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 spoken out about the need to protect children against the alleged harmful mental health effects of social media platforms.
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 fund signature political commitments. British business risks going from economic arrow tip to political piggy bank in twenty short months.
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 significant job losses in their political strongholds in the UK Midlands and elsewhere.
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 jeopardy, following the G7 shambles in Charlevoix, which saw Europe and the US move closer to an outright trade war.
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 suggests about the next tactical moves for big tech in general.
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 warning, given how successfully it had worked against the Bush administration’s emergency steel tariffs in 2003.
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.
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.
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. Transatlantic diplomacy about Iran policy, the nuclear deal and perhaps a ‘supplemental agreement’, will be complemented by parallel negotiations about what constitutes legitimate business with Tehran. The US administration will likely reintroduce sanctions as waivers expire, thus gradually increasing pressure on European governments to find a political agreement, but also to protect their economic interests.
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.