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Brexit: No-deal impact assessment published

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The British government has published its assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on business and trade.

The report said “some food prices are likely to increase” and customs checks could cost business £13bn a year in a no-deal scenario.

It also said there was “little evidence that businesses are preparing in earnest”.

But the government said it had undertaken “significant action” to prepare for no deal on 29 March.

It comes as the PM has promised MPs votes on delaying Brexit or ruling out no deal if her deal is rejected again.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was comprehensively rejected by MPs on 15 January and she has said they will get a second chance to vote on it – possibly with some changes – by 12 March.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 29 March – with or without a deal.

The government’s report, which was drawn up for the cabinet, said: “One of the most visible ways in which the UK would be affected by delays in goods crossing the Channel is our food supply, 30% of which comes from the EU.”

Possible disruption to cross-Channel trade “would lead to reduced availability and choice of products”, the document said.

“This would not lead to an overall shortage of food in the UK, and less than one in 10 food items would be directly affected by any delays across the short Channel crossings.

“However, at the time of year we will be leaving the EU, the UK is particularly reliant on the short Channel crossings for fresh fruit and vegetables.

“In the absence of other action from government, some food prices are likely to increase, and there is a risk that consumer behaviour could exacerbate, or create, shortages in this scenario.

“As of February 2019, many businesses in the food supply industry are unprepared for a no-deal scenario.”

It repeated analysis suggesting a no-deal scenario could leave the UK economy 6.3% to 9% smaller after 15 years, compared to what it would have been.

It said the worst-hit areas economically in a no-deal scenario would be Wales (-8.1%), Scotland (-8.0%), Northern Ireland (-9.1%) and the northeast (-10.5%).

The document said slightly more than two-thirds of the government’s most critical preparation projects – and fewer than 85% overall – were “on track” for completion in time for 29 March.

It also warned that a no-deal Brexit would “affect the viability of many businesses across Northern Ireland”, and said some businesses could relocate to the Republic of Ireland.

The publication of the document follows a proposed amendment last month from former Conservative MP Anna Soubry and backed by ex-Labour MP Chuka Umunna – who are both now members of the newly-formed Independent Group.

In the Commons, Ms Soubry told MPs that the document was only a summary and she asked for access to the papers “which actually go into the detail”, which she was shown in privy council terms (confidential terms).

“It’s the detail that actually fully explains the impact of a no-deal Brexit, leaving the Brexit Secretary to comment that it would be ‘ruinous’ for this country,” she said.

Deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he was “sorry” that Ms Soubry felt she had been “slightly short-changed on what would be available”.

“I would expect ministers to take on board your request and hopefully… you will pursue it other than on this point of order,” he said.

And Mr Umunna said the report painted “a disastrous picture of the catastrophe which would befall our country if there is a no-deal Brexit”.

“In light of what she knows, it is utterly irresponsible for the Prime Minister to keep a no-deal Brexit on the table given the extreme damage it will do,” he said.

“These papers set out how food prices will rise, we may see panic buying, there will be severe disruption at the border, and jobs and livelihoods would immediately be put at risk.

“Today she told the House of Commons she is listening, but MPs have passed a motion rejecting a no-deal Brexit and yet she refuses to request an extension of the Article 50 process in order to stop no-deal happening.”

Ms Soubry’s amendment instructed the government to publish within seven days “the most recent official briefing document relating to business and trade on the implications of a no-deal Brexit presented to cabinet”.

It drew the backing of some mostly Remain-supporting Labour and Conservative backbenchers.

But Ms Soubry withdrew the amendment after Brexit Minister Chris Heaton-Harris indicated that Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington would meet her and would be publishing the relevant information.
BBC

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INTERNATIONAL

Chris Cash: The UK Parliamentary Researcher Accused of Spying for Beijing Authorities

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In March of this year, a British parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of being a Chinese spy. The researcher, Chris Cash, was revealed to be a 28-year-old history graduate with links to many Tory MPs. He had been seen associating with senior Tories such as security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns. Cash was believed to have been recruited as a sleeper agent while living and working in China and sent back to the UK to infiltrate political networks critical of the Beijing regime.

Cash was the leader of the China Research Group, a body advocating for a more hawkish British policy towards China. Co-founded by Tory ministers Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien in April 2020, the group focused on industrial, technological, and foreign policy issues. The group’s website claimed that it aimed to provide informed knowledge on China and promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.

Chris Cash was arrested in Edinburgh and released on bail until early October, along with another suspect. It is unclear how much access Cash had to foreign affairs intelligence or what kind of influence he may have held in Westminster. While he held a parliamentary pass, he did not have security clearance.

China has denied all accusations of involvement in an espionage scheme involving Cash, calling them malicious slander.

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Pope Sends Prayers to Comfort Morocco Earthquake Victims as Death Toll Surpasses 2,000

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On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his prayers and support for the victims of the powerful earthquake that hit Morocco, resulting in the highest number of fatalities in over 60 years. During his Angelus message, he prayed for those injured and those who lost their lives, along with their families.

The Pope also expressed his gratitude towards the rescue workers who are working tirelessly to help the victims. He concluded by saying that they stand in solidarity with the people of Morocco during this difficult time.

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African Union’s Inclusion in G20: A Significant Acknowledgment of a Continent with 1 Billion Inhabitants

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The world’s most powerful economies, the G20, have welcomed the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, recognising Africa’s more than 50 countries as important players on the global stage. US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressed support for the AU’s permanent membership.

The AU has advocated for full membership for seven years and, until now, South Africa was the only African country in the G20. The AU represents a continent with a young population of 1.3 billion, which is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s population.

Africa’s 55 member states have long pushed for meaningful roles in global bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and want reforms to the global financial system. The continent is increasingly attracting investment and political interest from global powers like China, Russia, Gulf nations, Turkey, Israel, and Iran. African leaders are challenging the framing of the continent as passive victim and want to be brokers instead.

They seek fairer treatment by financial institutions, delivery of rich countries’ long-promised $100 billion a year in climate financing for developing nations, and a global tax on fossil fuels. The AU’s full G20 membership will enable it to represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area and abundant resources needed to combat climate change. The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and over 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.

African leaders want more industrial development closer to home to benefit their economies. Finding a common position among the AU’s member states, from economic powers to some of the world’s poorest nations, can be challenging, but Africa will need to speak with one voice to influence G20 decision-making. African leaders have shown their willingness to take collective action, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a high-profile G20 member, Africa’s demands will be harder to ignore.

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