Foreign News

Downing Street warns MPs not to block Brexit

Attempts by backbench MPs to remove the government's power to deliver Brexit are "extremely concerning", Downing Street has said.

On Monday one group of MPs will present a bill that could allow Brexit to be delayed if Parliament does not approve an EU withdrawal agreement.

According to the Sunday Times, another group led by Dominic Grieve wishes to pause Brexit by suspending Article 50.

But Downing Street said it was "vital" MPs delivered on the referendum result.

What are the amendments being proposed?

UK Economic Growth Hits Six-month Low

Britain’s economy cooled in the three months to November, expanding at its weakest pace in six months as factories suffered from tough global trade conditions ahead of Brexit, official data showed on Friday.

Manufacturers suffered their longest period of monthly falls in output since the financial crisis, hurt by weaker overseas demand, the Office for National Statistics said.

Ethiopia’s Parliament Approves Sahle-Work Zewde as First Female President

Ethiopia’s parliament has approved senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president, proceedings on state television showed, cementing another shift in the country’s political system from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Sahle-Work is at present U.N. under-secretary general and special representative of the secretary general to the African Union. She replaces Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, who tendered his resignation to parliament earlier on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

South Africa: Ramaphosa Takes Charge

Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as South Africa’s president in a parliamentary vote on Thursday and pledged to tackle endemic corruption after scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma resigned on orders from the ruling African National Congress, Reuters reports.

Ramaphosa faces an uphill battle in revitalising growth, creating jobs and stamping out a culture of graft in a nation still polarised by race and inequality more than two decades after the end of white-minority rule.

Corruption Allegations: Jacob Zuma Bows to Pressure

Barely 24 hours after he promised to quit office within three to six months, South Africa’s embattled President Jacob Zuma has resigned with immediate effect.

He made the announcement in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening, BBC reports.

Earlier, Mr Zuma’s governing ANC party told him to step down or face a vote of no confidence in parliament on Thursday.

The 75-year-old has been under increasing pressure to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from Zuma as the ANC’s new leader.

China’s FX Reserves hit $3.14tr

China’s foreign exchange reserves rose to $3.14 trillion in December, their highest in more than a year, blowing past economists’ estimates, central bank data showed on Sunday.

Notching up their 11th straight month of gains, reserves added $20.2 billion in December to hit the record $3.14 trillion, the highest since September 2016 and the biggest monthly increase since July. That compares with an increase of $10 billion in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected reserves to rise by $6 billion to $3.125 trillion.

Saudi and UAE Introduce VAT for First Time

Value Added Tax (VAT) has been introduced in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

The 5% levy is being applied to the majority of goods and services.

Gulf states have long attracted foreign workers with the promise of tax-free living.

But governments want to increase revenue in the face of lower oil prices.

The tax kicked in on 1 January in both countries.

The UAE estimates that in the first year, VAT income will be around 12 billion dirhams (£2.4bn; $3.3bn).

UN Approves $5.4b Budget for 2018-2019

The UN General Assembly has approved nearly 5.4 billion dollars programme budget for the its operations for the year 2018 to 2019.

The budget covers UN activities across a range of areas, including political affairs, international justice and law, regional cooperation for development, human rights and humanitarian affairs, and public information.

Most UK Businesses Hit by Rising Employment Costs

Four out of five UK businesses have seen costs rise because of changes in employment legislation, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reports.

The apprenticeship levy, pensions auto-enrolment and a new higher minimum wage have increased business costs.

The BCC's annual workforce survey interviewed some 1,400 businesses.

The trade body wants the government to ensure no new upfront costs or taxes are imposed on businesses for the remainder of this Parliament.

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