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Government needs to deliver to put small firms back on track – Several papers pick up on the news that the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) confidence index plunged to an eight-year low during the fourth quarter amid concerns over political uncertainty, the direction of global trade and rising employment costs. Director of external affairs and advocacy Craig Beaumont comments: “This quarter, the added uncertainty that accompanies a general election made it even harder for small firms to plan, hire and increase profits. They say that the night is darkest before the dawn, and small firms will be hoping that holds true. The incoming government has made some very positive commitments to the small business community – particularly where connectivity, employment costs, business rates and late payments are concerned – it now needs to deliver. We must secure a pro-business future trading arrangement with the EU, one that protects the three t’s: trade, talent and transition.” (Source: Guardian, 30/12/19)
Key sectors contract but GDP set to grow in 2020 – The IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers indices for manufacturing and construction are expected to show the sectors shrank for the eight consecutive month in December, coming in at 47.7 on Thursday and 45.7 on Friday respectively. A score above 50 indicates a sector is growing. Services is also expected to show a contraction when its figures are out the following Monday. Pantheon Macroeconomics chief UK economist Samuel Tombs commented: “Confidence should recover in the near-term, now a no-deal Brexit isn’t a risk and the outlook for domestic policy over the next five years is much clearer. Domestically focused firms will be willing to invest, knowing corporation tax likely won’t rise, minimum wages won’t increase rapidly and Labour’s nationalisation plans will not be implemented.” (Source: Sunday Express, 29/12/19)
Business seeks trade assurances from Johnson – Business groups have urged the PM to avoid a no-deal Brexit and secure close alignment with the EU in the future trade deal. Stephen Phipson, the chief executive of manufacturers’ organisation of Make UK, said the first job is “cementing frictionless trade, access to key skills, regulatory alignment and space for business to prepare for new arrangements.” Institute of Directors director general Jonathan Geldart said businesses were keen for clarity on the long-term future relationship with the EU, but Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson said uncertainty over a future trade deal would not deter investors from putting their money into the UK. There was a “wall of money” wanting to invest, he added. This chimed with business leaders and who said confidence was returning already and dealmakers who said private equity activity is “going bonkers” with advisers predicting a “tidal wave” of deals. (Source: The Times, 14/12/19)
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