Former British PM Appointed to High-Profile Commercial Role

Former British prime minister David Cameron has been appointed to his first high profile commercial role, Reuters reported on Friday.

Cameron’s appointment comes amid a recent swirl of merger activity in the industry, including US credit card processor Vantiv’s acquisition of top UK payment company WorldPay in a $10 billion deal.

Cameron will take on an advisory post with the US-based First Data Corp., which handles credit- and debit-card transactions for around 6 million merchants worldwide, the company said in a statement on Friday.

In this role, Cameron will focus on consolidating First Data’s base in its key markets as well
as promoting the company’s expansion into new regions of the world, the statement said.

It also coincides with a time of deep uncertainty in financial markets over the outcome of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, a subject matter in which Cameron is particularly well-versed.

The British political scene remains volatile, with his successor Theresa May trying to face down a rebellion by some of her own lawmakers seeking to oust her.

Since leaving office soon after the June 2016 Brexit vote, Cameron has held a number of unpaid, voluntary posts, including presidency of the charity Alzheimer’s UK. More lucrative work has come through speaking engagements at a bureau that also represents former prime minister Tony Blair.

British Actor Colin Firth Receives Italian Citizenship

Cast member Colin Firth arrives with his wife Livia Giuggioli for the world premiere of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" in London

Rome- British actor Colin Firth, who has often played the role of a quintessential Englishman in his many films, has become an Italian citizen, Italy’s Interior Ministry said.

“The very famous actor, who won an Oscar for the film ‘The King’s Speech’, is married to a citizen from our country and has often declared his love for our land,” the ministry said in a statement.
The 57-year-old showed a loud opposition to Britain’s plans to leave the EU, and said in May he intends to request the Italian citizenship.

Firth said he would remain a dual national, adding that his Italian-born wife would also be seeking British nationality.

“We never really thought much about our different passports,” the actor said in a statement.

“But now, with some of the uncertainty around, we thought it sensible that we should all get the same,” he added, in an apparent reference to last year’s British vote to leave the European Union.

Firth has been married to Italian film producer Livia Giuggioli since 1997 and the couple live with their two sons in Britain. Unlike some other EU countries, Italy and Britain both allow dual nationality.

“My wife and I are both extremely proud of our own countries,” Firth said.

UK’s FM Says Against Adopting Any New EU Rules During Brexit Transition

UK

British foreign minister Boris Johnson will stand against any step made to abide by European Union rules issued after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.

Johnson, who campaigned in favor of leaving the EU in last year’s referendum, is one of Britain’s highest-profile politicians and seen as a possible replacement for Prime Minister Theresa May, Reuters reported.

Johnson praised On Friday a speech by May in which she revealed her plan for a roughly two-year transition period after Brexit.

But the Telegraph reported that Johnson had set out a new set of demands.

“Boris will be one of those Cabinet ministers pushing to make sure we don’t have any new EU rules and regulations during the transition,” a cabinet source was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

May pointed out the fact that Britain and the EU start with identical regulatory standards and said she wanted “a practical approach to regulation that enables us to continue to work together in bringing shared prosperity to our peoples.”

She did not say whether she thought EU regulations passed during the transition period would be matched by Britain but said, on EU law, that British courts would be able to take European Courts of Justice rulings into account, Reuters reported.

May’s Brexit minister David Davis said he did expect British and EU regulations to diverge over time after Brexit.

British PM May says FM Johnson ‘Doing Good Work’

British Prime Minister Theresa May backed her foreign minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday after reports he could quit over her Brexit strategy, Sky News reported.

May declined to rule out firing outspoken Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as she said her Cabinet is “absolutely clear” in backing her strategy for Brexit.

When asked directly by Sky News whether Johnson should be ousted over his Brexit strategy, May dodged the question by saying that he is “doing good work” as the UK’s top diplomat.

Sky news reporter Beth Rigby said on Twitter that, when asked whether Johnson should be sacked, May said: “Boris is doing good work as Foreign Secretary.”

May also said she was confident of getting her whole senior team of ministers to back her Brexit strategy, which she is due to lay out at a specially convened cabinet meeting on Thursday before making a speech in Florence on Friday.

“Boris and others” are “all very clear about the destination we have as a country and that is getting that deep and special relationship with the EU when we leave,” May said in New York, where she and Johnson are attending meetings of the United Nations.

As the prime minister prepares to deliver her own vision for the divorce on Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson, the figurehead of last year’s Leave campaign, may resign before the end of the week if he doesn’t like the contents of her speech. The pound strengthened on the report.

The Telegraph reported that he was ready to walk out if May embraces a “Swiss model” for Brexit in which the UK pays for trade. She is due to flesh out her thinking on Friday in Florence, Italy.

“The Cabinet is absolutely clear about the destination we are aiming for in relation to our European negotiations,” May said. “We want to make sure we get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.”

UK Parliament Votes to Repeal 12,000 EU Regulations

UK

London- British MPs held their first vote Monday on a bill to end Britain’s membership of the EU, which ministers say will avoid a “chaotic” Brexit but has been condemned as an unprecedented power-grab.

The legislation would repeal on Brexit day the 1972 law through which Britain joined the bloc, transferring in bulk around 12,000 existing EU regulations into the British statute books.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill aims to convert around 12,000 EU laws and regulations into UK domestic laws on the day Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

After an eight-hour debate on Monday, the House of Commons voted 326-290 in favor of the bill’s second reading, which allows it to pass to the next stage of the parliamentary process.

Earlier in the day, Brexit Secretary David Davis said “a vote against this bill is a vote for a chaotic exit from the European Union.”

“The British people did not vote for confusion and neither should Parliament,” he said.

The bill goes into the Committee stage where each element of the bill will be scrutinized before it goes to the House of Lords for its consideration before coming back for a further vote in the House of Commons.

However, the main opposition Labor party had voiced its objection to the bill, arguing that its provisions to smooth the transfer of EU laws represent an unacceptable expansion of executive power.

Although the legislation has passed its first test, Conservative MPs have warned they could seek to amend the bill as it comes under further scrutiny in the coming weeks, amid concerns about its constitutional implications.

While most MPs have accepted that Brexit will happen, the shape of the European divorce remains unclear and May has been under pressure from all sides after losing her parliamentary majority in the June snap election.

The government plans to leave Europe’s single market and customs union after Brexit but is seeking a transitional deal that would replicate existing arrangements until it agrees a new trade deal with the EU.

Labor wants to remain in the single market during the interim period following Brexit day, currently set for March 29, 2019, while a eurosceptic group of Conservatives is pressing May to make a clean break.

Such issues will need to be agreed with the EU, and the Repeal Bill does not propose any changes in policy.

But it does give ministers the power to implement the final Brexit deal without full parliamentary debate.

“It would be ministers who decided our new trade arrangements, customs arrangements and immigration rules, any deal on citizens’ rights and much else,” Labor Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Dollar Challenges Fair Well with Wall Street Firms

A man walks along Wall Street in New York

London- US economic growth is 30 percent linked to demand, consumption, and foreign investment, while the S&P 500 index, which measures the performance of Wall Street companies, is even more linked to factors abroad thus related to the dollar’s exchange rate against the basket of international currencies.

A report published by S&P Global said that US companies made 43.16 percent of their revenues abroad.

Geographically, US companies made 8.46 percent of the total in Asia, 8.13 percent in Europe (Britain included), 3.3 percent in Canada, 3.97 percent in Africa, 2 percent in the Middle East, and 1.6 percent in South America. The report reviewed budgets of the top 257 companies listed on the S&P 500 index to determine the average correlation of those US companies abroad.

The correlation of US economy to revenue made abroad peaked in 2014, when it reached 47.82%, but it fell slightly as the US economy grew in consequential few years, so US companies benefited from that growth to boost their domestic revenues as Chinese growth slowed down. European revenues of US companies in 2010 to reached about 13.48% of the total, and fell in 2012 to 9.69 %.

Revenue from Britain was 2.39 percent, now only stands for 1.1 percent as Brexit’s ripple effect settled in. It is a challenge for British companies to strengthen their relationship with their US counterpart in order to compensate for a portion of what Europe might lose.

The first indicators for 2017 show that US corporate revenues from abroad are rising for several reasons, most notably that the gap between the growth of the US economy and other major economies is narrowing while emerging economies are accelerating.

According to a Credit Suisse survey, the expectations and views of businesses about the future direction of exchange rates differ sharply.

In the case of the euro, this is not very surprising, as there are important elections and political decisions on the agenda in Europe over the coming weeks and months.

After Brexit, these could put Europe’s cohesion to the test yet again and potentially impact on currency movements.

Leaked Brexit Papers Reveal Gap between London, Brussels

London- Brussels seems to insist on focusing on separation cases related to the Brexit and rejecting London’s proposal of a more flexible exit.

The Guardian disclosed five leaked European documents, only one day after the newspaper itself published a bunch of documents related to the British government intentions after exiting the European Union (EU) and its dealing with individual freedom in moving between EU countries.

It appeared that the UK is willing to impose restrictions on low-skilled European labor and to limit European household access after the Brexit become effective. Although the documents are nothing more than discussions and don’t reflect the British government policies, they did embarrass the government.

The newspaper reported that when the EU issues the five documents during the upcoming period, it will have to face escalations with the UK on its exit from the EU. Among the papers, there is one that urges London to find solutions – after Brexit – for the common border between Ireland and North Ireland (part of the UK).

During his visit to Ireland, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that talks about the border would be exceptional and complex. Another leaked document shows that the EU asked the UK to protect around 3,000 European food and drink products.

British commercial groups expressed concerns over the draft and pointed to imposing restrictions on immigration from the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said during its speech in front of the parliament that those who voted in favor of Brexit last year wished to impose restrictions on immigration. Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, expressed the federation’s concern towards the suggested proposals in the document.

Wright added that if this represents the government’s intellect, then this reveals a pressing need to understand the vital contribution of the European immigrant laborers.

UK’s Brexit Predicament

The Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union haven’t gone well. The March 2019 deadline for concluding an agreement is approaching, and progress has been much too slow. Prime Minister Theresa May needs to get a grip on this process.

Britain’s government faces two crucial obstacles. It’s in May’s power to break through both.

The first is the EU’s insistence that Britain’s exit payment in settlement of liabilities should be substantially agreed — the formula is that “sufficient progress” should have been made — before talks move on to post-Brexit arrangements. The second is uncertainty over the form of a transitional post-Brexit deal to govern relations until the two sides can fashion a permanent new agreement — a task bound to take at least several more years.

The UK is dithering on both points, and it’s clear why: Each of these questions is politically toxic — and May’s political capital, after this year’s general-election debacle, stands at roughly zero.

Public opinion in Britain solidly opposes an exit payment in the mid- to high tens of billions of euros, which the EU has said it expects. And many of those who voted for Brexit are skeptical about a transitional deal that leaves the UK’s obligations to the EU substantially in place, seeing this as a continuation of EU membership by other means.

So far, May has done nothing to prepare public opinion for the substantial exit payment that the UK will probably have to endure. And she’s done nothing to make the case for a so-called off-the-shelf transition, which mostly just freezes existing arrangements.

On the exit payment, she should propose to settle the matter through independent international arbitration. This was suggested earlier this year by Andre Sapir of the Bruegel Institute — before it was certain that the issue would in fact cripple the talks. Now that it has, May should take up Sapir’s idea.

Arbitration has great substantive advantages. It recognizes, for instance, that the question of what is actually owed is enormously complicated, that the parties start from positions that are very far apart, and that a lot of face is at stake on both sides. It gives Britain, especially, cover for backing down. The resulting terms would not be a surrender to EU bullying, but a principled compliance with a legitimate process both sides agreed to invoke. The International Court of Justice, a United Nations body, or the Permanent Court of Arbitration, as Sapir suggests, would be the appropriate body.

On the form of the transition, May should come down squarely in support of her chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond — and against other ministers, notably Liam Fox.

After Brexit, for a period of several years, Britain would remain in the EU’s single market and customs union, would keep paying its membership dues, accept free movement, recognize the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK — and have no say in EU decision-making.

Brexit hardliners, inside and outside May’s Conservative Party, would denounce that as overthrowing the referendum result. May would say: It does no such thing. Of course, she would say, this outcome is completely unacceptable as a long-term arrangement — and that’s precisely why it’s guaranteed to be temporary. It’s merely the price of executing Brexit with the least possible short-term disruption.

And she could patiently explain why Brexit hardliners should be open to this approach. Their resistance to EU demands for liabilities to be settled, and their preference for a complex bespoke transition that dissolves the U.K.’s existing rights and commitments at the outset, are leading in one direction only — to the so-called cliff-edge Brexit that will, at a minimum, impose enormous short-term disruption on the U.K. economy. And that, as John Springford of the Centre for European Reform has argued, might be the worst possible outcome for hardliners. It would lead voters to conclude that Brexit was a terrible mistake after all — an error that they might then decide to put right.

It ought to be obvious: The hardliners have a bigger stake in a smooth Brexit than anybody else. The price for securing it is modest — a little patience. Is it really beyond the prime minister to see this, take charge, and make the case?

Bloomberg View

UK Rejects EU ‘Blackmail’ over Brexit

British Trade Minister Liam Fox said on Friday that the UK would not be blackmailed into agreeing on the cost of leaving the European Union, urging Brussels to move negotiations on to discuss Britain’s future relationship with the bloc.

“We can’t be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part,” Fox told broadcaster ITV during a visit to Japan with
Prime Minister Theresa May.

The third round of Brexit negotiations, focused on settling the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, ended on Thursday with a warning from Brussels that more work needed to be done before they moved on to discuss future ties.

“This week provided useful clarifications… but we did not get any decisive progress on the central subjects,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Thursday.

All in all, “we are from having sufficient progress to recommend that (EU leaders) launch talks about the future relationship,” he added.

The British government has been keen to shift talks to a new relationship, seeking to allay business concerns on trade and regulation, but Brussels has demanded progress first on central issues, including how much Britain should pay when it leaves.

The so-called Brexit bill is a contentious issue both domestically, where eurosceptics are keen to see as little money paid as possible, and with the EU, which is demanding Britain meets its existing commitments to the bloc.

Britain has said it is prepared to meet its international obligations.

Fox said businesses across Europe had told him they were keen to see more detail on what Britain’s new relationship with the EU would look like.

“We think we should begin discussions on the final settlement because that’s good for business, and it’s good for the prosperity both of the British people and of the rest of the people of the European Union,” Fox said.

Meanwhile, the Brexit-hit British pound threatens to reach parity with the euro — and is already worth less than the European single currency for many travellers seeking to exchange cash at airports.

Sterling went into freefall after Britain voted in a shock referendum last year to leave the EU, sparking fears over the nation’s economic outlook.

The pound was trading at approximately 1.3072 euros as voters headed to the polls on June 23, 2016.

This week, sterling stood at about 1.0850 euros, a dramatic 17-percent slump since the referendum.

“There is certainly a possibility for euro/pound to hit parity,” said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading firm Forex.com.

Brexit Is Beginning to Look Like No Brexit

Brexit

“Brexit means Brexit,” British politicians have been saying for months. Now it seems like it may not mean anything at all.

As the third round of Brexit talks commenced on Monday, it’s absurdly difficult to identify specific changes that would actually affect people’s daily lives or the running of businesses before 2021 at the very earliest, and likely for many years after that.

Facing the deadline to leave Europe by 2019, both the UK government and the opposition Labour Party are looking to buy more time. Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, declared unambiguously that his party would push for a transition preserving the current economic arrangements, including the UK’s membership in the European Union’s common market and customs union.

The government is less unequivocal, but its position paper on the future EU-customs arrangement says, amid all the nebulous verbiage, that the transition’s goal should be to “ensure that businesses and people in the UK and the EU only have to adjust once to a new customs relationship.” That can only mean that the transitional deal should match the current one; otherwise at least two adjustments would be required.

Britain’s leaders have been fighting over Brexit for years. Now the difference between the Labour stance and the government one is simply rhetorical. Essentially, the government is trying to hold onto its base of Leave voters while seeking the same interim outcome as Labour.

For now, both the UK government and the opposition are talking about a finite transition period. Labour would like to see it last up to four years, potentially extending it beyond the next election, to be held in 2022. The most enthusiastic Brexiters in the government, such as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, are talking about two years, with the cutoff before the next election.

In the context of UK politics, that difference is substantive rather than rhetorical — Fox and his allies want to deny the current opposition any control over the final, post-transition arrangement. But in reality, British leaders have little control over the length of the transitional period.

It will last as long as it takes the UK and the EU to agree on a new trade deal; otherwise, a transition is pointless. But the UK cannot dictate the pace of the negotiations, and the EU isn’t interested in dictating it as long as the transition period preserves current arrangements. The EU, after all, didn’t initiate Brexit; it’s happy for the UK to stay on current terms, and if it loses its vote, too, that’ll only be a bonus.

More than ever, the EU has the upper hand. With the UK eager for a transitional period, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier doesn’t need to back down on any of the initial issues, such as protections for EU citizens in the UK, the eventual exit bill, or the EU’s demand that the European Court of Justice supervise any transition. The UK will have to accept Barnier’s terms to assure it doesn’t face a cliff edge in 2019.

Unless the UK government suddenly reverts to Prime Minister Theresa May’s earlier contention that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” the net effect of the Brexit vote and the resulting hullabaloo may just be that the UK will simply lose its vote in the EU. The rest will remain as it is now for an indefinite period during which a new trade deal will be discussed in the standard EU fashion — slowly, deliberately, with each of the 27 EU countries working through its own agenda until there’s a consensus. And even then, the result may not be much different from the current one — or from Norway’s relationship with the EU, which includes an emergency brake on immigration (something the EU was willing to give the UK before it decided to leave, anyway) but not much economic or legal leeway.

One could argue that the Brexit vote has alarmed EU citizens enough to consider leaving the UK or simply staying away in the first place. But “Brexodus” may well be a myth. Though the latest data show a substantial drop in net migration from Eastern Europe, there is still a net inflow. Perhaps, for some Brexit voters, this reduction in immigration is adequate compensation for the current uncertainties and the loss of the UK’s vote. But for the rest of us, Brexit is beginning to look like a classic case of a mountain giving birth to a mouse.

One could argue that the Brexit vote has alarmed EU citizens enough to consider leaving the UK or simply staying away in the first place. But “Brexodus” may well be a myth. Though the latest data show a substantial drop in net migration from Eastern Europe, there is still a net inflow. Perhaps, for some Brexit voters, this reduction in immigration is adequate compensation for the current uncertainties and the loss of the UK’s vote. But for the rest of us, Brexit is beginning to look like a classic case of a mountain giving birth to a mouse.

Bloomberg