The Spanish parliament’s vote earlier this week to raise the minimum wage from 655 to 800 euros a month - despite the opposition of the governing People’s Party (PP) - highlights the unusual situation that the PP finds itself in, of having to govern in a parliament where a hostile opposition has a majority.
GC has just published a report with colleagues from Herbert Smith Freehills and The Boston Consulting Group looking at some of the implications of a ‘hard Brexit’ for traders between the EU and the UK. Media coverage of the report has focused on the headline issue of tariffs being re-imposed on EU-UK trade. But, among many other things, the report flags the important issue of changes to British investors’ rights of recourse in the EU, which is often not well appreciated by businesses.
Russia woke up this morning to news unprecedented in its modern history – a serving minister has been arrested for an alleged $2 million cash bribe over the 50% privatisation of Bashneft oil company by the powerful Rosneft. An operation led by the Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service reminded some of infamous high-profile night-time arrests in the 1930s.
This week the Americans elected a new president who is portrayed by some as an agent of change for US-Russian relations and a potential advocate of large US businesses operating in Russia. Donald Trump was quickly congratulated by President Putin, who publicly sought to restore severed links with Washington. What happened within the next 36 hours to two large US tech companies working in Russia could be a pure coincidence however, it sends a clear warning signal to American businesses.
Discussing Italy’s constitutional referendum with people in Milan this week, I was struck by the parallels with the UK, and the ways Matteo Renzi risks falling into the same traps as former UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Though a victory for the ‘Yes’ side led by Matteo Renzi cannot be ruled out given the large number of undecided and abstaining voters, Renzi now seems to be heading for a narrow referendum defeat. The latest poll shows his side being defeated by a 52-48 margin. This seems ironic given that the reforms, which seek to streamline the Italian political and legislative process, are broadly popular. Individually, the measures enjoy support from between 82% to 50% of Italians; they seek to reduce the size and power of the Senate, and clarifying the division of responsibilities between the regions and the centre.
UK commentators have spent recent weeks debating the opportunities offered by the EU’s ‘equivalence’ regime for companies outside the single market. The concept was significantly expanded by Michel Barnier to encourage global adoption of EU rules and simply commits the EU to go beyond its formal WTO commitments for countries that meet its regulatory standards. In the London-centric Brexit debate, it has become a point of contention about the consequences of ‘hard Brexit’ for the City of London. Advocates of a clean break argue equivalence is a ready-made substitute for single market passports; those aiming for an ambitious UK-EU deal argue it is incomparable to legally-enforceable rights to national treatment, and only offers conditional tolerance for UK-based firms to provide services to institutional investors through a branch in the EU27.
Ed Vaizey made a splash at Global Counsel’s breakfast “Digital Tech: Bridge or Barrier to Social Mobility?” when he suggested that self-employed platform workers should receive the minimum wage. The former Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy was responding to a succession of controversies over working conditions in the so-called “gig economy”: Deliveroo riders have protested changes in their remuneration structure; the courier service Hermes is potentially facing an investigation from HMRC; and an employment tribunal ruling against Uber could fundamentally transform their self-employed business model.