The European Commission reorganises the “Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom” into the “Service for the EU-UK Agreements”.

The conclusion of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 24 December 2020 means that the very successful mandate of the Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom (UKTF) will come to an end. The UKTF will cease to exist on 1 March 2021.

To support the efficient and rigorous implementation and monitoring of the Agreements with the UK, the European Commission has decided to establish a new Service for the EU-UK Agreements (UKS). The UKS will be part of the presidential services’ Secretariat-General and will be operational as of 1 March 2021. The mandate and duration of the newly created service will be reviewed on a continuous basis. The UKS will closely cooperate with the HRVP.

Michel Barnier will become Special Adviser to President von der Leyen as of 1 February 2021. He will advise the President on the implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and provide expertise in view of the finalisation of the EU’s ratification process of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič the Vice-President in charge of interinstitutional relations and foresight, has been appointed as the Member of the Commission to co-chair and represent the European Union in the Partnership Council, established by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

GDP rose 6.5% in fourth quarter, faster than expected. China could surpass U.S. as largest economy by 2028.

China’s economy exceeded its pre-pandemic growth rates in the fourth quarter as its export-led recovery quickened, enabling it to expand faster than expected over the whole year even as major peers contracted. Gross domestic product climbed 6.5% in the final quarter from a year earlier, propelling growth to 2.3% for the full year, the statistics bureau said Monday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted 6.2% expansion for the quarter and 2.1% for the whole of 2020.

“China has more than returned to trend growth,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. The strong rebound means authorities can “prioritize structural reforms rather than economic reflation” in 2021, he said.

The V-shaped recovery was based on successful control of Covid cases and fiscal and monetary stimulus that boosted investment in real estate and infrastructure. Growth was further spurred by overseas demand for medical equipment and work-from-home devices, with exports expanding 3.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Still, the investment and export-driven recovery exacerbated existing imbalances in the economy as domestic consumption lagged.

“There’s a huge discrepancy between production and consumption,” said Bo Zhuang, chief China economist at TS Lombard. “I am not very optimistic about domestic demand, as wage growth is not back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Source: Bloomberg

Rishi Sunak to chair Whitehall taskforce to lead bonfire of EU red tape

Rishi Sunak has been charged by Boris Johnson with leading a bonfire of Brussels red tape now that the UK has left the European Union.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is to chair a new Better Regulation Committee in Downing Street which will focus on cutting EU red tape for businesses.

The Prime Ministers said he wanted the changes to allow the Government “to seize opportunities in the UK as an independent nation”.

Number 10 said the new committee will “refresh the strategy on making better regulation outside the EU, review existing rules and cut red tape for businesses”.

A source said: “With newfound control of our laws, reviewing and reforming regulation will be at the forefront of the Government’s agenda to take advantage of opportunities outside of the EU.”

Officials said it would “coordinate and drive through an ambitious programme of regulatory reform to over the parliament. It will push the boundaries, boost creative thinking and inject pace at the centre of the Government”.

Mr Sunak said: “Now that we have left the European Union, we have an opportunity to do things differently and this government is committed to making the most of the freedoms that Brexit affords us.

“This isn’t about lowering standards, but about raising our eyes to look to the future – making the most of new sectors, new thinking and new ways of working.”

Mr Sunak’s committee will be backed by a unit of civil servants who will be charged with carrying out “a series of systematic deep dives… into EU-derived regulation to identify and implement agreed changes”.

Officials made clear that “any reforms would not come at the expense of the UK’s high standards in areas like workers’ rights and the environment”.

Ministers will also seek to “engage with MPs and businesses to look at the best opportunities where the UK can take advantage of its newfound freedoms” and make the UK more business-friendly.

The membership of the new Cabinet Committee and further details on MP engagement will be set out in due course, Number 10 said.

Ministers hope that this new approach to regulation could help speed up infrastructure projects that create jobs and accelerate the development of science and technology.

Officials are also to look at how to improve processes for start-ups and small businesses across the country.

The new committee is understood to be the first of several internal groups which will strengthen MrJohnson’s control over delivering his agenda through Government.

Sources have told The Sunday Telegraph that Mr Johnson is expected to use these committees to enforce his will on Government rather than an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Johnson hinted at an incoming bonfire of EU red tape last month when he told The Sunday Telegraph that he wanted the UK to be able to move away from the EU rulebook.

He said then: “We don’t want to diverge for the sake of diverging. But we’re going to want to do things differently where that’s useful for the British people.”

On Jan 1 – the first day that the UK had slipped its formal ties to the EU – the 5 per cent rate of VAT on sanitary products – referred to as the “tampon tax” – was abolished.

EU law required members to tax tampons and sanitary towels at 5 per cent, treating period products as non-essential. Mr Sunak committed to scrapping the tax in his March Budget.

Source: TheTelegraph