The data security world has been rocked by Yahoo’s revelation that it had been the victim of a “state sponsored” hack leading to the exposure of 500 million user accounts. Beyond the sheer scale of the breach, its significance lies in the apparent lack of transparency with users, who were only notified this week when the incident is reported to have occurred in 2014. This opacity does not appear limited to Yahoo’s customers since even Verizon, which is acquiring Yahoo for $4.8 billion, has issued a public statement clarifying that it had only received “limited information and understanding of the impact”.
The pro-Kremlin United Russia party secured a supermajority of 76% of the seats in the State Duma elections earlier this week. The result reflected changes to the boundaries (merging rural and urban areas), voting system (combining single constituency and lists) and indeed the season (from mid-winter to early autumn). These changes led to a rock solid position for United Russia deputies in the parliament, a reduced turnout and no repeat of the street protests that gave Vladimir Putin his closest brush with mortality in the winter of 2011.
One of the consistent themes of the UK referendum campaign on EU membership was just how hard it would be to re-establish trading terms between the two sides if the UK was outside the EU. Opponents of exit warned that it could take many years for the EU and the UK to negotiate a ‘Free Trade Agreement’ (FTA). To be sure, the EU’s own experience with such negotiations has rarely produced a final deal in less than five years, and Parliamentary ratification can extend this further.
In the end, the energy wonks were disappointed. Weeks of speculation about Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant were ended by the go-ahead for a deal which looks remarkably similar to the one previously on the table. The changes, and where they came from, were not about energy but security. The proposals which accompanied the decision are something of a glimpse into the post-Brexit future. However, some of the bolder claims, that they mark a serious retrenchment from Britain’s status as the most open of economies, should be treated with caution, as should any attempt to link the proposals directly to Brexit.
Ten weeks after the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, emotions are still running high in Brussels when you mention the B-word. The mere suggestion that Brexit will raise material problems that will need careful and pragmatic consideration on both sides of the channel, appears to some as a provocation. A range of reactions were on display at the DLDeurope conference in Brussels on Monday, when, on the one hand, a young lawyer, working for a UK-French law firm argued that the remaining EU member states were delighted by the UK’s departure from the European Union, because the country has been “a pain in the bottom”; on the other, a senior German journalist noted that “everybody is reflecting on how to keep the UK in”. How can perceptions on the same topic diverge so much? And how will this play into the development of EU policy?
It was interesting to watch the new UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis face-off for the first time with the British Parliament this week. As expected, he was pushed on the detail of his vision for the future relationship between the EU and the UK and he ultimately got in trouble with his boss in Number 10 for sounding a bit too sure on the question of whether the UK would leave the EU single market.
As a £400bn investor in the British economy, the Japanese deserve the attention of the UK Government on the question of how Brexit is handled. The economic relationship with Tokyo is important. Japan is a big trading partner, providing the destination for 1.5% of British goods exports and 2.6% of services last year. It’s a top tier inward investor, accounting for 3.5% of the stock of direct investment in Britain. But it is in a different class as a portfolio investor, with no less than a 5.3% share.
Yesterday brought a remarkable turn-around in the fortunes of Hutchison and its plans to acquire greater market share in Europe’s mobile markets, only months after its acquisition of Telefonica’s O2 had been rejected. The European Commission announced that it had approved a joint venture between WIND and H3G in Italy, owned respectively by Vimpelcom and Hutchison, two of the country’s four major mobile operators.
Alok Sharma’s first visit to China this week as the UK’s new Minister for Asia and the Pacific has been somewhat overshadowed by tensions over the Hinkley point investment. Sharma will no doubt have gone equipped with reassurances that the UK is still committed to a strong relationship with China, including the promise that new Prime Minister Theresa May will make the trip to the G20 in Hangzhou next month. But Sharma will also have been charged with laying some of the preliminary groundwork for a possible future trade deal with Beijing after the UK has exited the EU. UK Development Minister Priti Patel was in India earlier this week with a similar message about the UK’s appetite for future trade relations.