• Brexit: Tony Blair warns of long-term damage to UK services sector – Brexit will inflict long-lasting pain on Britain’s service sector, Tony Blair as warned as a report said Theresa May’s plans will be only marginally better than no-deal on the dominant industry. An analysis carried out for the former prime minister’s Institute for Global Change said that crashing out and trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms would see productivity 4.91% lower in 12 years’ time than if Britain remained in the customs union and single market. Even Theresa May’s so-called Chequers deal would see GDP take a 4.13% hit, research carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggests. The impact on services from the WTO scenario would be 2.1%, double that of goods exports. The Chequers plan– which would keep Britain closer to the EU for goods but allow it more freedom over services – would leave it only marginally better with a 1.9% fall in GDP, it claims. (The Guardian)
  • Beating the backstop: how the Irish border problem can be solved – Brexit negotiators have given themselves four days to solve the riddle of the Irish border, the biggest remaining obstacle to a deal. By Monday morning, the EU and UK are aiming to have a full “backstop” plan to ensure there will be no border infrastructure under any circumstances between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The negotiators are working in what they describe as a “tunnel”, which means they are taking pains not to leak details from their talks. But a framework for resolving the vexatious issue has been clear for some time. A compromise on the backstop looks within reach. Still, one senior EU figure said the risk of a failure remains uncomfortably high, warning “a serious crisis” may be looming at a summit of EU leaders on Wednesday. The issue is crucial for Northern Ireland, which is still recovering from decades of bloodshed between the 1960s and 1990s. Any agreement will also shape the future UK-EU relationship — and place political constraints on the UK’s future trade autonomy, which could prove decisive when Westminster votes on any Brexit deal. (FT)
  • Japanese groups look to follow Panasonic out of UK – Japanese companies are stepping up plans to move businesses out of the UK, on the premise that their country’s tax authorities have granted a temporary amnesty on cross-border mergers between Britain and other EU countries ahead of Brexit. The tax waiver presumption, which has triggered a rush of inquiries to tax consultants and legal experts in Tokyo and London, has arisen from last month’s announcement by Panasonic that it will move its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands. The announcement was the first by a Japanese non-financial company citing Brexit uncertainty as the motivation. It came amid complaints from Japan’s powerful Keidanren business federation that the UK has been unable to offer a coherent message on the future business environment. On Thursday, Daiwa became the latest Japanese bank to reveal plans to move trading operations to Frankfurt from London. (FT)
  • UK banks risk rating downgrades in disorderly Brexit – British banks face the risk of mass credit rating downgrades if Britain leaves the European Union in a disruptive manner, rating agency Standard & Poor’s has warned. Although S&P’s base case remains that politicians will reach a withdrawal agreement that provides a period of continuity until the end of 2020, the possibility of a disruptive Brexit is “significant”, S&P said in new research published on Thursday. In that event, “UK banks are the most vulnerable” to the consequences, which could include “a domestic political crisis and the economy contracting, leaving the property market vulnerable”, S&P said. A survey published earlier this month found that an increasing number of financial services companies are fleshing out plans to move staff or operations from the UK because of Brexit. (FT)