Bitesized Blighty: March 15, 2019

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  • MPs have been busy this week - with Brexit votes every night for three days in a row. On Tuesday, MPs voted to reject Theresa May's so-called 'meaningful vote', her original proposed deal, with some minor changes. The deal was rejected 391 to 242. Then on Wednesday, MPs voted to rule out a No-Deal Brexit 'under all circumstances'. Finally, the parliament voted on Thursday for the Prime Minister to request an extension of article 50, thereby delaying a Brexit from the EU to give the UK a little longer to draw up an agreeable Brexit plan. Currently, the UK is legally scheduled to leave the EU by the March 29 date, and a no-deal Brexit is still the default position for the UK on 29 March. This means that despite MPs voting to rule out a no-deal Brexit and to delay Brexit, most of these votes are not legally binding. So if nothing else changes in the next two weeks, at 23:00 on 29 March, the UK will Brexit with no-deal agreed. In summary, this week’s Parliamentary proceeding has left Mrs May with a lot of homework as although the votes do not become law, politically, they're hard for her to ignore. The Prime Minister could be making a formal request for an extension during the EU leaders' summit, which is scheduled for 21 to 22 March, and the outcome is anyone’s guess.
  • British shoppers have been stockpiling painkillers and toilet paper, according to Morrison, Britain’s fourth-biggest supermarket. Dave Potts, the boss of Morrison said that the spike in sales of these products was noted with 16 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU. In a comment, Mr Potts said: "We've seen quite a tick up in painkillers and toilet rolls this financial year… Whether that's got any bearing on how people are feeling about the Brexit process, I don't know". His remarks build on reports that shoppers are taking action in case a hard Brexit results in delays to supplies and shortages. According to research firm Kantar Worldpanel, Brexit fears have prompted one in 10 shoppers to start stockpiling food. The Bank of England has also noted evidence of stockpiling among British businesses and figures suggest the UK is running out of warehouse space as a result. Despite a slowdown in recent retail sales growth it reported a rise of almost 9% in underlying pre-tax profits to £406m. Despite uncertainties over Brexit, it looks like the country’s fourth-largest supermarket is flush with cash!
  • The UK is building an offshore windfarm that will dwarf the world’s largest when completed and will supply its first power to the UK electricity grid this week. The windfarm is being built on the Yorkshire coast with the first of 174 turbines to be installed in Hornsea One, covering 407 sq km, five times the size of the nearby city of Hull. At 1.2GW of capacity it will power 1m homes, making it about twice as powerful as today’s biggest offshore windfarm once it is completed in the second half of this year. The size of the project takes the burgeoning offshore wind power sector to a new scale, on a par with conventional fossil fuel-fired power stations. The Danish developer Ørsted, said it was ready to step up its plans and fill the gap left by failed nuclear power schemes. Henrik Poulsen, Ørsted’s chief executive, said the UK has a great wind resource and shallow enough seabed to exploit it, and could even “power most of Europe if it [the UK] went to the extreme with offshore”, he said. Ørsted are in close dialogue with major manufacturers to use the new generation of turbines, some of which are expected to approach the height of the Shard in London, the tallest building in the EU. The UK and Germany installed 85% of new offshore wind power capacity in the EU last year, according to industry data. The average power rating of the turbines is getting bigger too, up 15% in 2018. Like other international energy companies, Ørsted has put in place contingency planning in event of a no-deal Brexit – but the hope is that will not come to pass. “We want a Brexit deal that will facilitate an orderly transition out of the union,” said Poulsen. 

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