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Foreign businesses to UK: solve Brexit or risk £100bn in trade

Business leaders from the US, Canada, Japan and India have told the British government to solve the Brexit issue urgently or put more than £100bn worth of trade at risk.

Lobby groups representing business interests from the four countries took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement on Brexit before the European council summit this week. It came days after Airbus said its investment in the UK would be at risk from a hard Brexit, prompting the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to say the Franco-German aircraft maker’s intervention was “completely inappropriate”.

Groups representing corporate giants including Nissan, Bombardier and Facebook expressed their concerns on Monday that Britain was heading towards a disorderly departure from the EU, potentially affecting more than £100bn in trade and putting investment in the UK at risk.

“International businesses who are heavily invested in both the EU and the UK are calling for urgent progress on the key outstanding issues remaining in the talks,” they said in the statement. “Resolving as many of the remaining concerns as possible is becoming more urgent by the day – with the clock ticking towards the October deadline for a final withdrawal agreement.”

The statement was signed by the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, representing companies including Boeing, Exxon Mobile, Facebook, Dell, Coca-Cola and FedEx. It was also signed by the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, Europe India Chamber of Commerce and the Japan Business Council in Europe.

The statement said they recognised the complexity of finding a solution for the Irish border, but urged both the EU and the UK to continue to try to find agreement on the issue.

In the meantime, they urged policymakers to “dedicate time and thought at the upcoming summit” to address the remaining issues, including the role of the European court of justice, the future UK-EU regulatory regime and post-Brexit preparedness.

“Reaching agreement on these issues will provide businesses with more confidence that a withdrawal agreement can be agreed and ratified, thereby providing legal certainty for the proposed transition period and avoiding the worst-case ‘cliff-edge’ scenario in March 2019 ,” the statement said.

It reflects a growing frustration in business over the lack of a clear Brexit strategy two years after the referendum.

In the wake of the Airbus comments, BMW said it needed clarity on Brexit negotiations “in the next couple of months”. Car manufacturers are expected to issue a fresh and strong warning over Brexit at a Society of Motor Manufacturing and Traders (SMMT) meeting on Tuesday.

The car industry employs more than 800,000 people in the UK and the Japanese ambassador has warned Theresa May that his country’s firms will quit Britain if a botched Brexit makes it unprofitable to stay.

Koji Tsuruoka told the prime minister earlier this year that if “there is no profitability of continuing operation in [the] UK … no private company can continue operations”.

Both he and the outgoing boss of BMW will speak at the SMMT conference.

Japan’s business interests in the UK include Nissan, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Honda, with trade with the UK worth £46bn. Nissan, Toyota and Honda began their UK operations in Britain in the 1980s and now build nearly half of all of the 1.7m cars produced in the UK last year.

The car industry is concerned that if the UK does not stay in the single market, it will be hit by costly delays in delivering components from the EU.

America’s import and export trade with the UK is worth around £43bn but it is also a heavy investor in business with a large presence in the UK in tech, pharmaceuticals and transport.

Canada’s business interests in the UK include the Bombardier aircraft wing factory in Belfast, which was recently saved from making thousands of redundancies after winning a legal challenge in a trade dispute with US rival Boeing and the Trump administration.

The UK ranks as Canada’s second most important trading partner after the US with bilateral trade worth CN$27.1bn (£15bn). India’s exports to the UK are valued at around $9bn (£6.79bn) with machinery and clothing among the highest value products.

New report says hydrogen can meet 18 per cent of energy demand by 2050

A new study has detailed how hydrogen energy can make up around one-fifth of the total energy mix by 2050, helping to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.

The report was commissioned by the Hydrogen Council, a coalition formed earlier this year featuring the CEOs of automotive and energy giants including Shell, Air Liquide, General Motors, Statoil, BMW and Toyota. Entitled Hydrogen, Scaling up, it provides a roadmap for the expansion of the sector. By 2030, 10 to 15 million cars and 500,000 trucks could be hydrogen-powered. Overall, total demand could increase tenfold to almost 80EJ (around 22,000TWh) by 2050, according to the study.

Seven particular areas were identified by the council where hydrogen energy can play a key role:

– Enabling large-scale renewable energy integration and power generation
– Distributing energy across sectors and regions
– Acting as a buffer to increase energy system resilience
– Decarbonising transportation
– Decarbonising industrial energy use
– Helping to decarbonise building heat and power
– Providing clean feedstock for industry

“The world in the 21st century must transition to widespread low carbon energy use,” said Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council.

“Hydrogen is an indispensable resource to achieve this transition because it can be used to store and transport wind, solar and other renewable electricity to power transportation and many other things. The Council has identified seven roles for hydrogen, which is why we are encouraging governments and investors to give it a prominent role in their energy plans. The sooner we get the hydrogen economy going, the better, and we are all committed to making this a reality.”

Investment of between $20-25bn per year up until 2030 will be required to scale the industry to the level outlined in the report. However, it is pointed out that there is currently around US$1.7 trillion invested in energy each year, including $650bn in oil and gas. The report also claims that the hydrogen sector has the potential to develop $2.5 trillion of business, creating more than 30 million jobs by 2050.

By reaching 18 per cent of the energy mix mid-century, it is estimated that six gigatons of CO2 would be reduced each year compared to today’s levels. This would meet 20 per cent of the total reductions required in the 2050 two-degree scenario.

“This study confirms the place of hydrogen as a central pillar in the energy transition, and encourages us in our support of its large-scale deployment” said Benoît Potier, chairman and CEO of Air Liquide.

“Hydrogen will be an unavoidable enabler for the energy transition in certain sectors and geographies. The sooner we make this happen the sooner we will be able to enjoy the needed benefits of hydrogen at the service of our economies and our societies.”