Brexit guidance published

Source: Getty Images - Marc Bruxelle

Business leaders have reacted with frustration and warned that Britain is increasingly succumbing to Brexit fatigue, severely damaging the economy, after parliament again failed to break the deadlock over leaving the EU (The Guardian). After Theresa May’s Brexit plan was defeated for a third time on Friday, throwing the country into yet more turmoil while paving the way for a potential no-deal departure as early as 12 April, business groups said they were running out of patience with MPs.

Amazon has been accused of unfair payment practices in its treatment of suppliers in the UK (The Times £). A British maker of electric golf trolleys accused the world’s biggest online retailer of “institutionalised theft”, while the Federation of Small Businesses expressed its concern about “poor payment terms and unfair dispute mechanisms” on online platforms.

“Is it time to invest in M&S shares again,” writes Ruth Sutherland in the Daily Mail. “The High Street stalwart believes Archie Norman’s wisdom can pull it back and he’s betting £750m on the Ocado deal.”

The process of narrowing the gulf between the business rates paid by online retailers and their high street peers will take a small step forward this week, as the government assesses the higher rents paid by warehouses ahead of the next revaluation (Financial Times £). Online retailers, which have been criticised for paying much lower business rates than their high street counterparts, are likely to face higher bills from 2021 as a result of big increases in rents for the distribution centres that are key to their operations.

MPs have been urged to “seize the opportunity” on spiralling business rates that are “strangling our high streets” (Telegraph £). Retail leaders have calculated business rates will rise another £200m over the next year as changes to the levy are introduced from today. Against the backdrop of a string of high street failures, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said the Government’s policy on the business tax only “fiddles at the edges”.

Supermarket suppliers are cashing in on demand for speciality premium foods by promoting factory-manufactured brands as “artisan” produce (The Times £). Shoppers are opting for products such as slices of “deli” ham and batons of bread that are marketed in a way that heavily suggests they are made on a small scale with traditional, non-industrial methods. In reality, they are often sourced from factories in Britain and overseas.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a warning about alleged adulteration of honey after tests suggested many popular supermarket brands may be impure (The Times £). The tests suggest some supermarket versions may contain foreign sugars, colourings or flavourings.

A café-bar chain focused on suburban high streets and market towns is to reveal its intention to float with a probable value of more than £250 million (The Times £). Loungers, which is backed by Lion Capital, the private equity firm, was founded by Alex Reilley, Jake Bishop and Dave Reid. It opened its first bar, Lounge, in 2002 in Bristol.

A record 73 million bottles of gin, worth more than £2bn, were sold last year. Sales of the tipple have almost doubled in two years, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) annual market report (Sky News). The industry has highlighted the “staggering” hike in sales to press for government backing of the growing sector, through more export support and a cut in alcohol duty.

“The UK’s wine sellers find themselves squeezed on all sides,” writes Alice Hancock in the Financial Times (£). “Since the turn of the millennium, five of the UK’s biggest high street wine retailers have fallen into administration. One of them, twice.”

“When the wine tide goes out, the inauthentic are left Naked,” writes Patience Wheatcroft in The Sunday Times (£).

Mother’s Day is the most important date in the calendar for Britain’s daffodil growers, but it arrives today with much of their crop still in the ground thanks to a shortage of pickers (The Times £). Brexit uncertainty and the fall in the value of the pound have left growers struggling to recruit enough migrant workers for the harvest season, which runs from January to April.

Smaller companies are bracing for increased costs and reporting requirements as a new tax regime, business rates and pension costs come into force (The Times £).

Mike Ashley has blown more than half a billion pounds on a botched high street shopping spree, raising fresh questions about the tycoon’s stewardship of Sports Direct (Telegraph £).