SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Richard Sowersby/BBCThe UK has signed a free trade deal with Australia which it says will benefit consumers and businesses.It is described as the first post-Brexit deal negotiated from scratch and not “rolled over” from trade terms that the UK enjoyed while in the EU.The government estimated it would unlock £10.4bn of additional trade while ending tariffs on all UK exports.However, some UK farmers have expressed concern that they could be undercut by cheap imports. The government said the deal was also a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region and would boost the UK’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the largest free trade areas in the world.The agreement, which was signed in a virtual ceremony by International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is due to come into force next year.Farmers’ opposition to UK-Australia trade deal growsHow will the UK-Australia trade deal work? How many trade deals has the UK done?UK wants to join the club – but what is the CPTPP?Ms Trevelyan described it as “a landmark moment in the historic and vital relationship between our two Commonwealth nations”. It demonstrated what the UK could achieve as “an agile, independent sovereign trading nation”, she added.In a BBC interview, she rejected suggestions the deal would harm UK farmers.She said the deal had “very clear safeguards” and “clear tariff quotas in the first 10 years”, as well as “an overarching safeguard mechanism”.”The reality is that Australia sends about 70% of its beef and sheep meat to the Asia-Pacific markets,” she said.”They’re closer for them and they get great prices. So I’m not expecting there to be any dramatic surge into UK markets and I know that our citizens will continue to buy what they want, but I’m very pleased to do things that will open up consumer choice.”A free trade deal aims to encourage trade – usually in goods but occasionally in services – by making it cheaper. This is often achieved by reducing or eliminating tariffs – taxes or charges by governments for trading goods across borders. Trade agreements also aim to remove quotas – which are limits on the amount of goods which can be traded.Trade can also be made simpler if countries have the same rules, such as the colour of wires in plugs. The closer the rules are, the less likely that goods need to be checked.Ms Trevelyan says this agreement is a blueprint for all the other countries that want to do trade deals with the UK, so they can – in her words – “see just how expansive we want to be”.It has been welcomed by British companies that want to do more business in Australia, especially in services. Trade between the two countries will increase.But trade deals always work both ways. The UK has given Australia pretty much everything it wanted in terms of access to the UK agricultural market. Other larger economies will take note of that and want similar access in the future. The government insists that the concerns of British farmers have been taken into account, with transitional arrangements lasting for up to 15 years. The government also points to a series of environmental provisions in the deal, which makes reference to the Paris agreement on climate change. An explicit reference to the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C, though, has been dropped. Climate NGOs will not be impressed by that.It highlights the fact that trade deals involve compromise, but this agreement also needs to be seen in the perspective of the wider trade challenges the UK faces. The Department for International Trade’s internal assessment is that the deal with Australia could increase the size of the UK economy by £2.3bn a year from 2035. But that’s only 0.08% of GDP. By comparison, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the long term of loss of GDP from leaving the European Union could be about 4% of GDP. Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour supported such a deal, but would scrutinise it very carefully to make sure it delivered the promised benefits.He added that the opposition would “hold the government to promises made to farming communities, its pledges on environmental protections and on food and drink standards”. Among the main points of the deal listed by the UK government are:It gives UK firms guaranteed access to bid for an additional £10bn worth of Australian public sector contracts per yearIt allows young people to work and travel in Australia for up to three years at a time, removing previous visa rulesIt gives UK professionals including architects, scientists, researchers, lawyers and accountants access to Australian work visas without being subject to Australia’s skilled occupation list.In 2019-20, trade in goods and services between Australia and the UK was valued at £20.1bn, and both sides are hoping to expand this amount considerably.Currently, trade in meat between the two countries is very small.Approximately only 0.15% of all Australian beef exports go to the UK. Last year, 14% of sheep meat imports to the UK came from Australia.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersFamilies of those who died in a crash involving Boeing’s controversial 737 Max aircraft have filed a legal motion against the US government.They accuse Washington of secretly drawing up a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), enabling Boeing to get immunity from criminal prosecution. Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa in March 2019.It was the second crash involving the 737 Max, a new design.Faulty flight control software was later found to have triggered both accidents, in which a total of 346 people died. Only one person has so far been indicted on criminal charges related to the crashes – former chief technical pilot Mark Forkner. He stands accused of defrauding the US regulator, the FAA, by deliberately withholding information about the flight control software.The motion, filed in a Texas District Court, accuses the US Department of Justice (DoJ) of concealing the existence of a criminal investigation into the company, and of misleading relatives of ET302 victims by denying that any such investigation existed – while at the same time working with Boeing to resolve the investigation. The DPA was unveiled in early January, days before the new US administration took office. Boeing agreed to pay fines and compensation worth $2.5bn.Boeing refutes safety concerns over 737 MaxBoeing agrees deal with Ethiopia crash familiesAt the time, the DoJ said: “Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candour by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception.”Lawyers for the victims have pointed out that the DoJ attorney responsible for negotiating the agreement subsequently joined the law firm which signed it on behalf of Boeing. They have called on the court to rescind Boeing’s immunity from prosecution. Boeing declined to comment.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PA MediaRishi Sunak is cutting short a US trip for talks with businesses concerned about the impact of the Omicron variant.Questions had been raised over the chancellor’s absence, on government business, as rising Covid cases hit consumer confidence.Labour called on Mr Sunak – who has been in California – to “leave Hollywood and come back to reality”. The BBC understands he is returning a day earlier than planned.A number of firms and business organisations – especially those linked with the hospitality sector – are calling for financial support from the government as new restrictions and warnings over gatherings leads to cancellations and a drop in customers. But the Treasury has so far declined their plea. We’re not locking the country down, says JohnsonFirms plead for help as customers cancel bookingsSack Tory MP who criticised Whitty – LabourIn a statement, the chancellor, who is due back in the UK overnight, said the government “has done whatever it takes at every stage to support lives and livelihoods throughout this pandemic – and of course we will continue to do so”.The UK government and devolved administrations have not placed any additional restrictions on businesses, such as lockdowns or reduced group sizes for restaurants or bars.But warnings from England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to prioritise social interactions and from ministers to “think carefully in our choices” in the run up to Christmas had led to a collapse in customer numbers.The hospitality industry estimates that December takings will be down by 40% – and the damage could be twice as much as that in London.UK Hospitality has asked for an extension of the discounted 12.5% VAT rate to stretch beyond its scheduled end in March 2022 to help their members, and for business rates due in the first quarter of next year to be deferred.And business group the CBI has called for an instruction from the government to tell councils to immediately release unused grants and rates relief to businesses in need.But the appeals have been made while the chancellor has been in California on government business.’Heads in the sand’The BBC understands Mr Sunak travelled to San Francisco on Tuesday to hold meetings with industry leaders from the technology and investment sectors, and hosted a roundtable on Thursday morning. But the general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, accused him of being “missing in action”.She told the Daily Mirror: “The chancellor should be stood next to the PM, announcing help to pay wages, save jobs and stop businesses going to the wall.”Mr Sunak tweeted that he and his team had held meetings with the hospitality sector on Thursday, including UK Hospitality and the CBI. And a Treasury spokesman said he would return early from his trip to to resume discussions with business leaders on Friday. But Labour called for a plan of action by the end of the day to help struggling firms. Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said places like theatres and gig venues “urgently need some leadership from government”, but were instead getting “heads in the sand”. In a statement, Mr Sunak said: “We understand that this is a concerning time for businesses. “Myself and my wider team met with business representatives earlier [on Thursday], listened to their concerns and will continue to work with industry leaders over the coming days. “To keep safeguarding our economic recovery and the lives and livelihoods of the British people our priority is now to make sure everyone has the opportunity to ‘get boosted now’.”
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesMcDonald’s has settled a lawsuit in which its former chief executive, Steve Easterbook, has returned equity awards and cash worth over $105m. The fast food chain had claimed that Mr Easterbrook hid and lied about sexual relationships with three staff. Mr Easterbrook apologised for failing to uphold the firm’s values and fulfil his responsibilities. The British businessman, 54, initially received the $105m in a severance package in 2019.He was fired in November that year, after admitting to having had a consensual relationship with one employee.At the time, McDonald’s said Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and shown “poor judgement”.But further investigation uncovered two more hidden relationships and the firm said that, had it been aware of this, it would not have approved his multi-million dollar pay-off.McDonald’s in US hiring 14-year-olds amid shortageUS McDonald’s workers strike again over harassmentMcDonald’s restaurants offer childcare to staff”This settlement holds Steve Easterbrook accountable for his clear misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as CEO,” McDonald’s chairman Enrique Hernandez Jr said on Thursday. “Today’s resolution avoids a protracted court process and moves us beyond a chapter that belongs in our past.”In July 2019, an anonymous tip-off led investigators to find that Mr Easterbrook had sent sexually explicit photographs of three employees to his personal email from his company address. Investigators also found messages showing that he approved a grant of company shares worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of the employees “shortly after their first sexual encounter”.McDonald’s said it had not initially found the photos and messages because Mr Easterbrook had deleted them from his phone. It claimed Mr Easterbrook violated his duty to the company by lying when asked about his behaviour in an effort to secure a bigger severance package, committing fraud.But Mr Easterbrook’s lawyers called the suit “meritless”, claiming McDonald’s had details about his relationships on its computer systems at the time it negotiated the severance deal. Safer workplace standards The case has come as McDonald’s faces scrutiny over alleged sexual harassment in its restaurants. In April, the chain announced it would implement new training at its 39,000 restaurants to prevent harassment and promote safe and respectful workplaces. The majority of its restaurants are run by franchisees, who will be required to meet the new safer workplace standards starting in January 2022.The announcement came after it faced lawsuits by some female employees.Mr Easterbrook, 54, first worked for McDonald’s in 1993 as a manager in London before working his way up the company. He left in 2011 to become boss of Pizza Express and then Asian food chain Wagamama, before returning to McDonald’s in 2013, eventually becoming its chief executive in 2015.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesTurkey has cut interest rates again, despite spiralling inflation and a currency crisis.Its central bank cut its main interest rate by 1%, from 15% to 14%, amid concerted pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for rates to be cut to stimulate the economy.He believes pushing interest rates lower will help alleviate red-hot inflation.It is a view that runs contrary to conventional economic theory.In a widely-anticipated move, the Turkish central bank opted to continue on its rate-cutting path on Thursday, slashing rates by 1 percentage point.In a statement, the bank compared its decision to those of other major central banks, which have kept rates low during the coronavirus pandemic to help boost economic growth.Turkish policymakers have come under increasing pressure from Mr Erdogan to cut rates.Over the past year, the rate that prices increase in Turkey has climbed above 21%, making it difficult for Turks to plan, save, or spend money on everyday goods and services.The Turkish lira fell sharply against the dollar after the cut in interest rates, which is the fourth such cut in as many months.The currency is now worth about half its value at the beginning of the year.The president and his allies says that lower interest rates will boost Turkish exports, investment and jobs. But many economists say the rate cuts are reckless. Why currency crash does not worry Turkey’s Erdogan Last month, the country’s inflation rate hit 21.7%.Normally, central banks raise rates to combat rising prices, but Mr Erdogan has called such tools “the mother and father of all evil”.Although the bank has attempted to bolster the value of the lira by using its dollar reserves to buy the currency, analysts have said it does not have enough firepower to stop the slide.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, M&SSupermarkets Marks & Spencer and Aldi are locked in a legal spat for the second time this year – this time over bottles of gin that light up.M&S has gone to the High Court seeking an injunction against alleged infringement of its design.The retailer says Aldi’s blackberry and clementine gin liqueur is “strikingly similar” to its own Light Up gin.It follows ‘Caterpillargate’ in April, when M&S alleged Aldi’s Cuthbert cake copied its Colin the Caterpillar cake.Both retailer’s gins come in a bell-shaped bottle with a light in the base, which illuminates edible gold flakes in the liquid. The Aldi gin is about £6 cheaper than the basic £20 M&S version.Legal filings by M&S at the High Court earlier this month claim Aldi’s products “constitute designs which do not produce on the informed user a different overall impression to the [M&S] designs”. M&S cites media reports comparing the products as evidence of similarity.Image source, M&SThe action concerns alleged infringement of a specific registered M&S design that was on sale last year, not the similar globe bottles currently available.’Obvious copy’An M&S spokesperson said: “M&S has a proud history as a leading British innovator and for over 136 years customers have turned to M&S for unique, original, quality products – conceived, created and developed by us working with our trusted suppliers and produced to the highest standards.”The firm cited several firsts, including the first chilled chicken kiev, the introduction of pre-packed sandwiches, and glitter gin globes.Image source, PA/AldiM&S said: “So, like many other UK businesses, large and small, we know the true value and cost of innovation and the enormous time, passion, creativity, energy and attention to detail, that goes into designing, developing and bringing a product to market and building its brand over many years.”We will always seek to protect our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value – and protect our customers from obvious copies.” In April, the hastag Caterpillargate began trending on Twitter after M&S started High Court action – which is ongoing – over cake. Aldi teased M&S on social media with a ‘freecuthbert’ campaign and dubbed the 136-year-old M&S ‘Marks & Snitches’.The BBC has asked Aldi for comment.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingBruce Springsteen has sold the master recordings and publishing rights for his life’s work to Sony for a reported $500m (£376m).The deal gives Sony ownership of his 20 studio albums, including classics like Born To Run, The River and Born In The USA, according to multiple US reports.A 20-time Grammy winner, Springsteen’s music generated about $15m in revenue last year.His deal follows similar sales by Bob Dylan, Blondie and David Bowie.Warner Music bought the worldwide rights to Bowie’s music in September, and Dylan sold his catalogue of more than 600 songs in December last year to Universal Music Group at a purchase price widely reported as $300m.The deals provide immediate financial security to the artists and their estates, while the rights-holders hope to profit by building new revenue streams for the music via film and TV licensing, merchandise, cover versions and performance royalties.Bruce Springsteen’s Desert Island DiscsWhy the Church of England co-owns a Beyoncé hitBob Dylan sells song rights to UMGAt an investor relations meeting in May, Sony Music’s chief executive, Rob Stringer, said the company had spent $1.4bn in acquisitions over the previous six months. That included a multi-million dollar deal to obtain the rights to Paul Simon’s back catalogue.Springsteen’s deal would be the most expensive so far, if the numbers reported by music industry bible Billboard are correct.No public announcement has been made about the sale, and representatives for Sony and Springsteen did not immediately respond to queries from the BBC.Springsteen is one of the most successful rock musicians of all time, and has recorded for Sony’s Columbia Records imprint for the duration of his career.Born and raised in New Jersey, he once said he intended to make an album with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector where he sang like Roy Orbison.It remains a neat encapsulation of his style, and a key to understanding his broad appeal – although he’s frequently, and successfully, experimented outside those constraints.His reputation was cemented in 1974, when music critic Jon Landau reviewed one of his shows with The E Street Band in Boston.”Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw rock’n’roll past flash before my eyes,” Landau wrote. “And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”Springsteen’s commercial breakthrough came the following year, with the hit album Born To Run, trailed by its ambitious, wall-of-sound title track. Greeted by rapturous reviews, it sold nine million copies and saw Springsteen achieve the rare feat of appearing on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine in the same week.One of the hardest-working entertainers in showbusiness, he built up a fearsome reputation for his sweat-drenched, hours-long concerts – and, somewhat unexpectedly, became one of the breakout stars of the MTV generation, with videos for songs like Hungry Heart and Dancing In The Dark on heavy rotation alongside hits by Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince.His biggest hit was 1985’s Born In The USA, which sold 15 million copies in the US and 30 million worldwide. After such huge success, he stepped away from his longtime companions, The E Street Band and subsequent albums varied in quality, while his marriage to actress Julianne Phillips ended in divorce after the star fell for his backing singer (and current wife) Patti Scialfa.In the 1990s, he earned an Oscar nomination for the theme song to the Tom Hank’s Aids drama, Philadelphia; and a a 1995 greatest hits album topped the charts, selling four million copies.Image source, PA MediaAfter reconvening the E Street Band at the turn of the millennium, Springsteen entered a creative hot-streak that has yet to fade – with highlights including 2002’s The Rising, a response to the terror attacks of 9/11, 2012’s politically-charged Wrecking Ball and 2019’s Western Stars, an homage to the 1970s-era golden age of the Laurel Canyon pop.He was inducted to the Rock Hall of Fame in 1999, and played the Super Bowl Half-Time show 10 years later.More recently, the 72-year-old has released his autobiography, also titled Born To Run, and staged a series of intimate, one-man Broadway shows looking back at his life and career.His last album, Letter To You, was released in 2020; and this year, he made rare guest appearances on songs by The Killers and Bleachers this year.Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Karen Millen Boohoo has warned that full-year sales and profits will fall short of expectations following a sharp rise in people returning clothes.The online fashion retailer also said delivery delays for overseas customers as well as higher shipping costs would hit its profits.A Boohoo spokeswoman said returns have grown as the company acquired premium brands such as Karen Millen and Coast.She said customers were more likely to return expensive items of clothing.Analysts at Zeus Capital also said shoppers had bought “significantly” more dresses recently compared to the relaxed clothing favoured during Covid lockdowns.It said loungewear and active wear had “typically low return rates”.Boohoo boss: ‘We’re not a throwaway fashion brand’Boohoo now expects its full-year underlying earnings to grow by between 6% and 7%, compared to previous forecasts of a 9-9.5% increase.Sales are now set to grow by between 12% and 14%, far short of previous expectations of 20-25% growth.Shares in the company slumped 15% in reaction to the news.Boohoo has expanded significantly in recent years.It acquired Karen Millen and Coast in 2019, bought Warehouse the following year and more recently took over the brand and website of failed department store chain Debenhams.