Would WTO tariffs really be such a ‘cliff edge’ for Brexit?

A global agreement to make it easier to trade across borders is about to enter into force following ratification by two-thirds of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership.  The first multilateral agreement successfully negotiated through the WTO will come into force immediately and will see WTO members benefit from greater trade by cutting burdensome red tape associated with goods exporting.

As a result of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), those countries that have ratified will be required to:

  • publish fees and charges online
  • introduce a ‘fast track’ for perishable goods – reducing the amount of food that rots while waiting to cross borders
  • allow pre-arrival processing of documentation
  • allow the use of copies of documents, rather than originals
  • allow for the right to appeal customs decisions

By helping to improve transparency, predictability & consistency, the TFA should lead to reduced trade costs and create the environment for SMEs to play a greater role in the international supply chain.

Studies suggest the agreement – which largely concerns the cost of clearing goods for import & export – will greatly reduce costs, time & the number of documents required for goods to cross borders. They also suggest the TFA could add over £70bn to the global economy, of which the UK is expected to benefit by up to £1bn (not including any future trade with the EU under WTO rules) and could reduce worldwide trade costs by between 12.5% & 17.5%.

EC Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "Better border procedures and faster, smoother trade flows will revitalise global trade to the benefit of citizens and businesses in all parts of the world. Small companies, that have a hard time navigating daily bureaucracy and complicated rules, will be major winners."
Researched Links:

DIT:  Historic WTO agreement will reduce exporting red tape and boost UK trade

EU welcomes entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

EU must take lead in linking trade in agriculture with the SDGs

Preparing for ‘Global’ Trade

A Brexit plan that Parliament can debate without giving away UK ‘negotiating secrets’!

RUSI:  Negotiating Britain’s EU Departure: From Tears to Hard-Headed Calculations

Not every ‘expert’ thinks Brexit will be all ‘Doom & Gloom’

Ways of opening up Europe by negotiation


London Innovation Series – Supporting UK Government 
Week of March 6th, 2017

In collaboration with Future Cities Catapult, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is bringing top innovators together to work in London on the future of UK cities and UK citizen services.

 Featured business tracks and presentations include:

  • Integrated City Services
  • Future of Planning
  • Citizen and SME Engagement

Click here to take a look at the agenda and register to join us throughout this week of exclusive events.

Concentrate on positive opportunities, not ‘maybe’ downsides
As the House of Lords continues its debate on Brexit, a new report by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, calls upon the UK to use Brexit as an opportunity to make the much-needed changes in the digital sector to position the country as a digital world leader.
Researched Links:

BCS:  UK's future success outside the EU underpinned by choices on major digital issues - BCS Brexit Report

BCS Apprenticeships: Gender diversity & inclusion will help bridge post Brexit Britain's digital skills shortage

BCS warns that UK must focus on maintaining its place in the European and global scientific & engineering communities post Brexit

Mastering Digital Business: BCS Publishes Guide to Preparing for Digital Transformation

Computing At School launches new resources to develop computing subject knowledge

If you take illegal advantage of people’s charitable giving you will be ‘punished’

The three regulators responsible for making sure organisations understand and obey the rules around fundraising have recently held a joint conference aimed to inform, educate and provide clarity to the sector.

Around 300 trustees, decision-makers and fundraisers heard from UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission and Gerald Oppenheim, Head of Policy at the Fundraising Regulator during a conference at Manchester Town Hall on 21 February 2017.

The Fundraising and Regulatory Compliance Conference was jointly organised by the three regulators to set out the regulatory requirements & expectations for fundraising bodies and their boards under current & forthcoming data protection legislation.

The Fundraising Regulator also launched its guidance on consent at the conference.  The ICO has already fined the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Heart Foundation. In addition, it has informed another 11 charities of its intent to fine them for breaching the Data Protection Act.  The ICO is now focusing its attention on improving compliance within the charity & fundraising sector.
Researched Links:

ICO:  Three regulators unite to help fundraisers comply with the law

ICO issues 11 charities with Notices of Intent to fine them

ICO investigation reveals how charities have been exploiting supporters

Fundraising regulator:  Consultation on changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice

ICO:  Elizabeth Denham’s speech at Compliance Conference

Fundraising Regulator releases consent and data guidance

Their skills include working within tight budgets. dealing with ‘behavioural, mentoring & physical’ problems and time management / multi-tasking

An employer toolkit to help businesses recruit & retain more single parents & care leavers has been launched.  People from disadvantaged groups face challenges that many others do not – such as having to work around childcare requirements, lack of formal qualifications or gaps in their employment history.  Ministers want to help more people from these groups to get into lasting employment and reap the benefits that come from work.

Employers are encouraged to use the free ‘See Potential’ toolkit, which includes guidance on recruitment practices, tips to support people to stay in work and a directory of organisations that are able to assist in making workplaces more inclusive.  9 out of 10 companies who hire from disadvantaged groups say that doing so has brought them benefits such as improved brand reputation and production growth.
Researched Links:

DWP:  New initiative to boost disadvantaged groups in work

Supplier Locator Spotlight
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When they need Media Consultants to ‘sell’ the concept, one wonders as to the merits of the proposals

Expensive ‘guerrilla marketing’ tactics are to be used to persuade people in Yorkshire, Humber and north Lincolnshire that ‘the noise’ about NHS cuts needs to be ‘turned down’

Marketing & communications specialists were asked ‘to express an interest’ in the £10,000 9-month contract to run from April for the Humber, Coast and Vale Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).  Unite, the union with 100,000 members in the health service, said that such ‘bizarre’ expenditure when the NHS was faced with a financial crisis was ‘completely unacceptable’.

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “The protests against the cuts that the NHS is currently experiencing need to be turned up, not turned down.  Unite has argued for some time that the 44 STPs across England are a secretive agenda designed to impose even more cuts on NHS frontline services and patient care”. ……  The latest row comes hard on the heels of protests by Unite at Humber NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to slash health visitors and school nurses by 25%.
Researched Links:

Protests at NHS cuts in Yorkshire to be combated by ‘guerrilla marketing’, warns Unite

Campaigners to protest against plans to slash Humber health visitors by 25%

LGA responds to research on early years provision for children in care

‘No backsliding’ on number of visits to families by health visitors, says Unite

Serious questions raised by Unite over awarding of NHS contract for community health services in Yorkshire

Privatisation engulfs London’s King’s College Hospital, says Unite

Many still ‘freeloading’ on the backs of the workers
The interests of stakeholders, executive remuneration, the accountability of large private companies and effective enforcement are key themes in the FRC’s response to the Government’s Green paper on Corporate Governance reforms.
Researched Links:

FRC responds to Green Paper on Corporate Governance Reforms

New diet needed for corporate ‘Fat Cats’ – CIPD & High Pay Centre

Some of them clearly are not worth their pay

TUC: Workers in the UK put in £33.6bn worth of unpaid overtime a year

BEIS:  Government launches review of corporate governance

TUC hits out at “disappointing” plans to tackle corporate misbehaviour

Business Secretary and TUC host corporate governance roundtable

FRC to review the UK Corporate Governance Code

FRC: Strong audit firm governance & leadership necessary for improved audit quality and independence

Boardroom shake-up needed to rein in fat cat greed, says TUC

CBI: 'It's right that approaches to governance evolve'

CIPD welcomes first steps in repairing UK’s broken executive pay system

FRC welcomes wide-ranging consultation on corporate governance

IPPR - Government must be bolder on top pay and corporate governance

AXELOS:  Leadership, management and governance: the need for best practices

Forget HS2; HS3 would be better value and it would help restore the North/South balance

London will see £1,500 more in transport spending per person than the North over the coming years, the latest analysis from leading think-tank IPPR North reveals.

  • IPPR North annual analysis shows Yorkshire and the Humber will get £190 per head, North East £220, North West £680 and London £1,940 per head for transport from 2016/17 onwards.
  • More than money – Transport for the North should get TfL investment powers, report argues.
  • ‘Northern Infrastructure Bonds’ suggested to fund ‘HS3’ linking North’s great cities and other key projects.
  • East-west crossing “vital” as we leave the EU – northern prosperity is national prosperity, and the North's £300bn economy key to UK's future.​
IPPR North's report Paying for Our Progress finds an east-west ‘HS3’ – also known as ‘Northern Powerhouse rail’ or ‘Crossrail for the North’ – is key to rebalancing the UK economy post-Brexit and in creating a country that works ‘for everyone’.
Researched Links:

IPPR:  New transport figures reveal London gets £1,500 per head more than the North – but North West powerhouse ‘catching-up’ ~ Instead of imposing the controversial, noisy & dubiously beneficial HS2 on the Shires, why not start with the ‘urgently needed’ HS3 & other road / rail improvements in the North ~ This ‘Train’ looks like it might leave the platform next year ~ DfT:  Full speed ahead as HS2 gets Royal Assent

But will it just become the ‘SNP News Channel’?
Scotland’s new BBC TV channel is a welcome step in the right direction, but must be properly resourced, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.
Researched Links:

ScotGov:  New TV channel for Scotland

How does not paying ANY licence fee to ‘BBC UK’ (while demanding it pays for more Scottish channels) protect the BBC, which faces £750m in cuts?

A broad range of opportunities

The Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship programme is now open for applications with a closing deadline of 3 April 2017.  There are 750+ positions across 46 locations across England, Scotland & Wales.  The talent programme allows you to earn a salary starting from £19,500 (£22,000 minimum in London) while you work towards a Level 4 apprenticeship, gaining the skills & experience that you’ll need for a successful career in the Civil Service.

Apprenticeships are available in:

  • business
  • commercial
  • digital and technology
  • finance
  • project delivery
Researched Links:

CO:  750 apprenticeships in government open for applications

One ‘good/valid’ example of why the NHS costs more each year
A one-off bowel screening test reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer by more than one third and could save thousands of lives, according to a study published in The Lancet.  The test - which examines the lower part of the large bowel - prevented more than half of potential bowel cancers from developing in that area and two thirds of deaths were avoided.
Researched Links:

Cancer Research UK:  One-off bowel scope cuts cancer risk for at least 17 years

NICE recommends wider use of tests to detect cancer-causing genetic condition

Get up and get moving
The Chief Nursing Officer for England backs a new campaign to get patients out of their pyjamas and up & out of bed.
Researched Links:

NHS England:  We should all support #EndPJparalysis – Professor Jane Cummings

Keep moving to ‘have a life’

‘Frailty’ may be inevitable with age, but its ‘management’ can still allow an ‘active’ lifestyle

It’s all about YOU!

Editorial Commentary:  What about a bit of media balance?

Quite reasonably (many think) the media has recently been full of negative comments about President Trump, who often seems to invite the ‘attacks’ with his somewhat ‘aggressive’ pronouncements/actions.

However, there does seem to be a certain lack of ‘balance’ in the predominance of attacks on his personality and enactment of his campaign promises, when seen against other world leaders, such as President (‘for Life’) Putin.

For example, just how many media outlets picked up on 2 recent news items about Russia and gave them equal prominence?:

*On 7 February the Russian Government passed into law an amendment which decriminalises domestic violence in Russia.  It reduces ‘battery within the family’ from a criminal to an administrative offence, with weaker sanctions for offenders.

This law is somewhat at odds with a recent announcement from the UK; PM Theresa May announced plans for a major programme of work leading towards bringing forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Act.

So why didn’t this story receive more prominence in the media?
FCO:  UK Minister condemns Russia’s Domestic Violence law ~ PM's plans to transform the way we tackle domestic violence & abuse

*On 8 February 2017 a Russian court convicted Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, on charges of embezzlement.  The original case in 2013 was re-run after the European Court of Human Rights said Alexei Navalny was denied a fair trial.

An FCO Spokesperson said: “We are concerned at the conviction handed down to Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny. The judgement once again raises questions about the selective application of the rule of law in Russia. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the same charges in 2013 were politically motivated”.

One wonders just how many mainstream media outlets have featured the item (on a continual basis), which effectively ensures Putin will have no effective opposition in the next Russian Presidential  ‘elections’?
FCO concerned at conviction of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny

One would suggest that those vociferous critics of President Trump just remember that he was democratically elected and that US voters will be able to tell him ‘You’re Fired’ (& go back to TV) in 2020.  Or that (until then) the Senate, Congress and US Supreme Court (and others) will no doubt ‘contain’ his more ‘extreme’ policies / actions.

The same cannot be said in regards to President Putin who, when he is not busy ‘ensuring’ his own political victories, also busies himself ‘undermining’ those of other countries.

In no way is one suggesting that criticisms of Trump’s policies should stop, but let us have a bit more media balance please!

 More contributions following EU Referendum

Still a ‘hot topic’, with widely spread views, for those who put fingers to keyboard in order to ‘share their views’:

Researched Links:

Defence Secretary calls on NATO to be fitter, faster, more agile

DExEU:  David Davis visits Baltic leaders to discuss future relations

PC&PE:  Fast-tracking of Brexit Bill should not set a precedent

techUK:  Data Centres and Brexit

techUK:  CETA is a boost European Tech, with lessons for the UK post-Brexit

ScotGov:  Scottish rural funding confirmed

ScotGov:  Third sector vital to EU stability

ScotGov:  EU staff in higher education

ScotGov:  Brexit meeting update

CBI: It's time for plain speaking on immigration

BIG:  Soil Association receives £1.25m National Lottery funding to improve food for older people

WWF comments on the launch of the Greener UK Manifesto


 More contributions to the UK constitutional debate

More news, opinions, documents, claims & counter-claims;

Researched Links:

Cebr: Scotland has a growth problem and a deficit problem – but over time they can be fixed….

ScotGov:  Income tax rates set

NCFE:  Devolution Road – marking the milestone in employment & skills

Please choose from the links below to view individual sections of interest:

Libraries are as popular as Premier League football, the cinema and the UK’s top tourist attractions put together. They are phenomenally popular and a huge public asset for communities, writes Cllr Ian Stephens, chair of the LGA's culture, tourism and sport board. Councils are doing everything they can to support libraries, but funding cuts mean local authorities are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"Councils are responding to these challenges by ensuring libraries play an increasingly important role as community hubs," writes Stephens, "empowering local people to use them for a wide variety of services ranging from homework clubs to public health and business advice."
Is such diversification the key to our libraries' survival, or does this lose sight of their core purpose: to provide access to books and information, both for learning and pleasure? Whether you work in, volunteer for or just visit your local library, we'd love to hear your views. Please get in touch at kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com.

Also on the network
We need urgent action to ensure all Scottish public buildings are safe

We need urgent action to ensure all Scottish public buildings are safe
The damning Cole report on standards at 17 PFI-built Edinburgh schools should not be shelved. All Scottish councils need to review their public buildings

Mental health issues are rife in prison, but I'm not trained to deal with them

Mental health issues are rife in prison, but I'm not trained to deal with them
The young men I find rocking on their beds need a mental health professional. Instead they get well-meaning but unprepared prison officers like me

News in brief
• Government spending billions on free schools while existing schools crumble
• Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'
• Council funding freeze 'means cuts to many essential services'
• Belgian mayor wins world prize for work on integrating immigrants
• IPCC says it must consider prosecutions over armed police shootings