50. Weekly Newsletter
EU Exit Talks
On Monday (7th December) it was revealed that PM Johnson would be travelling to Brussels to meet von der Leyen in person. This comes after the two leaders spoke on the phone for over an hour but were unable to come to an agreement. Britain has also offered to drop key clauses from the internal markets bill in a bid to encourage a deal to be reached. An EU official has stated that there is no planned emergency summit of EU leaders on Brexit but there is a scheduled gathering between the 10-11th of December.
Irish Foreign Minister Coveney has revealed he believes fishing is a more difficult issue than competition rules- despite only representing 0.1% of UK GDP, at the moment. The EU has offered the UK just 18% of it’s own fishing waters- whereas, PM Johnson has insisted the UK regains control of at least 80%- which was then reduced to 60% last week. However, EU sources are now saying that fishing is no longer their big concern as a deal can be agreed there. The new issue is achieving a ‘level playing field’ which will cover competition rules, state aid and a variety of other competitive advantages.
The UK will be the first Western country to give COVID vaccinations after the MHRA quickly approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which offers up to 95% protection. Each dose will cost £15 (Oxford/AstraZeneca will cost just £3) and the British Government has secured around 40 million doses for vaccinating one third of the national population.
So far the UK has had almost 1.8m COVID cases and over 61,000 COVID-related deaths. The new tiered lockdown has not resulted in a substantial uplift in cases but over the next 2 weeks university students will be returning home and this may trigger a new wave of cases. Furthermore, the build-up to Christmas is seeing a flurry of activity across the country- although, central London has seen footfall slump 37% compared to last year.
Businesses in the UK
This week, billionaire Mike Ashley, the owner of the Frasers Group, is in talks to buy Debenhams out of administration. The 242-year old High Street brand employs 12,000 staff (more than UK fisheries) and has been a casualty of the rise in online retailing. However, in the days following the firm’s announced closure: their website experienced ‘queues’ of hundreds of thousands of customers just to enter and eventually resulted in the entire website crashing.
The Swedish icon: IKEA has announced that their famous catalogue will be coming to an end after the completion of 70 year-old legacy in 2021. Circulation peaked in 2016 with 200m copies published in 32 languages but the fall in demand has led to a mere 40m copies being planned for 2021.
Fashion giant Primark operates around 191 stores across the UK and has lost an estimated £430m in sales due to COVID. The chain is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods PLC and does not even offer online sales but is on track to see revenues climb higher this year due to a highly loyal customer base. This High Street success has recently also entered the US and Italy– with more fast fashion stores opening up, globally, in spite of COVID limiting growth.