Ursula von der Leyen – UK. Covid-19 Vaccine Surge Adds to EU Trade Tension: Brexit Bulletin
What’s happening? A Brexit-tinged vaccine row, and London financiers feel the squeeze.
Brexit Britain’s vaccine rollout is surging ahead of the European Union’s, opening a new front in tensions between the former partners. Positive trial data for Novavax’s Covid-19 shot – of which the UK. has ordered 60 million doses – came as the EU prepared an export ban and continued its week-long row with drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC over its vaccine supply. Yet, as Kitty Donaldson and Joe Mayes reported, there is confidence in London that drugmakers Pfizer Ltd. and AstraZeneca Plc see no interruption to deliveries destined for Britain.
It’s a different story at the English Channel, where cargo shipments remained snarled. Freight firms rejected one in five contracts to take goods from France to Britain, and hauliers returned empty to skip extra paperwork. That boosted shipping rates for a sixth week. Companies are starting to bypass Britain, including via a new direct route between Dublin and Amsterdam.
Housebuilders are among those suffering from higher shipping costs. As Olivia Konotey-Ahulu reports, roofing materials are running low, and the price of timber has risen by a fifth. That’s hurting smaller developers rushing to finish work on homes before a tax incentive to complete transactions expires at the end of March.
These aren’t just “teething problems,” says Mike Hawes, chief executive officer of the UK. Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Britain built the fewest cars since 1984 last year, mainly due to coronavirus lockdowns suppressing demand, William Wilkes reports. And there’s more to come: Brexit rules-of-origin requirements are set to bite deeper into manufacturing profits in the coming months.
Financiers clinging to their London desks felt the weight of new rules requiring them to have a physical presence in the EU. Viren Vaghela reports that the world’s biggest interdealer broker TP ICAP couldn’t serve all its European clients because it hadn’t relocated 80 staff from London to Paris by Dec. 31. Looking further ahead, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. adviser Jose Manuel Barroso – who led the European Commission until 2014 – said he believes it’s unlikely the EU will grant equivalence to the UK. on financial services.
The UK. backed away from a plan that could have gutted the enforcement of EU working rules in Britain. The Conservative government was looking into removing the 48-hour limit on the working week, but unions and the opposition Labour Party objected. With a fifth of the workforce idle during Covid-19 lockdowns, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng avoided a potential fight.
David Frost has a new job. The erstwhile chief Brexit negotiator is to become Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s representative for Brexit and international policy. It means both he and his former opposite number, Michel Barnier, will keep Brexit in their briefs. Barnier was recently appointed as a special adviser to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
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