Here are this week’s headlines:
Britain will NOT be part of the single market
Theresa May has confirmed that we will be having a hard Brexit. May is prioritising control over immigration over the priorities of the European Court of Justice, and therefore compromise was supposedly not a realistic proposition. May said that she wanted tariff-free trade with the EU and also some form of agreement as to the customs union. Furthermore, the implementation of Brexit will be carried out in phases, following a 12 point plan. The Government has chosen not to follow any of the models of other countries, such as Norway or Switzerland. May plans to create free trade deals with countries far beyond Europe in order to make a more global Britain. Sir Andrew Cahn depicts Brexit as a battle, with the EU winning as it refuses single-market access without free movement. Scotland is unlikely to appreciate this decision by the Government, having made its intention clear that it would remain within the internal market whilst upholding free movement. This could perhaps lead to a second independence referendum. This said, one of May’s aims is supposedly to create a closer union with Scotland and Northern Ireland, although this seems difficult considering Scotland’s wishes have arguably been ignored.
Considering the effect on the economy, the night before the Prime Minister’s speech, the pound fell to another 3-month low as many were anticipating the news of a hard Brexit. However, the fact that Parliament will be given a vote on the final terms of Brexit steadied things. Brexit will be of great cost to the UK, with the EU Commission already trying to charge £50 billion in liabilities, and of course other costs will be incurred.
May aims, as of March, to complete the British exit within 2 years. However with the number or negotiations and trade deals that are necessary to make, many critics believe that Brexit will take a much longer period of time to complete.
Take a look at Theresa May’s full speech here.
Find out the difference between a hard, soft, and clean Brexit here.
Read The Student Lawyer’s full analysis of this speech here.
Volkswagen has agreed to a $15 Billion emissions scandal settlement
This follows the car maker admitting last summer that it had cheated emissions tests to make it look like their cars were more environmentally friendly than they actually are. As a result, the cars were against US and Californian environmental law. The huge settlement figure will go towards buying back affected models of cars, as well as acting as funding for pollution-reduction schemes across America.
The company still faces law suits in 5 other US states. As a well as this, car manufacturer Fiat-Chrysler has been caught up in so-called ‘diesel-gate’ with claims that over 100,000 of its cars have cheated emissions tests. This has caused the company’s shares to fall in value by almost a fifth as investors are worried about how much of an effect this will have on their company. It is reported that the company could face a fine of up to $4.5 billion!
Saudi Arabia’s £40bn renewable energy project
Saudi Arabia is seeking a £40bn renewable energy investment to turn the country into a “solar powerhouse”. This will enable the state to strike a balance between both environmental and economic needs. Saudi Arabia has considerable solar power potential and is keen on decreasing the use of fossil fuels.
Oil minister Khalid al-Falih who spoke about this ambition has stated that they would start issuing tenders for this major renewables project “within weeks” according to the Financial Times. The motivation for this project arises due to the reduction in oil revenues which as forced the Government to draw on more than £100bn of its reserves. Furthermore, climate change is also a driving factor for such a project as it is increasingly becoming a pressing concern.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia also seeks to build nuclear reactors which would see a 2.8 GW of new electric capacity.
The end result for such ambitions is to generate 30% of the Saudi Arabia’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, with the remainder to come from natural gas.
The economic consequences for this are: more oil can be exported which in turn will generate revenues. This entire new sector will also create more jobs , boosting the economy further. Read more in The Independent and The Financial Times.
UK unemployment down to 1.6 million
UK unemployment fell to 1.6 million in the three months to November, which is the lowest level for more than a decade. The unemployment rate measures the percentage of the labour force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment. However, the Office for National Statistics stated that the number of people in work slipped to 31.8 million, which is a decreased of 9000. Paul Hollingsworth at Capital Economist stated that this fall was smaller than the consensus expectation of 35,000.
However, according to the Guardian’s report, John Philpott, who directs theJobsEconomist.org, has stated that the employment figures reveal falling levels of self-employment, part-time working and employment of temporary workers. He stated that the job market is not growing. Additionally, Fathom Consulting has stated that the reduction in unemployment is largely due to a decline in the number of people seeking work, not because of an increase in employment. The Bank of England has indicated that unemployment is set to rise due to uncertainties over Brexit.
In addition, there has also been an increase in wages. The Office for National Statistics has indicated that average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, increased 2.7% when compared with the previous year. The figure for growth in pay, which does include bonuses, rose to 2.8%. This as an increase of 0.2% from the previous month.
It should be noted that the unemployment figures are based on the Labour Force Survey. The Office of National Statistics surveys approximately 100,000 individuals every three months to reach these statistics, which means the results are estimates and there is a margin of error. Read more on the BBC, The Guardian, the International Business Times and Investopedia.
Single Mum imprisoned unlawfully for failing to pay council tax, rules the High Court
The High Court have decided that single mother, Melanie Woolcock, was illegitimately jailed by the magistrate’s court for failing to pay her council tax bill. Woolcock, single mother of 17-year old son, was sentenced to 81 days in prison because of ‘culpable neglect’. Mr Justice Lewis of the High Court, ruled the sentence to be unlawful because the lower court had unsuccessfully assessed her financial circumstances. The single mother from Porthcawl, Wales was unemployed and told solicitors she prioritised other bills, such as food bills, when she fell behind on her council tax payments as a result of supporting her son. The appeal was taken on by law firm Ahmed Rahman Carr and Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) solicitor Sam Genen. Thanks to her representation, Woolcock was released from jail 40 days into her sentence following the outcome of the appeal. Mr Justice Lewis concluded: “The magistrates’ court failed to carry out a proper and adequate means inquiry as required … and were not in a position to determine if non-payment was the result of culpable neglect nor whether the orders were appropriate mechanisms for enforcing the debt.” The CCA have been investigating similar cases and Helen Ball from the organisation has identified 145 cases since 1980 where non-payment of tax has been deemed unlawful by the high court. She commented that ‘’magistrates have often incorrectly concluded that there’s been culpable neglect or a wilful refusal to pay. Moreover, magistrates have regularly failed to properly assess a person’s ability to pay and to consider reasonable alternatives to prison.” Read more in The Guardian.