Posts

UK signs free trade agreement with South Korea

Great Britain has secured its first post-Brexit trade deal after signing an in-principle free trade agreement with South Korea.

The agreement, which International Trade Secretary Liam Fox signed with his South Korean counterpart Yoo Myung-hee in Seoul, seeks to maintain existing trade arrangements with the country after Brexit.

The Financial Times says it “comes amid growing uncertainty over bilateral trade conditions after the UK leaves the world’s single largest economic bloc”. The BBC adds that the agreement is “designed to provide stability under a no-deal Brexit”.

The Korea Times explains that there have been “concerns” that South Korean companies “may no longer enjoy the benefits” of current arrangements if the UK crashes out without a deal.

Great Britain and South Korea will largely maintain the trade terms that are in the current deal between Seoul and Brussels, which took effect in July 2011.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement that the deal includes keeping zero-tariffs on South Korean exports such as auto parts and automobiles.

After the talks, Britain and South Korea also vowed to expand cooperation in emerging technologies such as hydrogen and nuclear energy.

Seoul’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee said: “The deal is significant as it eased uncertainties sparked by Brexit, amid the already challenging environment for exports on the escalating trade row between Washington and Beijing.”

The two countries plan to ratify the deal before October 31st, the new deadline for Brexit.

Although the UK is South Korea’s second-largest trading partner among the EU members, it is its 18th-largest trading partner, accounting for less than 2% of South Korea’s overall trade.

Last year, South Korea’s exports to the UK were worth $6.36bn. The Asian country exports mostly cars and ships to Britain. Going the other way, the UK exports crude oil and automobiles to South Korea.

KPMG kick off World Environment Day with Blue Planet II producer

KPMG began World Environment Day today by hosting a series of events around the UK with the award-winning producer of BBC’s Blue Planet II, Mark Brownlow, to raise awareness of the environmental issues effecting the globe. The events also aim to encourage individuals at the firm to think about how they can make a difference.

During the events, colleagues will be able to gain further insight into KPMG UK’s environmental programmes. These cover KPMG’s plastics commitment, the impact they are having on the business, the individual, and the wider environment, whilst making their own personal pledges to improve their environmental footprint.

“At KPMG we know that to be a responsible business we need to take positive action towards the issues we are seeing in today’s environment, and not just pay lip service,” said vice chair of KPMG UK, David Sayer. “We are working hard to reduce our environmental impact by operating in the most efficient way possible, and we are proud to have reduced our carbon emissions by 27%, exceeding our target of 20% reduction by 2020,” he added.

Following on from the launch of the firm’s “Waste in our Time” campaign, which was introduced last year, KPMG has provided all of its UK staff with re-usable water bottles to make their plastics commitment a reality. Through the removal of plastic water cups, the switch to metal cutlery and replacing more than 3 million plastic vending cups with compostable and paper alternatives, the firm has so far successfully removed 7.4 million items of single use plastics from all national offices.

“Through the firm’s “Waste in our Time” campaign we have seen a number of positive changes both on an individual and an organisational level. We have saved approximately 225 trees and 1000 bags of general waste each month through replacing paper hand towels in the toilets of two of our largest offices with energy efficient hand driers,” Sayer said.

“We have saved our staff in excess of £7,000 over the past year through offering 15p discount when utilising reusable coffee cups, and our plastics reduction throughout our UK offices has been phenomenal, this is all down to the commitment of our staff to provide a better place for everyone to work,” he added.

Sayer also acknowledged that being a socially responsible firm is becoming increasingly important to attract the best young talent.

“On a purely business level, our environmental impact is important to both our clients and our suppliers who are increasingly asking us more detailed and sophisticated questions about the work we are doing. We also need to get this right in order to attract the best talent, as we know that millennials and Gen Z are increasingly seeking out socially responsible employers above all others, so the need for continuous improvement on our part has never been greater,” he said.

Dan Thomas, Head of Corporates, KPMG UK added, “World Environment Day is challenging us all on what we can do to help beat air pollution. The corporate world has a huge role to play and promisingly, five firms a week are now setting sustainability targets.

“Where we are starting to see real momentum is around the use of plastics; in addition, to creating a cleaner, safer environment, this will help the problem of air pollution too. Global plastic production emits 400megatons of greenhouse gases each year – that’s more than the UK’s total carbon footprint.

Brexit negotiators have agreed on a deal

The United Kingdom and European Union negotiating teams have agreed on a Brexit withdrawal deal which Prime Minister Theresa May will present to her Cabinet on Wednesday.

The UK government confirmed reports that May’s most senior ministers would read the details of the draft agreement on Tuesday evening before a special Cabinet meeting at 2PM on Wednesday.

An agreement between the UK and EU over how to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit was reached during intensive negotiations held on Monday and Tuesday, sources told Advisory Excellence.

Brexit talks had for weeks been at an impasse over the question of how a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic could be avoided no matter the outcome of negotiations.

UK and EU negotiators agreed that there would be a UK-wide “backstop” if they fail to negotiate a trade deal that negates the need for border checks on the island of Ireland before the end of the two-year Brexit transition period.

The backstop will take the shape of a UK-wide customs union with the EU, with Northern Ireland sticking to some of the European single market. This would guarantee no border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

However, the backstop is set not to come with a fixed end date, as demanded by pro-Brexit MPs, but with a “review clause” for deciding when it can come to an end.

Brexiteers are concerned that this arrangement will leave the UK trapped in a customs union with the EU for years to come, unable to sign new free-trade deals. The UK would also have to continue following numerous EU rules in areas like the environment, employee protections and state aid.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, said the deal amounted to a “failure to deliver on Brexit” and would make a “vassal state” of Britain. His Conservative colleague Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, described the draft deal as “unacceptable,” adding, “For the first time in a thousand years, this place, this Parliament will not have a say over the laws that govern this country.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would “look at the details” of the deal, “but from what we know of the shambolic handling of these negotiations, this is unlikely to be a good deal for the country.”

He added: “Labour has been clear from the beginning that we need a deal to support jobs and the economy — and that guarantees standards and protections. If this deal doesn’t meet our six tests and work for the whole country, then we will vote against it.”

The breakthrough in negotiations means EU leaders might be able to ratify the deal at a summit in Brussels later this month. EU ambassadors are set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the next steps in the Brexit process.

What’s next?

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly belongs to a handful of Cabinet Brexiteers who are prepared to resign from the government if the Brexit withdrawal agreement doesn’t meet their demands.

Advisory Excellence reported last month that the Cabinet members Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, and Esther McVey were all prepared to resign if May accepted a backstop with no fixed end date.

Leadsom said on Sunday that MPs would not accept a backstop which the UK cannot leave without the EU’s permission. She told the BBC: “I don’t think something that trapped the UK in any arrangement against our will would be sellable to members of Parliament.”

Downing Street understand that ministers could quit their positions over the details of the deal.

However, the prime minister has pressed on despite the high-profile resignations of former ministers like Johnson and David Davis and would be likely to do so again.

The European Research Group of pro-Leave Conservative MPs met following the news. A Tory MP who attended told Advisory Excellence the group was “absolutely shell-shocked” because none of May’s “promises” to it had been kept.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Leadsom, and Mordaunt “all campaigned with us for Brexit and need to stop this from ever reaching the Commons,” the MP said.

The biggest challenge facing May will come in the House of Commons’ vote on the deal.

Most Labour MPs are set to vote against it, as well as Conservative MPs from the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of the party, and possibly the 10 MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s government.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds said the party “couldn’t possibly vote for” the deal. Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said May’s days are numbered as prime minister if she goes ahead with it.

Owen Smith, a champion of the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, said the deal would leave “the British people worse off, and our country weaker as a whole” and urged May to put it to another referendum.

He added: “It’s not enough for May to secure support for her deal from Cabinet, or even from Parliament. This deal will dictate the course for our country for generations to come, and it must be put to the people for their approval or rejection.”

The leaders of the four main opposition parties, including Corbyn and The Liberal Democrats’ Vince Cable, have jointly written to May demanding a “truly meaningful vote” on the deal.

Youngest self-made billionaire is 27-years-old and hails from Ireland

At 27, John Collison is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. It’s rumoured to be lonely at the top but luckily Collison has his 29-year-old brother, Patrick – who also counts his wealth in ten digits – to keep him company.

The two brothers from a small village in rural Ireland founded Stripe, a company which runs the software behind more than 100,000 businesses. It handles online payments as well as providing a host of other services that help make it simple for firms to run their websites.

Many people may not have heard of Stripe but it counts Tesla’s Elon Musk and PayPal founder Peter Thiel as investors. A funding round last year valued Stripe at over $9bn ($7bn), meaning the Collison brothers each have a stake worth at least $1.1bn, according to Forbes magazine.

Despite this huge success, a recent interview with the BBC suggests John and Patrick remain down to earth.

Asked about experiencing vast wealth at such a young age, John said: “People now ask this a lot and I feel like they always want some really interesting answer – and I have nothing for them.”

“People ask ‘how has your life changed?’, and they want me to have taken up some elaborate new hobby, like Faberge egg collecting or yacht racing.”

Wealth is not new to the precocious pair. They both made their first million before they even went to university, thanks to another start-up which helped companies make the most out of eBay.

John went to Harvard and Patrick attended the equally prestigious Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) but both dropped out in 2011, to focus on using their coding skills to build Stripe.

“You might wonder what is hard about starting an [online] business,” John told the BBC.

“Creating a product that people actually want to buy, and getting them to hear about it, all that we could handle. But getting money from people over the internet was extremely difficult.

”I remember saying to Patrick ‘how hard can it be? Maybe we should give it a try.”

There are numerous companies trying to help other firms process online payments but Stripe has managed to grow rapidly, priding itself on a simple business model and simple code.

In the UK it charges 1.4 per cent of the value of each transaction plus 20p, and firms can be up and running in a couple of minutes because Stripe “eliminates needless complexity and extraneous details”, according to its website.

Surpassing the billion-dollar mark doesn’t seem to have slowed the brothers’ ambitions. They point out that 5 per cent of consumer spending around the world is currently online.

”We are indexed to the growth of the internet economy. As long as the internet economy continues to grow, Stripe will continue to grow,” John told the BBC.