Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Thu 03rd, Aug

The past fortnight has been an extraordinary period of time in the political and economic life of the country. The traditionally quiet end of term tranquillity of July/August in Westminster has borne witness to a remarkable demonstration of text book political squabbling, back-stabbing and general disquiet within the Conservative Government cabinet.

Such schisms are normal within Government, albeit usually kept more private than the very public spat dominating the media in the past week. However, these are deeply concerning times for business and the inability of the Cabinet (let alone Government or the opposition party) to agree and articulate a basic set of principles for Brexit is accentuating the uncertainties for business.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Treasury select committee chair Nicky Morgan had called on the Bank of England to provide details of how prepared banks and insurance firms are for Brexit.

Alex Brazier from the Bank of England addressed this very topic at Chamber of Commerce roundtable session last week. Alex confirmed that Brexit is one of four key concerns facing the UK economy and the Bank is undertaking stress testing for all eventualities, with particular focus upon the impact upon financial services in the wake of a ‘hard Brexit’.

Yet in all honesty, it appears nigh on impossible to adequately stress test circumstances that we cannot fully anticipate. One year on from the referendum, there is perhaps even less clarity now than there was then. “Brexit means Brexit” was the soundtrack of winter, yet even the commencement of negotiations between the UK and the European Union has done little to create clarity nor quell key business concerns around access to migrant workers, status of EU citizens living in the UK and favourable access to overseas markets.

Our latest quarterly economic survey results for Liverpool (pre-dating the general election) suggest that investment intentions for the next 12 months are substantially reduced. Resultant growth will be stagnant without the clarity of a way forward.

There is no doubt that businesses will adapt to whatever environment emerges; whether Brexit continues according to the original schedule (or – whisper it – even happens at all), or takes a different form to a hard/soft/slightly spongey texture. Fundamentally, it will be the list of casualties that emerge from the journey that determines how ready businesses are for whatever is coming.

A splintered Cabinet, a fractured political environment, a population that remains largely split over the Brexit process and an economy that remains largely dependent upon the continuation of consumer spending and debt amid a threat of increasing inflation. These are not the traditional factors one associates with periods of economic stability and growth.

Yet in a world where the White House Communications Director can be fired before he has officially begun, perhaps chaos is a perpetual state to which we should become accustomed.

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Posted by Andrew McGregor

Brabners

Tue 01st, Aug

As the transfer window activity intensifies, we want to provide you with an insight into the transactional process which sees a player move from one club to another and highlight some of the main commercial and legal issues for the parties to consider.

The initial process:
After the preliminary conversations setting the scene, a representative of the Buyer Club will often submit a formal offer to the Seller Club for the transfer of the Player's registration from Seller to Buyer. The formal offer is an important piece in the deal process. Whilst the opening offer, and the subsequent counter proposals, should be 'without prejudice and subject to contract' (meaning the preliminary offers and counter offers are only outline terms to be incorporated into a formal transfer agreement), they set the structure for the deal and, often the tone for the negotiation. The preliminary negotiations will cover terms like: guaranteed transfer fee (including any staged payments); and contingent payments (for example: player appearance, player performance, team performance related trigger events and sell on provisions). Clearly, there is a lot to consider in a very limited space of time.

Once the parties have agreed the outline terms of the deal, one party will produce a draft transfer agreement for the other party to consider. The most efficient clubs will always want to be the party to produce the initial draft transfer agreement to allow them to be the party that is negotiating on their own standard terms. Here is where the true value of the preliminary negotiations and offer and acceptance correspondence is realised. If the parties have negotiated carefully, considered and addressed all issues and recorded a clearly written record of the terms agreed in principle, then the formalities of negotiating the content of the transfer document will be a smooth experience. However, if the parties have simply outlined the 'Heads of Terms' in a short email exchange (or even a few scribbles on the back page of a match day programme - which is often the case given the time pressures and irregularity of the times at which parties negotiate) finalising the terms of the transfer document can turn into a stressful and complicated experience.

Negotiation issues:
It is at the point that one party presents its draft transfer document to the other that the parties often find out that they are further apart on the deal than they first thought. Some of the following issues often require further negotiation, agreement and drafting before the transfer agreement can be concluded and executed:

  • How much of the guaranteed transfer fee is to be paid immediately?
  • Is payment of the transfer fee conditional on the Player agreeing personal terms and passing a medical?
  • Is the transfer fee agreed net of any regulatory imposed deductions, expenses, costs and/or levies?
  • Are any player appearance related contingent payments based on 'starts' or 'appearances' and are there any further criteria to satisfy (minutes on the pitch, teams or competitions) which qualify a performance related event by a player as a start or an appearance?
  • Are any team performance related contingent payments based on the player's contribution in a particular season and are those trigger events capable of being repeated during the time that the player is at the club?
  • Is any future sell-on fee payment entitlement attached to the gross amount received by the Subsequent Seller Club (in the subsequent transfer) or is it a net fee related to the excess 'profit' made by the Subsequent Seller Club relevant to the monies it has paid to the Seller Club in the current deal?
  • Are the terms of the deal confidential?
  • Do the parties want to retain a right to approve the other party's press release?

The above is certainly not an exhaustive list of issues to consider and address by the parties to the transaction, however, it might represent some of the common themes in a relatively basic domestic transfer.  Now try to imagine the issues, and potential 'deal breakers' in a complicated international transfer, where respective national regulations and laws need to be factored in, as well as FIFA regulations.

Now you have an understanding of the process, imagine you are a busy Chief Executive of a professional club and the closing of the transfer window is a few days away, primary targets have been missed, players have requested to leave the club and agents are attempting to force through last minute moves for their clients. Moreover the team has lost its last 3 games and supporters are reacting negatively, and you also have the business of a football club to oversee. Even with the best will in the world, the most efficient and prudent club representative might be excused for failing to address a particular issue during the deal making process and, in light of the above, it is easy to see how these relatively small issues might evolve into something that might protract the deal and, potentially, derail it.

We hope you have found this blog interesting. If you are a club representative, player or intermediary wanting to find out more about the transfer process, and how Brabners dedicated sports law team can help you, then please do not hesitate to contact Andrew McGregor

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We should all be managing fire risk all the time - but how do we know how to?

Posted by Liam Jones

randr Safety Systems Ltd

Tue 01st, Aug

We all know that dealing with the risk of fire in the workplace (and at home) is an important health and safety issue. Because of the terrible events at Grenfell Tower and the updates of the repercussions we're seeing regularly on the news, we're finding that our clients are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the process of managing the fire risk within their workplace.

If you have no experience of managing fire risk, how are you supposed to do so regularly within your business??

Let's start from the top. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that those in control of a non-domestic premises (or part of a premises) must have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment completed by a competent person, and keep it up to date.

This means that you are responsible for organising the assessment and ensuring that it is suitable. To do this you must complete your own due diligence when appointing a Fire Risk Assessor. I'm not going to focus too much on this point in this post but I have to stress that for an Assessor to be competent, they must be able to demonstrate a combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge.

There is more information about Fire Risk Assessment on our website at www.randrsafetysystems.com/fire-safety/

 

Once you have appointed your Assessor and they have completed the assessment, you should be provided with a thorough document which outlines the findings. This should include the hazards found, those at risk, and discuss control measures and remedial actions.

Problem 1 - Once you have this document which is instructing you to make a serious of changes at your site and with your Assessor long gone, how are you supposed to implement them effectively with no experience? How do you know if you have reduced the residual risk of fire at all?

Problem 2 - Looking further forward we know that the assessment needs to be reviewed, but this can sometimes be up to three years in between! How are you supposed to manage the risk of fire in that time with no knowledge of how to do so?

 

Risk can never be fully eradicated, no matter what you put in place there'll always be some risk to deal with at the end of it - including fire risk. Our job in the health and safety industry is to help you to reduce and manage the residual risk as best as possible.

One of randr Safety Systems' solution to the above problems surrounding fire risk is a course we will begin delivering from October (2nd - 4th). We have called the course 'Fire Risk Assessor' and it's aims are simple:

Over three days we will provide you with a broad and thorough understanding of how to assess fire risk, decide upon and implement remedial actions and create an assessment review plan which you can carry out in between your full comprehensive assessment (carried out by a competent Fire Risk Assessor).

 

In short, the skills and knowledge gained on the course will place you in a much better position to ensure the safety of your people and your property as a regular part of your business operations and not just as a mandatory task every one, two or three years.

For a full course outline including learning objectives visit www.randrsafetysystems.com/fire-safety/

 

Liam Jones

randr Safety Systems

0151 427 1678 / 07979 193 798

info@randrsafetysystems.com

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Posted by Moore & Smalley

Mon 31st, Jul

Data protection has always been considered a key concern for big business. High profile data breaches in recent years highlight the scale on which data is now gathered and the risks inherent with collection of data en masse.

It has been almost two decades since the UK Data Protection Act was introduced in 1998. Since then, the internet has become critical to the success of most, if not all, organisations. Furthermore, the rise of social media and cloud storage have dramatically changed how an organisation markets its products and services.

However, data protection may not have been at the top of the small business owner’s ever-growing list of priorities. With the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, this will need to change.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the new EU privacy directive designed to harmonise data protection practice across Europe. The new legislation will offer more protection to citizens and their data. Individuals will be required to give explicit consent for their data to be collected and organisations will need to be clear as to their intended use of the information; gathering data without any purpose will no longer be possible.

GDPR will also enable the existing right of individuals under the UK Data Protection Act to request access to their private information, giving individuals the right to have their information removed from any record where their personal data is held with no compelling reason.

This means that all businesses will have new obligations and responsibilities and consideration needs to be given now as to how they will comply before GDPR comes into force next year.

But won’t Brexit mean my business doesn’t need to comply?

The Government has confirmed that the decision to leave the EU will not affect the introduction of GDPR; significantly, the legislation will apply to any organisation supplying goods and services to EU citizens and so any UK business exporting to the EU will need to comply irrespective of Brexit (‘hard’, ‘soft’ or otherwise).

For businesses whose activities are limited to the UK, following Brexit, the position is less clear but the Government has suggested that even after Brexit, equivalent legislation will be brought into effect.

The regulations will also apply irrespective of size, meaning listed companies and SMEs will be subject to the same rules.

What will my business need to do?

In order to ensure the regulations are adhered to, some business will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). The DPO will need to be external to the IT function and will normally be a director or other individual in a position of significant influence. The appointment of a DPO is specifically required for certain types of organisation (see website of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for more details https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/). The need to appoint a DPO should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

A key business activity affected by GDPR is sales and marketing. Businesses that regularly run email marketing campaigns will need to be able to demonstrate that recipients have explicitly opted in to receive your marketing electronically by keeping a formal record of when, where and how the opt in was made.

GDPR also means that robust processes must be established for detecting and responding to data breaches. Any breaches will need to be reported to the ICO within 72 hours.

We would therefore recommend conducting a review of how your business would respond in the event of a data breach and start formulating a plan for implementing any improvements.

So what next?

In the short term, we recommend taking the following steps:

• Designate someone within your business to take responsibility for compliance with GDPR and ensure they’re properly trained.

• Establish what personal data your business is storing and how.

• Assess how your business would respond in the event of a breach – could any improvements be made?

• Make sure you understand the regulations – the ICO website provides a wealth of information on GDPR, including a 12-step guide on how to prepare for the new legislation. https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf.

 

This article originally appeared on the blog of MHA member firm, Larking Gowen.

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Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 28th, Jul

The announcement of the Government’s £30bn investment into Crossrail quite rightly provoked indignation across the North this week, coming mere days after the postponement and cancellation of critical electrification schemes across the wider UK network.

Deeply concerning to businesses in Liverpool City Region is the current state of infrastructure in the North West which is essentially having to run to stand still. A lack of additional capacity on the West Coast Main Line has inhibited freight transport for many years – the arrival of HS2 (eventually) will only partially alleviate this pinch point, particularly from a start-end point of Liverpool. Until then, the speed of freight mobility along the line will be glacial at best.

The Government has previously talked a very good game in its various iterations since 2010, proclaiming the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ with its commitment to improving connectivity, as an essential requirement to “rebalance the economy” (which remains the key, fundamental argument for the HS2 business case). There had been some progress, following substantial lobbying from local authorities and business groups, with the real prospect of East-West connectivity improvements from Liverpool to Hull/Newcastle. The creation of Transport for the North was also a vitally important statement of intent and Northern Powerhouse Rail (“Crossrail for the North”) began to seem possible. And now this.

This isn’t about the North v the South. There is no doubt that Crossrail 2 is an important piece of infrastructure for London. However the figures quoted, in proportion to the level of investment outside the South East, make dismal reading and simply serve to undermine the commitments previously made as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

The cancellation of the electrification of the Great Western Railway also has a knock on effect on the rest of the network as rolling stock earmarked for the North will now not be available – this surely puts some of the infrastructure work scheduled for the Transpennine route in danger of either not happening, or not being worth the effort. 

It is encouraging that our politicians appear to be saying “enough is enough”, as reflected in the statements issued by Mayors Burnham and Rotheram in response to Chris Grayling’s announcement. Our Chamber members share that sentiment.

It is now time for Chambers and other business groups in the North to reinforce our commitment and determination to ensure that the region not only has the investment in infrastructure we need to enable a positive future for our economy but also to make sure that the government fully understands the impact that future investment decisions will have on businesses across North.

Anything less and we have failed in our responsibility.

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Posted by Emma Agamian

Brabners

Thu 27th, Jul

Everyone knows there are certain archaic formalities to be complied with in order to execute a valid Will (although not everyone knows exactly what they are), but all that could soon be changed under radical changes to the law currently being proposed by the Law Commission. The consultation will run until November 2017 and will cover matters such as lowering the age at which a person can make a Will from 18 to 16, introducing a new mental capacity test to take account of improved understanding of conditions like dementia and suggesting that people will be able to use voicemail and text messages to make their Wills.

Under the proposals, the law would be relaxed to allow electronic communications to be recognised as a valid Will where the person’s intentions regarding the distribution of his/her estate were clear.  The Courts would have the power to rule on whether the person’s wishes were accurately recorded, without needing to consider whether the strict rules of Will making had been adhered to.

With online systems for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney and the Probate Service also introducing a new online application process, it is tempting to panic about shortly being replaced by a robot.  However, there will clearly always be a need for careful planning both for tax mitigation and for asset protection over the longer term.

Although an overhaul of what can be considered to be an “outdated” system may be welcome, care will need to be taken to avoid people putting in place valid Wills without appreciating the implications.  There is an instinctive concern that this may open the door to coercion of vulnerable people and claims from dissatisfied beneficiaries who produce passing comments recorded in messages as evidence of intention, but the proposals will cover various technical issues and hope to address these concerns.

It will be interesting to see the responses to the consultation but, without adequate safeguarding, the result of such radical changes may be simply much more litigation after the event….

To find out more on the subject please contact Emma Agamian or a member of our Private Client Department.

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Posted by Emma Klieve

Brabners

Thu 27th, Jul

Over recent years, there has been an increase in the number of cyber-attacks with an aim of obtaining sensitive data. Previously this data was obtained through hacking, as in the 2015 attacks on the website Ashley Madison and network provider Talk Talk. However in 2017, the preferred method appears to be through the use of ransomware with the purpose of causing significant disruption and eliciting funds.

In May, a ransomware attack on the NHS demanded payment of $300, in cryptocurrency Bitcoin, in order to receive a decryption code and regain access to their own encrypted files. This attack was part of a global ransomware attack using malware called “WannaCry”, which infected systems by utilising phishing techniques to trick recipients into opening email attachments and exploiting a flaw in Windows software. This vulnerability in certain versions of the software had been identified by the National Security Agency (NSA) and was exposed to distributors of the ransomware through stolen resources. One month later, there was another ransomware attack on some of the largest companies in the world, this time the malware used was similar to “Petya”. In many cases, the ransom amount increased every hour if a user refused to pay. However, cyber security firms advise victims not to pay the ransom due to fears it could encourage further attacks and that there is no guarantee that all files will be returned intact.

As a result of the attacks, several members of the American House and Senate introduced a bipartisan Bill titled “the Protecting Our Ability to Counter Hacking (PATCH) Act” in America. The PATCH Act would create an interagency review board that will assess the vulnerabilities discovered by government agencies to determine when the government will retain the information and when warnings should be provided about the potential vulnerability of the system. In an increasingly-connected world, the passing of the Bill would require the government to at least consider the exposing of flaws. This reporting of vulnerabilities may reduce opportunities for cyber-attacks in the future by reducing the weaknesses in the software.

There is the potential for victims of cyber-attacks to become exposed to litigation following an attack, especially with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introducing tougher penalties for businesses where there has been a breach of data privacy. The significant disruption caused by these global attacks serve as a reminder of the requirement to take appropriate measures to protect their systems and ensure continuity of business. Businesses should also ensure that they have adequate insurance cover to protect them in the event of a cyber-attack.

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Posted by Adam Stock

Moore & Smalley

Tue 18th, Jul

In the last few weeks I have seen two businesses that have been using the VAT flat rate scheme that would be far better off outside the scheme. Why is this? The flat rate scheme is a simplification introduced by HMRC to help small businesses account for VAT more simply. However as a simplification, it is not the best route for every business.

The flat rate scheme is available to businesses with a turnover of £150,000 per year or less and they can stay in the scheme until their turnover hits £230,000 per year. The idea is that instead of adding all the output tax charged on sales in a VAT return period and deducting all the input tax incurred on purchases to get to a liability to be paid or reclaimed from HMRC, the business instead applies a flat rate percentage to its VAT inclusive sales each quarter and this is the amount of VAT payable to HMRC. The business cannot recover any input VAT – the flat rate percentage makes an allowance for that. The percentage to be paid varies according to the trade category of the business.

Businesses that decide to use the flat rate scheme should only do so after very careful comparison of their likely VAT position in the scheme compared to outside the scheme. Use actual projected sales and purchase figures to make the calculations and my advice is to redo the calculations every time you submit a VAT return to check that you are not overpaying by being in the scheme. Your accounting package probably prepares a normal VAT return for you in any case so you are unlikely to be saving much time by being in the flat rate scheme.

In general though the scheme is unlikely to benefit your business if:

• A high proportion of your sales are zero rated, exempt or to overseas customers – you will end up paying VAT on sales where no VAT has actually been charged to the customer

• You incur input tax on purchases because under the scheme, you cannot recover this input VAT

As always, the rules are complex! Although HMRC have the discretion to allow a business to leave the scheme with effect from a date in the past if you find that you are worse off in the scheme, they don’t often allow it earlier than the previous VAT period so you need to keep on top of checking whether it is a good deal for your business or not.

If you would like to discuss a VAT Flat Rate Scheme issue in more detail or you would like to speak with a member of our team, please contact Adam Stock or call on 01772 821021 to be put in contact with a member of our VAT team.

 

This article orignially appeared on the blog of MHA member firm, MHA MacIntyre Hudson,

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Posted by Brabners

Tue 04th, Jul

As Brexit negotiations begin to get underway, and the country takes stock of the announcements made during the Queen’s Speech on 21 June, one topic that is at the forefront of discussion in many businesses is data protection.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to come into force on 25 May 2018, spells big change for businesses globally and introduces a new framework of rules that has received a mixed reception.

Whilst many companies are already taking steps to ensure that the ways in which they handle personal data will comply with the GDPR in time, there has been some uncertainty as to whether or not this is actually necessary in light of the outcome of last year’s Brexit referendum. The announcement of a new Data Protection Bill during the Queen’s Speech has provided some clarity in this respect, as the government’s ‘associated background briefing’ to the speech stated, in no uncertain terms, that the GDPR will indeed be implemented into national legislation.

This announcement does not, in fact, change the position of the UK in relation to the GDPR coming into effect. The UK will still be a member of the EU on 25 May 2018, which means that, in any event, we will be bound by the provisions of the GDPR on that date. However, we can now be certain that the rules imposed by the GDPR will, for the most part, remain in place once we leave the EU, as the government’s intention is to harmonise national legislation with the GDPR.

With less than a year to go, the realisation is now dawning on many organisations which deal with personal data that they may have to radically transform their processes, and entirely re-think their attitudes towards privacy, if they are to comply with the GDPR by next May. The challenges facing those businesses over the next 11 months are clear - but what impact will the new regulations have on the world of civil litigation?

Increased claims by individuals for data privacy breaches

The GDPR introduces new rights for individuals and tougher penalties for businesses when it comes to breaches of data privacy. Many expect that, at the end of May 2018, there will be a flood of requests to companies’ data controllers for rights of access or portability of data, or to exercise the right to be forgotten. Such requests will inevitably result in a large number of complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office, and, in turn, a number of those complaints may ultimately end up before the courts.

Further, there is speculation surrounding the potential for large-scale ‘class action’ style claims where data security breaches affect a large number of individuals. There are mechanisms already in place for such actions; the courts can make Group Litigation Orders, allowing claims arising from common issues to be managed collectively. It is also possible that a collective action regime (similar to that which was recently adopted for competition law breaches) may be rolled out or extended to cover data protection, whereby all affected individuals are automatically part of the ‘class’ of people bringing the action unless they choose to opt out.

The GDPR represents a tipping of the balance of data protection law, favouring the protection of the individual over the commercial needs of businesses. However, it should be noted that, even in the absence of the GDPR, data protection in the UK seems to be heading in that direction. Recent years have seen a rise in the number of claims for data privacy breaches, as well as an increase in the compensation payable for such claims, and individuals may now claim compensation for damage caused purely by distress (without any financial loss) following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Google v Vidal-Hall [2015] EWCA Civ 311.

Detailed exploration of the legal grounds for processing data

Under the GDPR, the consent of a data subject subsists as a legal ground for the processing of personal data, but it will be much more difficult to show that consent has been obtained than under the existing law (based on the Data Protection Act 1998). It is therefore likely that the other lawful grounds for processing data, such as necessity for the performance of a contract or the compliance with a legal obligation, will need to be considered in more detail than ever before, as parties to litigation will not be able to rely on consent as readily as they have done in the past.

There are also concerns that the tightened regulations on processing personal data may impact on the process of disclosure in litigation. Litigating parties (and their lawyers) may need to consider whether consent is required (and correctly obtained) when undertaking disclosure during proceedings if the relevant documents in the case contain personal data. If a party to litigation is based outside the jurisdiction, it will also be necessary to consider the lawful grounds for the cross-border transfer of personal data.

There has been some discussion around Article 48 of the GDPR and its impact on disclosure. Article 48 provides that any judgment of the courts of a non-EU country, requiring a data controller to transfer or disclose personal data relating to EU data subjects, shall not be recognised or enforceable unless it is based upon an international agreement between the requesting state and the EU. In the absence of such agreements, parties may refuse to provide disclosure on the basis that doing so would conflict with their general obligations under the GDPR. It remains to be seen what scope there might be for parties to use this to their tactical advantage, by feigning caution over data privacy to delay or prevent the disclosure of certain information.

Uncertainty

The GDPR makes substantial changes to an area of law that affects a vast number of companies and individuals. As with any such reform, the big word on the tip of everyone’s tongue is “uncertainty”; until the new regulations come into force, and we begin to see the courts delve down into the details of the GDPR’s provisions, we cannot know for certain exactly how those provisions will be interpreted or what the practical implications might be.

What we can say for certain, however, is that the notion of data privacy is becoming more and more pervasive. Few businesses will escape the onerous requirements of the GDPR and other developments in data protection law. From a lawyer’s perspective, the impact is two-fold; not only will law firms have to ensure that their own processes are compliant with the new rules, but data privacy is also likely to become a primary consideration for lawyers in all practice areas – a far cry from what was once considered to be a niche area in commercial law.

Author: William Eggleston, Trainee Solicitor at Brabners LLP. To contact William please call him on 0161 836 8831 or send an email on william.eggleston@brabners.com.

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Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 30th, Jun

More stable Government but a weak economic outlook offers a mixed picture

The “confidence and supply” deal struck between the Conservatives and the DUP this week wasn’t to everyone’s political taste but at least it gives us some semblance of stability.

Prime Minister Theresa May now has a working majority in Parliament, at least on the big votes such as the Queen’s Speech and the Budget later this year.

Businesses in the Liverpool city region and across the UK have had enough turmoil over the past year to last a lifetime.

Ever since, what was to many, a surprise result from last summer’s Referendum to leave the EU the uncertainty has been unending - and uncertainty is bad for business.

Britain has now entered into Brexit negotiations with the EU and a more secure Government can give that process the focus it needs.

Anaemic growth

We have seen the uncertainty reflected this week in forecasts from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The BCC has slightly upgraded its UK growth forecast for 2017 from 1.4% to 1.5%. Its expectations for growth in 2018 and 2019 remain unchanged at 1.3% and 1.5% respectively.

However, despite this small upgrade it bemoans the likelihood that over the next few years UK growth will remain anaemic – and well below historical averages.

The upgrade is as a result of stronger global outlook growth, including in key markets for UK businesses.

While lower sterling has had mixed results of late, it remains likely to boost short-term export activity this year.

Port offers hope

Any upturn in the global outlook could provide some good news here for us in the Liverpool city region.

Liverpool2, Peel’s £400m deep-water container terminal on the banks of the Mersey is now online.

It is looking to grab a significant slice of the imports that currently come through the southern English ports. A rise in global trade makes that job easier.

That’s not just about hundreds of jobs at the Port of Liverpool itself but potentially many more in the wider logistics sector across the city region.

Weak spending

But the data from the BCC still remains a worry. Weakness in sterling is helping exporters but it is only a matter of time before the rise in input costs starts to have an effect.

Wage growth in real terms is expected to remain negative over the next few years, the BCC says.

As a consequence, consumer spending, a key driver of UK growth, is forecast to remain persistently weak.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, doesn’t offer much cheer when he says: “Over recent months, many of the businesses I speak to have expressed cautious optimism for their own prospects, but remain wary about the growth prospects of the UK economy as a whole.

“In the wake of an inconclusive General Election, that wariness is set to increase – as is the sense that the UK economy is merely treading water.

“With inflationary pressures expected to intensify and consumer spending forecast to slow, this outlook is likely to persist in the near term.”

Devolution is key

Which makes it all the more important that the Government also reaffirms its commitment to regional growth and an industrial strategy.

That needs to be back up with real spending commitments to the Northern Powerhouse, particularly on issues such as transport and digital infrastructure.

The deal with the DUP sees £1.5bn to boost the Northern Ireland economy. The English regions needs a similar commitment.

This was summed up a few days ago by Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, who said:  “It is absolutely vital that the Prime Minister reaffirms her commitment to devolution and explicitly recognises the important role of city regions in driving growth and rebalancing the UK economy.

“Initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse mean nothing unless they are matched by a significant transfer of resources and power from the centre.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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