Insights

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“Cryptocurrencies” vs “crypto-assets”: the regulatory battle for a token taxonomy

Financial Services

The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, said in a speech in March that it is better to refer to cryptocurrencies as “crypto-assets” - that is, to see them as securities, “expressly because they are not true currencies”. The US SEC, on the other hand, took a more nuanced approach two weeks ago when  it clarified that cryptocurrencies themselves are not securities…

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Tech and children’s mental health

TMT

The ubiquity of social media platforms is raising increasing concern within the UK government, resulting in urgent calls for more scrutiny on technology companies - this time on child protection. In the past weeks, the chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS), Simon Stevens, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, have all…

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British business: political piggy bank?

General Policy

In October 2016, UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond was reportedly considering slashing the UK’s Corporation Tax rate to 10%, as part of creating a low-tax post-Brexit UK economy. Tonight, he will warn us that “everyone will need to pay more” to fund Britain’s future. In particular, figures from across the political spectrum are eyeing corporation tax increases as a way to…

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The recent Melrose-GKN deal demonstrates how post-offer undertakings became the new norm

Financial Services

The bid by private equity firm Melrose for UK-based advanced manufacturer GKN attracted substantial interest from politicians from both of Britain’s largest political parties. Conservative MPs were concerned that Britain’s clout in the international defence market would be harmed by the piecemeal sale of important parts of GKN’s business. Labour MPs sought to avoid any…

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General Politics

European power plays in foreign policy

General Politics

European influence in the world is under threat. The privileged role enjoyed by European states in multilateral institutions has been challenged by the big emerging countries for some time now. More recently, both Russia and China have attempted, with some success, to play European states off against each other. And now the long-standing alliance with the US is in…

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Facebook’s political brand repair

TMT

Facebook’s recent decision to run newspaper adverts promoting the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which enters into force today, have raised some eyebrows. It is, of course, interesting to see one of the world’s largest technology companies resorting to old fashioned long-copy. The more pertinent question is how well it is likely to work and what it…

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Has the EU lost its nerve on US retaliation?

Trade & Manufacturing

The EU’s temporary exemption from the Trump administration’s Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium comes to an end on June 1st. When Washington first announced it was moving to impose blanket tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, back in March, Brussels was quick to react with warnings of retaliatory tariffs. There was no reason not to treat this as a credible…

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The UK’s Brexit security gambit

General Policy

The UK and the EU have been staking out their positions on the future security partnership over the past week. This pillar of the Brexit negotiation matters in its own right; but it also has the potential to set precedents that could be important for the future economic partnership.

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UK and Japan: Splitting the nuclear bill?

Energy & Commodities

Last week, UK prime minister, Theresa May, met with the CEO of Hitachi, Hiroaki Nakanishi, to discuss how to finance the new Horizon nuclear plant at Wylfa in Anglesey. The meeting went under the radar at the time, but what has become clear is that Hitachi and Japan are confronting the UK with a political and policy dilemma.

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General Politics

Iran deal: If Trump pulls out, business gets drawn in

General Politics

Time is running out for the Iran nuclear deal. Trump’s self-imposed 12 May deadline, by which he wants to decide whether to continue waving sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement, is just a week away. It appears increasingly unlikely that European proposals will prevent Trump from re-imposing sanctions. But this won’t be the end of negotiations about Iran…

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Freezing out palm oil - punishing the crop not the crime?

Sustainability

Iceland, a UK supermarket chain, has announced that it intends to ban palm oil from all of its own brand products by the end of 2018. Such a move on palm oil is not a new idea: the EU has been toying with its own potential ban over the last year.

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Breaking up is hard to do

TMT

I call it the Neil Sedaka question. Whenever I am in California, the conversation soon turns to whether, for the FANGs, in Sedaka’s words, “breaking up is hard to do”? This issue has US tech entrepreneurs, corporates and investors in a state of high anxiety. This is no surprise. The legacy of Europe’s Microsoft investigation in the 2000s and the IBM remedies in the 1980s…

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General Politics

It’s time to focus on US political risk

General Politics

The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook warns that waning support for global integration, geopolitical strains and political uncertainty have the potential to upset global growth prospects. It is not the first time the fund has drawn attention to political risks, which have become a recurring theme in recent years. Is there any reason why businesses and investors should…

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For EU companies, there may be no avoiding US-China hostilities

Trade & Manufacturing

As US-China trade hostilities slowly unfold, the EU is currently watching from the sidelines — mostly silently. But impacts in Europe are possible in the coming months, if only because US-China trade flows do not operate in isolation. Barriers between Washington and Beijing are a potential source of deflection towards other destinations and the EU is an obvious candidate…

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The other Trump trade war with China

Trade & Manufacturing

The Trump administration’s threat of 25% tariffs on $50bn of Chinese imports to the United States has inevitably dominated coverage of the President’s decision to escalate a long-standing irritation with Chinese approaches to US inward investment into a full-blown trade dispute. But there are three legs to the US review of Chinese practice under Section 301 of the 1974…

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General Politics

Whither global Britain and China’s Belt and Road?

General Politics

I have been in China again, this time as president of the Great Britain-China Centre, flying the flag at the UK-China Leadership Forum. This is an annual event at which representatives of Britain’s political parties exchange views with China’s communist party. The delegation was led by Theresa May’s able number two, David Liddington, and I was the senior Labour man (hope…

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General Politics

Xi opens the door at Boao

General Politics

Was it a rehash of old announcements or concessions that could prevent a trade war? These starkly different verdicts have been offered on President Xi’s plans to liberalise the Chinese economy, set out at the Boao forum this week. In practice, it was neither. What Xi provided is a basis for negotiation, which means the hard work still needs to be done if trade tensions…

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General Politics

Italy, and why not all political negotiations are equal

General Politics

Signs are clearly pointing to the two winners of Italy’s 4 March election – the Five Star Movement and Lega – being able to work together, and it is looking increasingly likely they will seek to reach some sort of governing arrangement. But, despite successfully reaching an agreement on the speakers for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate last week, they will find that…

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