that it must be the UK that makes all of the compromises in the days ahead, that can’t be right in a negotiation, so we’re surprised by that but the prime minister will be staying more on this later today.

However, he added:

Having said that, we are close. With goodwill on both sides we can get there.


And we’re off! Here’s how stocks are looking at the EU market open:

  • FTSE 100 is up 0.9%
  • Germany’s Dax is up 0.6%
  • France’s Cac 40 is up 1.4%
  • Spain’s IBEX is up 0.5%


John Lewis Partnership commits £1bn to online push

The John Lewis Partnership has committed to spending £1bn over five years to accelerate its online business and transform its shops.

In a statement this morning, the company also pledged to increase its Waitrose delivery capacity to more than 250,000 orders per week, up from 55,000 before the pandemic.

JLP is targeting around £400m profit for the group in five years and has promised to pay pay real living wage to all partners when they hit £200m profit. And it’s promised to pay partner bonuses by the time profits push past £150m and its debt ratio drops.

Few mentions of Covid and the pandemic generally, in the release but the digital shift comes as no surprise given retailers have really had to sit down and think about how to adapt to the rapid shift in consumer habits since the outbreak began.


Introduction: Investors wait for Boris’ signal on Brexit talks

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

While England gets to grip with new Covid-19 restrictions set to come into force under the government’s new three-tier system, investors are waiting to hear what’s next for Brexit talks.

Today is the day that prime minister Boris Johnson confirms whether the UK will continue with Brexit talks. Last month, Johnson set a deal deadline of 15 October, saying that if nothing had been agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on,” giving the UK time to to focus on no-deal preparations.

At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, the EU proposed a further “two to three weeks” of negotiations. Markets are now poised to see whether Johnson tries to push ahead and reach a deal or stick to last month’s threats and walk away.

Pessimism around Brexit sent the pound down to back towards 1.2863 versus the US dollar, with cable now trading down by around 0.2% at 1.2886. Versus the euro, the pound is nearly flat at 1.1014.

But this is all taking place as the Covid crisis once again gains pace, with cases steadily rising across Europe. France has declared a state of emergency and London is set to face tighter restrictions from midnight on Friday.

Jasper Lawler, head of research at LCG, says tighter lockdown rules are threatening the economic recovery and could push European economies – including the UK – into a double dip recession:

The British government is under pressure to follow scientific advice for a 2-week circuit breaker national lockdown but has so far resisted, but has raised the capital to the Level 2 tier of restrictions. That means two different families can no longer mix indoors- be that in their home or in a pub or restaurant.

There is still no sign of the joint European recovery fund so in the meantime economies stand to take the hit – risking a double dip recession – from the new restrictions.

But after dropping on Thursday, European stocks are expected to rise this morning:

Stay tuned!

The agenda

  • 10am BST: Eurozone inflation for September (final reading)
  • 1:30pm BST: US retail sales for September
  • 2:15pm BST: US industrial production for September

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