The British pound rose on Monday as investors prepared for parliament to vote on a series of Brexit options, with some hoping that the current uncertainty will end in a softer Brexit than Prime Minister Theresa May’s defeated withdrawal agreement.

May’s deal was voted down for a third time by lawmakers on Friday, sending sterling plunging to below 1.30 dollar.

But the British currency has held at or above that level since, suggesting some investors have priced out the prospect of Britain crashing out of the European Union without a deal and instead expect a long delay to the exit or Brexit to emerge eventually where closer ties are maintained to the trading bloc.

“There is a growing expectation that a (House of) Common’s majority could coalesce around a softer Brexit that includes a custom’s union but she is facing more threats from cabinet members to resign if she decides to pursue a softer Brexit,” MUFG analysts said.

Sterling rose 0.4 per cent to 1.3083 dollar, also finding support from better-than-expected manufacturing survey data.

The pound gained 0.1 per cent to 85.980 pence per euro.

The analysts at MUFG said that while a no-deal Brexit on April 12 remained a risk for the pound, an emergency EU summit on April 10 could – if British lawmakers cannot agree anything this week – see a long delay to Brexit.

Parliament will vote on different Brexit options on Monday and then May could try to bring her deal back to a vote in parliament as soon as Tuesday.

But May’s government and her party remain in open conflict.

Marshall Gittler, a strategist at ACLS Global, said he considered a no-deal Brexit “as a higher possibility, even though it’s officially been ruled out, simply because I don’t see any of the other endings as particularly possible.”

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index in at a reading of 55.1 for March, above the 51 level forecast by economists polled by Reuters.

The survey showed that factories in Britain stockpiled for Brexit at a frenzied rate last month, pushing manufacturing growth to a 13-month high.

The European Union on Wednesday ordered Google to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.69 billion) for stifling competition in the online advertisement sector.
 
The European Commission said Google had placed exclusivity contracts on website owners, stopping them from including search results from Google's rivals. It said these clauses were replaced in 2009 by premium payments and in the same year, Google had asked publishers to seek permission on how rival ads were displayed.
 
The EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said Google had prevented rivals from being able to "compete and innovate fairly" in the online ad market.
 
"Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules," Vestager said in Brussels.
 
In response, Google's senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker said: "We've always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone's interest. We've already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission's concerns. Over the next few months, we'll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe."
 
The Alphabet company has previously defended the use of its ad technology, claiming it had been in place since 2006, is now superseded, and is a minor product.
 
In the fourth quarter of 2018, Google's core advertising business saw revenue increase 20 percent from the previous quarter to $32.6 billion — the same rate of growth as the last quarter.
 
The European Commission said between 2006 to 2016, Google was by far the strongest player in online search advertising in the European Economic Area, with a market share above 70 percent.
 
It is the third antitrust fine from Brussels against the search engine giant.
 
Last July, regulators in Brussels hit the Alphabet unit with a $5 billion fine for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system.
 
Google lets phone makers use the open-source Android software for free, but the EU accused it of benefiting its own services, including forcing phone makers to bundle Google products like Search, Maps and Chrome with its app store, Play.
 
In a blog post Tuesday, Walker said European Android customers will now be asked which apps they would like to use instead.
 
Vestager said Wednesday it was welcome news that Google was "stepping up its effort with the Android system" and the the European Commission would watch to see how the improved choice unfolded.
 
In 2017, the EU fined Google $2.7 billion for favoring its shopping service over competitors.
 
In an interview with Pressmen following the announcement, Vestager rejected any suggestion that the fines against Google would disrupt the relationship between Europe and the United States.
 
The competition supremo added that the commission had also imposed a number of fines on European companies.
 
"One should understand that you are more than welcome to do business in Europe but with our rule book and with no illegal behavior," she said.
 
Vestager has just 6 months left in her role but said her successor would enjoy the same strong mandate.
 
 
Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker release joint statement following their meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
The European Union states that it will not re-open talks on the Brexit deal.
However, they offer to add new words to the accompanying Political Declaration.
This is unlikely to win over UK MPs who voted last week for a full renegotition of the deal.
 
UK and EU negotiators will hold new talks and find a way to break the current deadlock.
May and Juncker will meet again before end of February to "take stock" of these discussions.
Theresa May's demand to re-open negotiations on her Brexit deal has been officially rejected by the European Union, after the prime minister traveled to Brussels on Thursday morning.
 
In a joint statement released by the UK prime minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the two leaders said they had engaged in a "robust but constructive" conversation, but confirmed that the Withdrawal Agreement was not up for renegotiation.
 
"President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which represents a carefully balanced compromise between the European Union and the UK, in which both sides have made significant concessions to arrive at a deal," the two leaders said in a statement.
 
They added that Juncker was open to adding new words to the accompanying "Political Declaration," which is a non-legally binding statement on aspirations for the future relationship between the two sides.
 
They also said that both sides would hold fresh talks "before the end of February" in order to find a way to break the deadlock.
 
Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29. Here, we take a look at the latest figures behind Brexit.
 
However, the statement casts further doubt on May's hopes of securing any meaningful changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, as demanded by significant numbers of MPs in Westminster.
 
The backstop is the insurance policy for making sure there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic under any circumstances after the UK has left the EU.
 
A majority of MPs in the UK House of Commons voted last week for May to replace the current backstop with "alternative arrangements."
 
Conservative MPs fear that the backstop in its current form would leave the UK tied to EU rules for years after Brexit, while the Democratic Unionist Party which props up May's government says it would create unacceptable new checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
 
Conservative rebels have also indicated that they will not back any deal that does not include the removal or complete change of the backstop arrangements.
 
The British prime minister this week established a new working group charged with defining what those "alternative arrangements" could be.
 
The EU's rejection of May's call for a renegotiation comes after the UK opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to May offering to back her deal if she accepted a closer relationship with the EU after Brexit.
 
Corbyn said the party would support a deal that was based on a permanent customs union and a closer relationship with the single market.
 
A spokesperson for May said the prime minister would respond to Corbyn's offer "in due course," but added that "our position on the custom union is well known and that has not changed."
 
The talks were held in a spirit of working together to achieve the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU, especially in the context of a shared determination to achieve a strong partnership for the future given the global challenges the EU and the UK face together in upholding open and fair trade, cooperation in the fight against climate change and terrorism and defending the rules-based international system.
 
The Prime Minister described the context in the UK Parliament, and the motivation behind last week's vote in the House of Commons seeking a legally binding change to the terms of the backstop. She raised various options for dealing with these concerns in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement in line with her commitments to the Parliament.
 
President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which represents a carefully balanced compromise between the European Union and the UK, in which both sides have made significant concessions to arrive at a deal. President Juncker however expressed his openness to add wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27 and the UK in order to be more ambitious in terms of content and speed when it comes to the future relationship between the European Union and the UK. President Juncker drew attention to the fact that any solution would have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the EU27.
 
The discussion was robust but constructive. Despite the challenges, the two leaders agreed that their teams should hold talks as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council. The Prime Minister and the President will meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.
 
 
Source: PmNews
Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have said they will recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro fails to announce a second vote before the eight-day ultimatum expires. France’s European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, told news men on Sunday that “if by tonight [President] Maduro does not commit to organizing presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaido as legitimate to organize them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place].” 
 
Maduro has dismissed calls from the EU nations as an “impertinence,” telling demonstrators at a rally on Saturday that “I am the true president of Venezuela.” The European Parliament recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim leader on Thursday. 
 
EU foreign ministers remain cautious about setting precedents for other opposition figures across the world, deciding each state within the 28-nation bloc would adopt its own stance on whether to recognize Guaido, or not. EU Brexit deal is ‘best and only solution’: German foreign minister On Saturday, rival mass rallies took place in Caracas with Maduro suggesting instead he would call an early parliamentary election, while Guaido presaged humanitarian imports from Colombia and Brazil for sanctions-hit Venezuelans for which US National Security Adviser John Bolton has proffered transport. 
 
Maduro has previously refused to let in aid, claiming it would precede a US-led military intervention. In a possible sign of weakening support for Maduro, the Reuters news agency reported that riot police had let demonstrators pass and assemble in at least three cities during Saturday’s rallies.
 
 
Source: Vanguard
The first-ever report on the health of refugees and migrants in Europe revealed that they tend to be healthier than the residents of host countries.
 
Australia has announced the last four children still in Nauru detention centre will soon be moved to the US after the two countries struck a deal.
 
Nauru is a tiny island country, covering just 21km2, located northeast of Australia and close to the equator where hot and humid temperatures prevail all year.
 
It was one of two camps where refugees and asylum seekers were put after Australia announced five years ago that anyone who tried to claim asylum after arriving by sea would never be allowed to settle.
 
Scheer says Trudeau damaged ‘integrity’ of immigration system
 
Andrew Scheer says a 2017 tweet by Justin Trudeau welcoming refugees to Canada has weakened the immigration system. The Tory leader says irregular border crossings lead to longer waits for those hoping to immigrate “the right way.”
 
"Every asylum seeker child has now been removed from Nauru or has had their claim processed and has a clear path off the island," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
 
Women, families and children were held on Nauru, while single men were kept on Manus, an island belonging to Papua New Guinea (PNG), where some of them were kept for five years.
 
New Zealand 'back door'
 
At least 46 children were born on Nauru.
 
"Over the past five months, we've been working quietly and methodically to remove children from Nauru. Today, there are only four children on Nauru and they will resettle permanently in the US," David Coleman, Australian Immigration minister, told reporters.
 
When Morrison took over as prime minister last August, there were 113 asylum-seeking children on Nauru.
 
The US agreed in 2016 to accept up to 1 250 refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, but the vast majority of them have not yet been accepted.
 
New Zealand has also offered to take some of the refugees, but Australia has declined the offer because it fears that would allow asylum seekers to enter through the "back door".
 
Australia has stopped publishing data on the number of refugees held in the centres. Local media and refugee advocates estimate close to 1 000 people are currently held.
 
According to David Manne, legal expert with the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, Sunday's announcement is good news for the children but said Australia still had no policy on what to do with ones who might arrive in the future.
 
"After years and years of around 200 children being sent from Australia to Nauru and being held in cruel and degrading conditions, finally they can rebuild their lives after the devastating harm that has been caused to them," Manne said.
 
"Any future arrivals under the Australian policy would resolve in other children being held in the same kind of inhuman conditions. What we don't have is any significant and detailed shift in Australian policy if asylum seekers were to assert their fundamental human rights to seek asylum."
 
 
Source:News24
Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes - the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.
 
MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain's exit from the EU on 29 March.
 
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.
 
The confidence vote is expected to be held at about 1900 GMT on Wednesday.
 
But DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party, which keeps Mrs May in power, would be supporting her in Wednesday's confidence vote.
 
She told the BBC MPs had "acted in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom" by voting down the deal.
 
But she added: "We will give the government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal."
 
Some 118 Conservative MPs voted with the opposition parties against Mrs May's deal.
 
Only three Labour MPs supported the prime minister's deal: Ian Austin (Dudley North), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) and John Mann (Bassetlaw).
 
In normal times, such a crushing defeat on a key piece of government legislation would be expected to be followed by a prime ministerial resignation.
 
But Mrs May signalled her intention to carry on in a statement immediately after the vote.
 
"The House has spoken and this government will listen," she told MPs.
 
She offered cross-party talks to determine a way forward on Brexit, if she succeeded in winning the confidence vote.
 
Former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson said it was a "bigger defeat than people have been expecting" - and it meant Mrs May's deal was now "dead".
 
But he said it gave the prime minister a "massive mandate to go back to Brussels" to negotiate a better deal, without the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.
 
And he said he would back Mrs May in Wednesday's confidence vote.
 
Labour MP Chuka Umunna said that if his leader did not secure a general election, Mr Corbyn should do what the "overwhelming majority" of Labour members want and get behind a further EU referendum.
 
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, who also wants a second referendum, said Mrs May's defeat was "the beginning of the end of Brexit" - but conceded that campaigners would not get one without Mr Corbyn's backing.
 
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mrs May had suffered "a defeat of historic proportions" and called again for the Article 50 "clock to be stopped" in order for another referendum to take place.
 
"We have reached the point now where it would be unconscionable to kick the can any further down the road," she said.
 
However, government minister Rory Stewart said there was no majority in the Commons for any Brexit plan, including another referendum.
 
How a confidence motion works
By the BBC's head of political research Peter Barnes
 
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, UK general elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022.
 
But a vote of no confidence lets MPs decide on whether they want the government to continue. The motion must be worded: "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government."
 
If a majority of MPs vote for the motion then it starts a 14-day countdown.
 
If during that time the current government, or any other alternative government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called.
 
That election cannot happen for at least 25 working days.
 
In her statement to MPs, Mrs May said she planned to return to the Commons next Monday with an alternative plan - if she survives the confidence vote.
 
She said she would explore any ideas from cross-party talks with the EU, but she remained committed to delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum.
 
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said he regretted the outcome of the vote and urged the UK government to "clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible".
 
 
Source: BBC
The European Union (EU) has deployed an election observation mission to Nigeria to monitor the general elections coming up in February.
 
In a statement issued on Friday, the Press Officer, Modestus Chukwulaka, said the Election Observation Mission Team consists of 11 EU election analysts.
 
According to Chukwulaka, the team arrived in Nigeria on January 4, 2019 and will remain in the country until the completion of the elections.
 
They will also be joined later in January by 40 long-term observers who will be deployed across the country.
 
Chukwulaka also stated that the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, appointed Maria Arena as Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM).
 
Mogherini believes that the deployment of an EU EOM under the leadership of Arena will contribute to an inclusive and transparent electoral process.
 
She said, “As Africa’s largest economy and a key political and economic player in West Africa, Nigeria is an important partner for the EU.
 
“The EU is committed to supporting Nigeria’s path towards stronger democracy and further political stability, building on the 2015 general elections. I am confident that the deployment of an EU EOM under the leadership of Chief Observer Maria Arena, will contribute to an inclusive and transparent electoral process.”
 
On her part, the Chief Observer said, “It is a great honour for me to lead this important EU Election Observation Mission to Nigeria. I am hopeful that our observation will provide a meaningful contribution to the electoral and democratic process in Nigeria.”
 
The deployment of the EU Election Observation Mission, according to Chukwulaka, follows an invitation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
 
The EU has consistently accompanied electoral processes and deployed an EOM to Nigeria’s general elections since 1999, as part of its commitment to supporting credible, transparent and inclusive elections in the country.
 
 
 
Vodafone said Thursday it planned to cut up to 1,200 jobs in Spain as it streamlines its organisation to cope with a drop in revenue and profits in a fiercely competitive telecommunications market.
 
In a statement, the group said it would kick off consultations with worker representatives at the end of January with a view of cutting “a maximum of 1,200” posts out of around 5,100 in Spain.
 
“In the current market context, demand for services is increasing exponentially but prices aren’t: close to 50 percent of… memberships are associated with ‘low and medium cost’ offers,” the statement read.
 
It added that had caused a drop in revenues and profits “in the first six months of the current tax year.”
 
The group also said it needed to streamline the organisation.
 
The news comes after the British telecoms giant in November launched a new 1.2-billion-euro cost-cutting plan as it faced heavy losses.
 
Newly-installed chief executive Nick Read had said at the time that there were “challenging competitive conditions in Italy and Spain.”
 
Vodafone launched recently discount brand Bit into the Spanish market and cut prices at its low-cost operation in Italy, as the operator stepped up efforts to address stiff price competition in the two markets.
 
This will be Vodafone’s third redundancy plan in Spain in seven years, said Diego Gallart, a telecoms representative with Spain’s second largest union UGT.
 
“There are other ways to manage a telecoms company than carrying out a redundancy plan every three years,” he told AFP.
 
“Instead it is changing in the management of Vodafone Spain which are needed,” he added.
 
Vodafone workers in Spain already work a lot of overtime and suffer from work stress while management has made “strategic errors” such as only recently getting into audiovisual content creation, Gallart said.
 
Vodafone Spain announced in November that it would focus on cinema and TV series after deciding not to offer more football since according to the company this was not profitable.
 
Also on Thursday, Belgian telecoms operator, Proximus announced it planned to cut 1,900 jobs over the next three years but pledged to recruit 1,250 other people over that period specialised in digital technology.
 
Proximus boss Dominique Leroy cited “aggressive market conditions… that leaves us no choice.”
 
 
Source: Business Insider

“It just needs to be sorted,” said 23-year-old Adam Green, a frustrated Leave voter in Brexit-backing Sunderland, where patience with parliamentary delays over Britain’s departure is wearing thin.

The former shipbuilding city in northeast England, where the Nissan carmaker plant is now the lifeblood, played a starring role in Britain’s seismic decision to leave the European Union.

The city’s 61 percent vote in favour of leaving in the 2016 referendum signalled early on where the nation was heading on the night of June 23, 2016 and celebrations at the count were beamed worldwide.

Now, as MPs prepare for Tuesday’s decision on whether or not to back the divorce deal struck between London and Brussels, voters in Sunderland are urging them to get on with it and get Britain out.

The years of wrangling since the referendum over how, or even if, Britain leaves have certainly dampened the high spirits of that 2016 June night.

“It’s become an absolute joke,” said Green, who is unemployed for medical reasons, as he stood outside the Bridges main shopping centre.

“It’s disrespecting my vote completely. Myself and my whole family voted for us to come out,” he said.

“The MPs need to get their heads down and get us out.

Sunderland's Nissan carmaking plant is now the lifeblood of the former shipbuilding city
Sunderland’s Nissan carmaking plant is now the lifeblood of the former shipbuilding city | © AFP/File | OLI SCARFF

“I just want it over and done with because I’m sick of hearing about Brexit,” he added.

The University of Sunderland campus was built in the 1990s on the site of former shipyards that once dominated the banks of the River Wear in this working-class city of 275,000 people.

Sunderland was a coal trading port, had its own collieries, was a glassmaking centre and boasted a major brewery.

The heavy industry has largely evaporated, though the docks are still going and ships’ horns echo amongst the cranes.

– ‘Anti-elite feeling’ –

Besides its current carmaking prowess, Sunderland’s pride now rests on its football team.

Despite two straight relegations to the third-tier League One, the Black Cats still draw huge crowds to games at their 49,000-seater Stadium of Light, built on the site of a disused coal mine.

On match days, the stadium roar drifts throughout Sunderland’s streets.

A pit wheel in front of the Stadium of Light. The city's pride now rests on its football team
A pit wheel in front of the Stadium of Light. The city’s pride now rests on its football team | © AFP/File | GRAHAM STUART

“Sunderland is a city where people feel quite rooted, with a strong sense of community,” said Peter Hayes, the university’s senior lecturer in politics.

“That perhaps makes them feel a little bit less cosmopolitan,” he told AFP.

“There’s a kind of anti-elite feeling in Sunderland,” he said, explaining the Leave vote — which went against Japanese automaker Nissan’s preference.

“If we leave the EU on bad terms, there are very serious economic problems that Sunderland is going to face,” he added, saying that if Nissan shifted production to Europe, it would be a “disaster”.

Britain’s largest car factory employs more than 7,000 workers and builds 500,000 vehicles per year, including the Juke, Qashqai and electric Leaf models. Some 55 percent are exported tariff-free to the EU.

Stephen O’Brien, a city councillor for the pro-EU opposition Liberal Democrats, said a no-deal Brexit’s effect on the city’s manufacturing would be “more devastating than losing the pits and the boat industry”.

– ‘Out on a limb’ –

Strolling along Roker Beach, a sweeping bay where kayakers brave the chilly North Sea, 67-year-old Brian Halse said: “It’s just a shambles. I did vote for Brexit. I would like us to go out. I think we’re better off by ourselves.

“I like (Prime Minister) Theresa May but nobody’s backing her the way they should. We should all stick together and go out the best way we can.”

Ronnie Quinn, 60, picking litter on the riverbank by the Wearmouth Bridge, said MPs were “acting like children” instead of upholding the referendum result.

A St George's cross flag flies by a mural promoting Sunderland's bid to be 2021 UK City of Culture
A St George’s cross flag flies by a mural promoting Sunderland’s bid to be 2021 UK City of Culture | © AFP/File | SCOTT HEPPELL

“I voted to leave — and we won. The country’s made a choice and they should all be working together to shift Britain out,” he said.

“I would prefer no deal. The country did all right before the EU.”

But Liz Sulaiman, 74, out walking her dog on the seafront, said she was more worried about the effects of a potential no-deal Brexit on her grandchildren.

“Sunderland’s already not doing so well so I don’t think it’s going to do any better,” the housewife said.

“You’re going to lose a lot of jobs. We don’t need that in the northeast. It’s all happening in the south; they don’t seem to care about us. We’re just out on a limb and if we lose Nissan, we lose an awful lot.”

 

© 2019 AFP

The UK's leading business and industry groups are set to make major public interventions on Brexit next week amid growing panic over the prospect of leaving the European Union without a deal.
 
Several of the country's biggest groups are preparing urgent statements for the likely event of Theresa May's Brexit deal with Brussels being voted down by MPs in the House of Commons next Tuesday.
 
Business and industry leaders are increasingly concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, despite new moves by MPs of all parties to deter the prime minister from contemplating it.
 
Press has learnt that the Freight Transport Association - the group representing UK logistic companies like those that carry goods from Dover to Europe - has prepared a list of emergency "mini-deals" which it will publicly call on the UK government to arrange with Brussels in order to limit the disruption of a no-deal scenario.
 
The FTA's highest-priority demands are permits for UK truck drivers to travel to the EU, measures to prevent planes being grounded, and the avoidance of changes to VAT rules which would be particularly costly for small businesses.
 
"The government cannot sleep until we have these things by March 2019," James Hookham, the FTA's Deputy Chief Executive, told Business Insider.
 
He added: "I'm not going to let the logistics industry take the fall for political indulgence. It'll be messy, expensive and not end well, and caused by people who suffer from ignorance or privilege. Or both."
 
Another of the country's biggest industry groups also confirmed it is planning a public intervention, with an insider telling news men: "If the deal falls next week we are in completely different territory and our response will reflect that."
 
It'll be messy, expensive and not end well, and caused by people who suffer from ignorance or privilege. Or both.
Other groups and trade associations are weighing up how they'll respond to the prime minister's deal being rejected.
 
A senior figure at another leading business group said that it was preparing for "the severity of the situation to increase significantly" next week.
 
The UK business community is preparing to "rise up with their pitchforks" next week if MPs vote to reject the Withdrawal Agreement next week, another source said.
 
Craig Beaumont, Head of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, told News men that while the FSB had not yet prepared an official response, the government should consider delaying Brexit if May's deal falls on Tuesday.
 
"Whatever happens next, we want to avoid a chaotic no-deal on March 29 and secure the transition that we asked for and won from both sides. We can only get that with a deal," he said.
 
"So in that scenario, an extension of Article 50 should be considered so a deal can be found."
 
Virendra Sharma - Labour MP and supporter of anti-Brexit group Best For Britain - told BI: "I'm happy to say that businesses small and large across the country believe the prime minister's deal is dead already that's why it's time for a second referendum with remain as an option.
 
"The Tories used to be the party of business, now they are the party of national disaster."
 
MPs across the House of Commons are mobilising to try and block the government from leaving the EU without a deal. On Tuesday night, MPs voted by 303-296 for an amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper which will block the Treasury carrying out basic tasks like changing tax levels if it pursues a no-deal Brexit.
 
It followed growing pressure from within May's Cabinet for her to rule out a no-deal.
 
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told a meeting of May's Cabinet on Tuesday that history would take "a dim view" of the government if it allowed a no-deal Brexit to take place.
 
Business Secretary Greg Clark also became the first senior figure in May's government to signal that he would resign if a no-deal Brexit were pursued.
 
Clark told MPs on Tuesday that leaving without a deal "should not be contemplated."
 
"It is essential that we should be able to continue to trade," Clark said. "It's why I've always been clear, representing very strongly the views of small business and large business, that no-deal should not be contemplated."
 
The government has repeatedly reassured MPs, businesses and the general public that the UK will be prepared to leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement in March should the Article 50 clock run down.
 
Last week, the Department for Transport assessed how quickly 89 lorries could reach the port of Dover from a make-shift holding park in Kent, as part of efforts to prevent huge queues of vehicles at the border.
 
Despite the work taking place, there is increasing worry among business and industry that government departments are not equipped to address the myriad complications that would arise from leaving the EU without a deal.
 
"With every new minister comes an 'oh my god' moment where they get their brief and realise what they are dealing with," the FTA's Hookham told BI.
 
The mayor of Ostend, Belgium yesterday cast doubt over UK plans to create a ferry route between the east coast of England and Ostend, saying that it'll be "impossible" for the Belgian port to be ready in time for Brexit.
 
The plan was already under the spotlight after it emerged that the company hired by the UK government to oversee the new route owned no ships and had never operated a ferry service before.
 
 
Source: PmNews
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