Blog: Brexit: Raab claims EU trade agreement is ‘great deal’ for fishermen, as firms complain of costs and delays – The Independent

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has denied betraying the UK’s fishermen, insisting that the Brexit trade agreement signed by Boris Johnson was “a great deal” for the industry.

Mr Raab was speaking amid howls of outrage from fishing companies, who say that the additional red tape and delay caused by the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement has led to them losing huge sums from consignments unable to reach European export markets.

And the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has described the deal as “desperately poor”, leaving many businesses fearing for their survival amid reports of an 80 per cent collapse in the prices they can charge for their catch.

But confronted with fishermen’s angry comments during an interview on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Raab said: “I think this is a great deal for the fishing industry, both short term and long term.

“We get control over our fisheries back – full control as an independent coastal state – there is an immediate 15% uplift in our access to fisheries for the UK sector in the first year. That rises to two-thirds in the five year transition period, then we have annual negotiations.”

Marr read out comments from Jamie McMillan, manning director of Loch Fyne Langoustines, who said: “We have no sales to the EU, our biggest market for live shellfish, in the last two weeks. If we go another week without that, we are finished.”

And he confronted Marr with the comment of  Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, who said: “Some businesses, which may have been run by families for generations, are now days away from collapse as a result of the agreement”.

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Mr Raab dismissed the difficulties faced by fishing businesses as “teething problems” and said he was “not convinced” that the thickets of Brexit paperwork and delays were the result of the agreement.

“The agreement we have struck, both short term and medium term and long term, will create huge sustainable opportunities,” he claimed.

“Of course, we’ve always said as we leave the transition period with a deal – but even more if we hadn’t had a deal – there will be some teething problems.

“We’re very focused on working with all of the different sectors, including the fishing industry, to resolve any of these teething problems.”

Mr Raab said that the government was investing £100m into the fishing industry to enable it to grasp the additional opportunities which it believes will be available as a result of Brexit.

Despite warnings from industry figures of boats being tied up at quayside and companies being on the brink of closure, Mr Raab said: “The fishing industry is going to want to increase its capacity to take advantage of those increased stocks.

“That’s why we’re putting in £100 million to shore up, to strengthen, the fishing industry right across the whole of the UK, to make sure that this really important opportunity of leaving the EU and leaving the transition period can be properly grasped.”

In a letter to Mr Johnson last week, SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald accused the prime minister of misleading the public about the agreement and giving the industry “the worst of both worlds”.

“You and your government have spun a line about a 25 per cent uplift in quote for the UK, but you know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that,” Ms Macdonald wrote.

The prime minister’s stated approach, known as “zonal attachment”, would have secured British boats up to 90 per cent of the catch in UK waters for important stocks such as herring. Instead the deal actually means the UK share of the herring catch is just 32.2 per cent and for other fish is even lower, while EU boats have “unfettered” access to British waters, she said.

“This can hardly be claimed as a resounding success,” Ms Macdonald wrote.

“This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds. Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.”

Blog: COVID-19 and Brexit put spanner in works of UK car supply chains – Yahoo Finance UK

COVID-19 and Brexit put spanner in works of UK car supply chains

Lucy Harley-McKeown

·3-min read
A member of staff at the Vauxhall car factory cleaning and disinfecting a work station during preparedness tests and redesign ahead of re-opening following the COVID-19 outbreak. Located in Ellesmere Port, Wirral, the factory opened in 1962 and currently employs around 1100 workers. It ceased production on 17 March 2020 and will only resume work upon the advice of the UK Government, which will involve stringent physical distancing measures being in place across the site. (Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images)
A member of staff at the Vauxhall car factory cleaning and disinfecting a work station during preparedness tests and redesign ahead of re-opening following the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

Brexit and COVID-19 have thrown another spanner in the works for the UK car industry as several factories have been forced to limit or shutter production.

Parts shortages and ports delays have already caused issues for the automotive industry, now Jaguar, Land Rover, Nissan (NSANY) and Vauxhall are all curbing activity supply chain issues are ironed out.

According to The Sunday Times, Jaguar is halting production of its XE and XF saloons for two weeks amid staff shortages due to COVID-19. Its Castle Bromwich factory is in Birmingham.

Extra shifts were scrapped at Nissan’s Sunderland factory because of shortages of parts at ports caused by Brexit.

The Nissan factory employs 5,750 people in the city and bosses have previously warned a no-deal Brexit would make its UK business “unsustainable.” Despite a deal being reached, the company is still facing issues.

Last week, Vauxhall was also understood to have lost half a day’s production due to shortages of parts.

READ MORE: UK car industry warns of ‘New Year nightmare’ amid no-deal Brexit fears

In December, car bosses warned the government that car production in the UK could be shut down early in 2021. The latest issues have shown this prophecy playing out.

At the time, Steve Bush, Unite’s national officer for the automotive sector, told Sky News “now is the time to worry,” regardless of whether a deal is agreed or not.

He said: “Within days [of 1 January] we may potentially see an issue where production is shut and ceases because there’s a backup at Dover.”

Alongside Jaguar, Nissan and Vauxhall, Honda also warned last week that it would shit its Swindon factory from Monday to Thursday on account of a shortage of semiconductors.

READ MORE: £34bn Brexit VAT bill pushes companies to the brink

Figures released at the end of December showed that in the 11 months to November, total UK car production was now down 31% compared with the same period in 2019, representing a loss of 380,809 models at a cost of roughly £10.5bn ($14.3bn) to the sector.

The British automotive sector forms a key component of the national economy, turning over an annual £78.9bn and representing the country’s biggest exporter of goods at 13% of total exports.

Factories have been allowed to continue to function during the most recent national lockdown, however these new production curbs will hit hopes of a recovery.

Car production in the UK has already been a casualty of Brexit, with some manufacturers choosing to move their production elsewhere. In December, Ineos Automotive, owned by billionaire Brexit backer Jim Ratcliffe, announced it will build its first 4×4 vehicle in France, which confirmed that its plans to build a car manufacturing factory in Wales have officially been abandoned.

Watch: 10 ways to Brexit-proof your finances

Blog: Stuck in Kent: How Brexit Red Tape Choked Cross-Border Trade – Yahoo Finance

Joe Mayes and Lizzy Burden

·5 min read

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Stuck in Kent: How Brexit Red Tape Choked Cross-Border Trade

(Bloomberg) — Branimir Vuckovic shuttles goods back and forth between Britain and the European Union, his Beep Beep Express Ltd. making deliveries to clients in Germany, Serbia and his native Croatia.

But now he is stuck. The 45-year-old can’t find a broker to prepare the customs documents he needs after Brexit. Vuckovic spent this week driving around Kent seeking help — to no avail. He was repeatedly turned away by shipping agents who weren’t taking on new clients.

“Who is going to do the paperwork?” Vuckovic said in a telephone interview. “No one.”

Vuckovic’s experience highlights a flaw in the U.K.’s preparations for Brexit: a lack of trained workers to help firms navigate their way through the labyrinth of customs procedures that have been imposed since Britain’s departure from the EU. Even with a trade deal in place, businesses still face new checks and paperwork.

The staff shortage is already hampering the flow of goods and has pushed up the cost of shipping them, Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, Britain’s biggest manufacturing lobby group, told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday.

200 Million Forms

While the government avoided significant disruption at ports in the days after Brexit — largely because firms stockpiled goods or delayed deliveries until February — the shortage of customs agents means that trade could take longer to rebound to its former levels, hampering any wider recovery in the U.K. economy.

Britain’s logistics industry had warned that businesses would need to hire an additional 50,000 workers to process the 200 million extra customs forms that will be required annually after Brexit.

Read more: U.K. Businesses Drowning in Red Tape Under Brexit Border Rules

The U.K. government has repeatedly declined to disclose how many agents there currently are, saying it’s a matter for the market. Phipson said the latest data shows there are between 11,000 and 12,000. That has left firms struggling to get help.

Eddie Maybank, an independent customs broker, has been so overwhelmed by inquiries that he has been forwarding them on to other agents in Dover. But he was told this week to stop because they were also at capacity.

‘I’m Inundated’

“I’m having a breakdown really,” Maybank said. “I’m inundated, and so is everyone else.”

Even if firms can hire an agent, the experts are finding themselves bamboozled by the new procedures. They complain of difficulties in obtaining export health certificates — documents required for food or animals — and of forms being rejected because they hadn’t used the correct color of ink.

Lukasz Piotrowski of PMA Trade Ltd. has a lorry carrying plastic containers for mushrooms to Poland stuck in Dover, costing his business about 1,000 pounds ($1,364) a day.

“Having a professional customs agency on both sides of the border hasn’t really helped because neither the export agency in the U.K. nor the import agency in the EU know specifically what to do,” he said. “There are times I’m so frustrated I want to close the company.”

The government has conceded the shortage of staff is a problem — but says it isn’t limited to the U.K.

Give Up?

“We are starting to realize that customs agents’ capacity and capability is being extremely stretched — and this is on both sides of the border,” Heather Jones, a deputy director of the government’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group, told an online question-and-answer session for businesses on Thursday.

Even the biggest logistics firms are struggling to grapple with the new paperwork.

Kuehne + Nagel International AG, one of the world’s largest freight-forwarding firms, is turning away new business, and staff are working 90-hour weeks to keep goods flowing, according to a person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. About 20% of the freight it is handling is encountering Brexit-related problems, with some shipments facing days-long delays, the person said.

“Despite the special situation, we accommodate our customers‘ requests to and from the U.K.,” Kuehne + Nagel said in an e-mailed statement. The company “has specially developed an IT solution that digitizes the customs process (import and export) and ensures that all documents are checked before the physical transport of goods takes place,” it said.

DB Schenker, a major logistics company owned by German rail giant Deutsche Bahn AG, has suspended deliveries to the U.K. due to “significant” problems with Brexit paperwork. Only about 10% of goods it was being commissioned to ship had the right customs forms, DB Schenker said in a statement.

Coronavirus Pandemic

Efforts to train more customs professionals were stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, and some firms have been outsourcing the work to cheaper labor overseas. The U.K. government created an 84-million-pound fund to finance training of new agents — but that had almost been exhausted by the end of 2020.

The shortage of workers to handle customs paperwork has meant that trucks haven’t been getting as far as the ports. Drivers are facing long waiting times at warehouses and factories due to inadequate or non-existent Brexit paperwork.

Magiboards, which manufactures whiteboards, had a consignment from the Netherlands delayed because its goods were shipped with other deliveries, some of which didn’t have the correct Brexit clearances.

“They had to turn the lorry around, go back to the depot, unload the goods from suppliers who hadn’t fulfilled the requirements and go back,” said Erwin van der Stap, managing director of the Telford-based company. “We’re losing orders and letting customers down.”

(Updates with company comment in eighteenth paragraph.)

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Blog: Brexit news – live: Raab claims trade deal is ‘great’ for fishermen amid chaos and anger – The Independent

UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

Sir Keir Starmer has insisted that bereaved families “deserve to know” when an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic will begin.

The Labour leader’s comments to The Independent increase pressure on Boris Johnson – under whose watch the UK has suffered nearly 90,000 fatalities – to formally announce an independent inquiry into his government’s handling of the crisis.

Meanwhile, ministers are to propose new laws to protect colonial-era statues, following the toppling of an ode to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the new legislation will set out the government’s belief “that such monuments are almost always best explained and contextualised, not taken and hidden away”.

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Excl: Bereaved families ‘deserve to know’ when Covid inquiry will begin, Starmer says

Ministers have “failed to learn lessons from the first phase of the pandemic”, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

“The tragic result is that Britain has suffered more deaths during the second wave than the first,” he told The Independent. “Every life lost to this virus is a family shattered. The prime minister promised an independent inquiry, and those families deserve to know when it will start.”

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the full report here:

Exclusive: Labour leader’s call comes six months after PM pledged probe into pandemic

Andy Gregory17 January 2021 08:43

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Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of today’s political happenings.

Andy Gregory17 January 2021 08:40

Blog: The pettiness of the vindictive EU is a daily reminder of why Brexit was worth it – Telegraph.co.uk

Such playground petty-mindedness of the EU reminds us every day why Brexit was worth it, as does Chancellor Merkel’s reference to “the British virus”. Is she going to start sniggering about French letters and Dutch ovens when other countries stand up for themselves? And if we’re so immature, how come we never felt the need to call our female leaders “Mutti” as do Merkel’s electorate?

The danger of desiring leaders to boss them about often ends badly for nations; Alexander von Schoenburg, editor-at-large of Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper Bild, wrote recently: “The sclerotic and sluggish EU machine has botched the roll-out of the vaccines…delays, in-fighting, national self-interest and sheer bungling bureaucracy have combined to cripple the EU’s vaccine efforts.” There’s nothing infantile about wanting to break free from a stifling fetid comfort blanket and seeking to strike out into the big wide world.

If we are juvenile, then it’s in the manner of the kid who saw that the Emperor had no clothes – childlike, not childish, curious and questing. We are the eternal youngsters of Europe and we have the oldest parliamentary democracy, uninterrupted by dictators, behind us; the best of both worlds. Behind all the brotherhood of man braggadocio, the EU were only ever a gang of playground bullies, their impotent rage revealed in their spite as we extricate ourselves from their moribund grasp, the end of the Big Sulk (La Grande Boude) nowhere in sight.

Blog: Brexit Driving Top Dealmakers Out of London and Into the EU – Yahoo Finance

Eyk Henning and Jan-Henrik Förster

·5 min read

(Bloomberg) — The new rules for the bankers who made London financial capital of Europe are still uncertain after Brexit, but one outcome is already clear: a stream of dealmakers across the English Channel.

While thousands of traders and salespeople have already made the move, the next wave is likely to include the high-flyers who advise on strategy, mergers and capital raising, say more than a dozen officials at global institutions. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., for one, is moving senior investment bankers out of London to the continent.

“I would expect that 3,000 to 4,000 more investment bankers, especially industry-focused specialists and debt and equity issuance advisers, will have to leave London and come back to Europe,” said Andreas Halin, founder of Global Mind Executive Search Consultants GmbH, a Frankfurt-based firm that specializes in the sector.

The prospect of losing a highly paid cadre of taxpayers is particularly bad news for the U.K., since it relies so much on financial services for revenue. The industry employs more than one million people, makes up about 7% of the economy, and accounts for more than a 10th of all tax revenue.

While a U.K.-EU trade deal was sealed in late December, talks on financial services are only just beginning — with no deadline for completion. EU officials must rule separately that British financial regulations and oversight are strong enough to create a level playing field. Thousands of jobs and more than $1 trillion of assets are already moving to Europe.

Chaperones

For the dealmakers who will be on the move, the issue is one of access. Bankers in London can no longer directly pitch transactions or capital-raising operations to corporate clients on the continent. They require the involvement of a so-called chaperone — a colleague within the EU to make the first move to contact the client with a business idea.

To manage in the new world, Goldman Sachs is expanding its investment-banking footprint in Europe, moving bankers from London to outposts such as Frankfurt and Madrid.

Macario Prieto, head of technology, media and telecom in the region, is relocating to Germany’s finance hub, according to spokesman Sebastian Howell. He’ll be followed by three other bankers including Konrad Krallmann, who advises financial institutions on deals. At the same time, it’s doubling its presence in the Spanish capital to 60 bankers by the end of this year, say people familiar with the matter.

Differing Policies

To be sure, rules are far from straightforward and policies hardly uniform. At UBS Group AG, London-based bankers can still initiate business with clients in Germany thanks to a bilateral Swiss-German accord, but can’t do so in Spain, said people familiar with the situation.

At Credit Suisse Group AG, all investment bankers in London now have to go through EU-based middlemen when proposing business to a client, according to a person familiar with the matter. That includes even bankers who advise on mergers and acquisitions, though officials at other lenders said they aren’t applying the chaperone system for their merger advisers.

Spokespeople at UBS and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Others may also just be trying to finesse the system. Less than two weeks after Brexit fully kicked in, European regulators raised a red flag. U.K. financiers are resorting to “questionable practices” to improperly preserve the status quo, the Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

Some firms are trying to circumvent regulations by using online pop-up “I agree” boxes that claim transactions are made at a client’s exclusive initiative, known as “reverse soliciation,” ESMA said.

“We explicitly warn clients against making wide use of reverse solicitation,” said Manuel Lorenz, who heads the German financial-services regulatory practice at law firm Baker McKenzie. “That does not rule out the involvement of British investment bankers on a deal, if properly structured and as long as the business is not booked in the U.K.”

The European Central Bank has signaled its determination to keep an eye on the situation. “Activities and services involving EU clients are to be carried out predominantly within the EU,” an ECB spokesperson said. “Where national regimes allow the provision of cross-border services from a third country, the ECB expects banks not to use such set-ups as a usual means to carry out large volumes of activities in the EU. The ECB is closely monitoring developments to avoid fragmentation or regulatory arbitrage.”

Tough Talk

National regulators are also talking tough. Germany’s watchdog Bafin in late December reminded financial institutions that U.K. entities and their European branches would “no longer have the freedom” to provide financial services to clients in Germany and that it will enforce the new rules.

The warning may have surprised some banks “because its tone implies Bafin is serious about it and will be strict,” said Christian Schmies, an expert on regulation at the law firm Hengeler Mueller in Frankfurt.

Senior investment bankers said in interviews that the first few days of the year were marked by compliance classes, getting drilled on the changes faced by a sovereign Britain that could further erode London’s significance.

(Adds ECB comment in 15th paragraph.)

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Blog: Consumers urged to use credit cards post-Brexit to ensure “chargebacks” – Irish Examiner

Irish consumers are being advised to use credit and debit cards while shopping on UK-based websites post-Brexit so they can have the “chargeback” option if things go awry.

A chargeback is a reversal of a disputed sales transaction on a credit or debit card.

The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland said it is more important than ever to become familiar with the fine print of terms and conditions.

Its director Dr Cyril Sullivan said: “ECC Ireland advises consumers to take precautions when shopping in/from the UK online or in person by thoroughly reading the terms and conditions, and the returns and cancellation policies.

“It is also advisable to pay using a credit/debit card in order to avail of chargeback for any subsequent problems such as non-delivery or unsafe goods.” 

Consumers can contact their card provider to ask them to refund the cost of a purchase if they paid for goods they did not receive or never ordered, or if a business fails to cancel recurring payments.

The card provider will decide if you are entitled to a refund based on the circumstances, according to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

ECC Ireland said that if Irish consumers make a purchase from a UK trader with a registered presence in Ireland, their redress options and any request for repair, replacement, or refund remain unchanged.

Complaints against UK brands with a retail presence in Ireland should be forwarded to the CCPC as normal, it said.

However, consumers based in Ireland who have a purchase dispute with a trader based in the UK, including the North, can seek assistance from ECC Ireland, which is now working in collaboration with the Consumer Centre UK.

In relation to holidays, ECC Ireland said EU consumer protections apply to a package holiday booked with a UK-based travel agency or tour operator only if that particular package was marketed to consumers in Ireland.

All other packages are governed by UK law, it said.