Bitesized Blighty: April 5, 2019

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  • Brexit: EU's Donald Tusk 'suggests 12-month flexible delay': European Council President Donald Tusk is proposing to offer the UK a 12-month "flexible" extension to its Brexit date, according to a senior EU source. His plan, which would need to be agreed by EU leaders at a summit next week, would allow the UK to leave sooner if Parliament ratifies a deal. The UK's Conservatives and Labour Party are set to continue Brexit talks later. Theresa May has written to Mr Tusk with the UK's request for a further delay to Brexit until 30 June. The UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April and, as yet, no withdrawal deal has been approved by MPs. Downing Street said "technical" talks between Labour and the Conservatives on Thursday had been "productive" and would continue on Friday. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has told the BBC that if they fail, the delay is "likely to be a long one". Prime Minister Theresa May has said a further postponement to the Brexit date is needed if the UK is to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, a scenario both EU leaders and many British MPs believe would create problems for businesses and cause difficulties at ports. Read more.
  • Gender pay gap figures show eight in 10 UK firms pay men more than women: A quarter of companies and public sector bodies have a pay gap of more than 20% in favour of men, according to new gender pay gap figures. There was no significant improvement in the gender pay gap between 2017 and 2018 with the gap shrinking slightly from 9.7% to 9.6%. Almost eight in 10 companies still pay their male employees more, leading one MP to say Britain still has a “long way to go” to tackle the gap. All organisations with more than 250 employees have to publish their gender pay gap. The deadline for the public sector was 31 March, while charities and companies have until midnight on 4 April to file. Of the 9,961 companies which had filed by 5pm on 4 April, 7,755 paid male employees more than female staff based on median hourly pay. Almost a third of businesses had gaps which were worse than the national average for full- and part-time workers, which the Office of National Statistics calculates at 17.9%. More than a quarter of companies pay women over 20% less than men based on median hourly pay. Just 1.5% pay male employees 20% less than their female staff. Read more.
  • Amal Clooney appointed Foreign office special envoy: Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has been appointed as the government's special envoy on media freedom, the Foreign Office has announced. Ms Clooney and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will work to "counter draconian laws that hinder journalists from going about their work", the FCO said. Mr Hunt said violence against reporters had reached "alarming levels globally". Ms Clooney, who will not receive a fee for her work, said she was "honoured" to take on the role. "Through my legal work defending journalists I have seen first-hand the ways in which reporters are being targeted and imprisoned in an effort to silence them and prevent a free media," added Ms Clooney, who last year joined the legal team defending two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar. British-Lebanese barrister Ms Clooney is known for taking on high-profile human rights cases. Read more.

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