Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:
- UK and EU agree terms for Brexit transition period
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
Negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis have agreed on a ‘large part’ on a deal for the UK to begin what is called the ‘implementation period’ in the Brexit process.
The agreement should allow for a smoother transition for the UK leaving the European Union.
Some of the key aspects of the agreement are as follows. The implementation period will last from the day the UK leaves the EU, the 29th March 2019, to the 31st December 2020. EU citizens arriving in the UK between these dates will enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those who arrived prior to the implementation period. The UK will now have the capacity to ratify its own trade deals during the transition period whilst it will still be party to existing EU trade deals with other countries.
Issues still remain concerning the Northern Irish border. UK negotiators agreed to a ‘back stop’ plan to keep Northern Ireland under EU law so that a hard Brexit border with the Republic of Ireland would be avoided. This means that Northern Ireland will essentially stay in parts of the single market and the customs union whilst further negotiations regarding the border continue.
The agreement has been criticised by various Members of Parliament, especially Conservatives. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016 aired his scepticism on the BBC:
‘There does seem to be a real concern […] It appears that at least through the implementation period nothing will change and I think that will be a concern and the government clearly has to deal with that because a lot of MPs are very uneasy about that right now.”
Britain will also remain within the European Union Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which enforces strict (and often criticised) fishing quotas and vessel access, for the 20 month period.
Reuters reported that Douglas Ross, Conservative MP for Moray (which has a large fishing sector), said that “there is no spinning this as a good outcome, it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick that try to sell this as a success”.
- Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Data firm Cambridge Analytica has come under deep scrutiny this week after allegations arose that they have been abusing their position by misusing the personal information of Facebook users. Following an undercover exposé by Channel 4, the firm has been accused of harvesting the information of millions of Facebook users as a means to further the 2016 election campaign of Donald Trump, without the knowledge or permission of said users.
During their news report, Channel 4 showed an undercover interview with Cambridge Analytica’s Chief Executive Alexander Nix, who claimed that the firm “ran all of the digital campaign” for President Trump. During this interview, the Analytica bosses went on to discuss their tactics in swaying the opinion of voters toward Trump’s campaign, boasting of their self-destructing email system and their ability to create untraceable messages on social media via the use of proxy organisations. As a result of this documentary, Cambridge Analytica has since suspended Alexander Nix, pending a full investigation. The company claims that Nix’s comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm”.
In addition to failing to delete Facebook user data, contrary to Facebook guidelines, Cambridge Analytica also partook in potentially illegal campaign activity. According to US law, it is illegal for foreign groups to coordinate and contribute on behalf of election campaigns. It remains unclear as to whether the actions of Cambridge Analytica in this particular instance would fall within this definition.
As a result of the scandal, the Federal Trade Commission will be conducting a review, at which time Facebook will be questioned over its handling of user data. Calls have been made by lawmakers for Facebook to explain how Cambridge Analytica gained such data, and why users were not informed. This shake-up in consumer privacy has resulted in the value of Facebook shares and its overall stock price falling. Facebook representatives have since claimed that the company is “outraged” at having been deceived, and that they are “committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information”.
- Cyclists will be punished for breaking safety rules
Reported by Paige Waters
Judge Anthony Cross QC has issued a warning that cyclists who still proceed to cycle on the pavement are “potential killers” due to them ignoring a plethora of safety rules.
He has further commented on the matter very passionately stating that if they were to knock someone down and had been caught, then they will face crown court and potential jail time.
Judge Anthony Cross QC commented on this matter strongly, following the case of Jesus Medina. This concerned a man who was cycling on a footpath and then collided and knocked down Marlene Crossley, a 72-year-old woman. Crossley suffered severely from the incident, which resulted in a fractured hip, as she was spun round by the force of the impact. Although she had surgery, her mobility is now restricted and she suffers sleepless nights. The student cyclist was found guilty of “causing harm by wanton and furious driving”.
Medina was ordered to complete 40 hours unpaid work and pay Crossley £750 in compensation. This ‘lighter’ sentence was rewarded after the court heard Medina had stayed at the scene following the collision, attempted to comfort the victim and gave his details to the police. Following this, he also continued to stay in touch with the family to check on the welfare of Crossley.
Judge Cross stated while passing the sentence that “people simply don’t realise when riding their bikes on footpaths they can kill people. It’s obvious that there are real, dangers inherent in anybody riding their bicycle on a pavement the risks to members of the public should not be ignored”.
Read more here.
- Responses to Hammond's Spring Statement
Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey
On Tuesday 13th March, Phillip Hammond delivered a seemingly positive and optimistic Spring Statement, despite Brexit uncertainty and looming deadlines.
The Chancellor began by highlighting that Britain’s economy grew by 1.7% in 2017, a rate 0.2% higher than had been previously forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, (OBR.) This has led to the OBR revising their forecast figures for growth for 2018 from 1.4% to 1.5%. The outlook for 2019-20 however, remains slightly less optimistic, with forecast rates of 1.3% growth across both years. Whilst the predicted figures for growth dip over the coming years, Mr Hammond reiterated that, “Forecasts are there to be beaten”.
Whilst the Chancellor sounds hopeful and expectant of higher growth rates, Rain Newton-Smith, the Chief Economist at the Confederation of British Industry, has said that this growth is merely ‘lukewarm’ when compared with the growth rates of our European neighbours. The OECD released figures indicating that Germany’s economy grew by 2.4% last year. France’s grew at 2.2%, representing an 11 year high.
Similarly, Britain’s predicted growth would see the economy growing more slowly than most other members of the G7. Britain needs to make more efficient use of its resources and increase Gross National Product. Mr Hammond appears to intend to do this by emphasising the importance of training, advising we should expect to see around 3 million apprenticeships being offered by 2020. A previous study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) suggested that increasing apprenticeships will reduce unemployment amongst the younger generation, and could save an estimated £370 million per year in welfare payments.
These savings could contribute to funding the Chancellor’s proposed improvements in infrastructure. He referred to the expansion and improvement of the rail network right across the UK and advised that the government would allocate £840 million to the improvement of public transport. Mr Hammond also proposed to lower business rates by approximately £10 billion to encourage enterprise and innovation as well as R&D (Research and Development). The fear here however would be that these savings made by businesses may not be allocated into progressive R&D tasks, but instead on adjusting products to ensure they correspond with EU red tape.
In present times with Brexit looming and Theresa May highlighting, last year in Florence, that her proposal for Brexit “cannot mean membership of the single market”, it is essential that Britain is able to compete with its neighbours. Mr Hammond’s Statement oozes confidence and seems re-assuring. However Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is quick to remind us that “growth forecasts [are] dreadful compared with what we thought in March 2016, dreadful by historical standards and dreadful compared with most of the rest of the world”.
The one thing for certain that one can take from the Spring Statement is that there are conflicting views on the future of Britain’s economy and it is going to be a waiting game to see how Britain fares over the coming years.
- Air crash pilot to be charged with manslaughter
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
Andrew Hill is to be charged with gross negligence manslaughter for the deaths of 11 men at the Shoreham airshow. Hill, who was a trained Royal Air Force instructor and a fast jet pilot, was thrown off the aircraft and taken to the hospital.
He will also face allegations under air navigation law after the incident in West Sussex on 22nd August 2015.
Simon Ringrose, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) special crime division, announced the news to families of the victims at a private meeting.
He told The Guardian “Following a careful review of the evidence I have found there is sufficient evidence to charge Andrew Hill with the manslaughter by gross negligence of the 11 men who died […] I have also authorised a further charge against Mr Hill of endangering an aircraft, contrary to Article 137 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.”
The announced came on the same day the CPS signed up to the charter for families bereaved through public tragedy. The CPS is the first national public body to have done so.
Read more here.