LONDON, July 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Companies in Britain must strive to rein in excessive executive pay, pay more heed to staff and make boards more diverse under a new "short and sharper" corporate code, published on Monday.
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has updated its non-binding 26-year old code of corporate standards for publicly listed companies, which must comply with it or explain in annual reports to shareholders if they do not.
The government has shown no appetite to force companies to implement the code.
The new 15-page code, about half the length of the current version, comes as the watchdog, which oversees company governance standards and accountants, faces a review to see if it can uphold high corporate standards to maintain Britain's attractions as a place to invest after Brexit.
The code, the result of a public consultation, comes into effect for accounting purposes from next January.
"These changes will drive improvements in how boardrooms engage with employees, customers and suppliers as well as shareholders, delivering better business performance and public confidence in the way businesses are run," said Greg Clark, Britain's business minister.
British lawmakers have called for tougher corporate governance standards following a row between food retailer Tesco and its suppliers and the collapse of retailer BHS and outsourcer Carillion. And shareholders have become much more active in terms of rejecting some executive pay deals.
"This new code, in its short and sharper form, and with its overarching theme of trust, is paramount in promoting transparency and integrity in business for society as a whole," FRC Chairman Win Bischoff said.
Royal London Asset Management said that, "Ultimately though, tangible results will come from institutional investors who have the potential to drive change through their power as the ultimate owners of companies."
There is a new provision for greater board engagement with the workforce to understand their views - aimed at reinforcing an existing provision in law since 2006 which has had a patchy impact - but stopping short of calling for worker representation on boards.
"Whilst our inclination is for there to be an employee elected representative as a director on the board, the code is right to put the onus on company boards to determine what the optimal approach is in their specific context," said Saker Nusseibeh, chief executive of Hermes Investment Management.
This, along with a requirement to have "whistleblowing" mechanisms that allow directors and staff to raise concerns for effective investigation, mark the biggest broadening of corporate standards in many years, the FRC said.
LONDON, July 16, 2018 (News Wires) - A former UK Cabinet minister from the ruling Conservative Party on Monday called for a new Brexit referendum, an idea long assailed by the prime minister.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening told the BBC that Parliament is "gridlocked" over Britain's exit from the European Union. She said that she and other senior Tory lawmakers favor a new vote.
Greening said that she would campaign to keep Britain in the EU if a new referendum is held.
There is mounting pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May coming from both sides of the Brexit debate. Her recent "white paper" outlining plans for a "common rule book" with the EU over trade in goods has infuriated those who favor a complete break.
May defended her plan as she opened the Farnborough International Airshow. She said it would safeguard vital jobs in the aviation industry and keep Britain's tradition as a nation in the forefront of the aviation industry.
The issue is sensitive because Airbus signaled in June that it would have to consider its long-term plans for Britain if there is no Brexit deal.
May said the plan outlined in the white paper honors the wishes of British voters - who in June 2016 backed Brexit with 52 percent of the vote - while protecting industry and security.
Her office has said there will be no second referendum under any conditions. Her authority has been weakened with the resignations of major figures Boris Johnson and David Davis and a series of lesser officials who disagree with her Brexit plan.
Parliament will debate aspects of the Brexit proposal later Monday, when May will face efforts by hard-line Brexit backers to use a series of amendments to limit her government's ability to set up the customs arrangement she seeks - one that would keep close ties with the EU.
It will be seen as a fresh sign of weakness if she has to compromise again on these plans.
The skirmishes are expected to continue Tuesday when a trade bill is debated.
LONDON, July 15, 2018 (News Wires) -- Prime Minister Theresa May has warned there may be "no Brexit at all" because of lawmakers' attempts to undermine her plan to leave the European Union.
"My message to the country this weekend is simple: we need to keep our eyes on the prize," May wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. "If we don't, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all."
Earlier this week two senior ministers resigned in protest at May's plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc next March. Her blueprint was then criticised in a newspaper interview by US President Donald Trump, a position he backtracked on during a meeting with May on Friday.
May also wrote in the Mail on Sunday article that Britain would take a tough stance in its next round of negotiations with the EU.
"Some people have asked whether our Brexit deal is just a starting point from which we will regress," she said. "Let me be clear. Our Brexit deal is not some long wish-list from which negotiators get to pick and choose. It is a complete plan with a set of outcomes that are non-negotiabl
BERLIN, July 14, 2018 (News Wires) - German business groups have urged their members to step up preparations for a hard Brexit that would see Britain crash out of the European Union next year without negotiating a deal.
British Prime Minister Theresa May secured a cabinet agreement last week for "a business-friendly" proposal to leave the EU, aimed at spurring stalled Brexit talks. But the hard-won compromise has come under fire from within her governing Conservative Party and may yet fall flat with EU negotiators.
"Even if the British government is moving now, companies must plan for the scenario in which there is no agreement," Joachim Lang, managing director of the BDI, Germany's biggest industry lobby, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Thilo Brodtmann, managing director of the VDMA engineering association, told the same paper: "It is urgent to prepare for Brexit and to expect the worst case scenario."
German industry is concerned about increased friction in trade with Britain after Brexit. Britain is the second-biggest export market for German car manufacturers.
But Lang said some German businesses were only just starting to analyse what Brexit would mean for them, adding: "At least that has moved us forward from a few months ago."
Brodtmann warned engineering firms against being lured into a sense of complacency by stable business in Britain now.
"Brexit is such a big nonsense that many companies still hope it will not be that bad because the EU will not allow a hard landing for the economy. But I can only warn against that," he said.
LONDON, July 13, 2018 (MENA) - The Egyptian embassy in London succeeded Friday in retrieving an ancient Islamic Egyptian manuscript that was on sale at an auction house.
In a statement on Friday, the embassy said in an effort to preserve Egyptian heritage and cultural holdings, it succeeded in cooperation with Egyptian National Library and Archives in retrieving an ancient Islamic manuscript that was on sale at Bonhams auction house in London.
The embassy underlined that the manuscript entitled "The Summarized in Science of History" by Mohammed bin Sulaiman Masood Al Kafiji, which belongs to the Egyptian National Library and Archives, but was lost in the seventies of the last century.
CHEQUERS, England, July 13, 2018 (News Wires) - President Donald Trump said on Friday he had a very strong relationship with British Prime Minister Theresa May, having earlier scorned her Brexit strategy which he said had probably killed off hope for a future US-British trade deal.
In an interview published just hours before he was due to have lunch with May and tea with Queen Elizabeth on Friday, Trump chided the “very unfortunate” results of the prime minister’s strategy for negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the Rupert Murdoch- owned Sun newspaper.
“I would have done it much differently,” he told The Sun, which urged its readers to back Brexit before a referendum in June 2016. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”
Trump also heaped praise on Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary this week along with Brexit Secretary David Davis in protest at May’s strategy. Johnson, the president said, “would be a great prime minister”.
No sitting US president has ever made such biting public criticism of a British prime minister while visiting, and his comments undermined May in her party, her country and abroad.
But, as the leaders met for talks at May’s official country residence Chequers, both tried to play down the president’s interventioninto the Brexit debate.
“We really have a very good relationship,” Trump said. “Today we are talking trade and we are talking military.”
Asked by a US reporter if he regretted his comments to the Sun, Trump looked away and shook his head. “We’ve got a lot to discuss,” May said, adding they would talk about the British-US. “special relationship” and opportunities for a trade deal.
Sterling fell half a percent to a 1 1/2-week low of $1.3131, partly on Trump’s comments in the newspaper interview.
“Where are your manners, Mr President?” asked Sam Gyimah, a junior minister in May’s government.
As Britain prepares to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, supporters of Brexit have made much of the so-called special relationship with the United States and the benefits of forging closer trade ties with the world’s biggest economy.
Many have cast May’s plan as a betrayal, including lawmakers in her deeply divided Conservative Party, who have warned that she might face a leadership challenge.
Jacob Rees-Mogg - a leading Conservative Brexiteer and considered a potential alternative party leader by some - said it was perfectly reasonable for Trump to make such comments, adding that May now had an opportunity to change her mind on her Brexit plan.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the president “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much,” adding that he said in the interview she “is a very good person” and that he “never said anything bad about her”.
For supporters, Trump and Brexit offer the prospect of breaking free from what they see as obsolete institutions and rules. But for many British diplomats, Brexit marks the collapse of a 70-year strategy of trying to balance European integration with a US alliance based on blood, trade and intelligence sharing.
Trump has frequently angered British politicians. Late last year, May criticized him for retweeting a message by a member of a British far-right group, and the speaker of parliament has said Trump would not be welcome to address the chamber.
More than 64,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London against Trump’s visit, one of more than 100 protests expected during his four-day visit. On Friday, protesters flew a blimp depicting the US president as an orange, snarling baby outside the British parliament.
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump told the Sun.