Mastercard, Visa, eBay and payments firm Stripe have pulled out of Facebook’s embattled cryptocurrency project, Libra.

Their move, first reported in the Financial Times, follows the withdrawal of PayPal, announced last week.

It represents a huge blow to the social network’s plans to launch what it envisions as a global currency.

The project has drawn heavy scrutiny from regulators and politicians, particularly in the US.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the House Committee on Financial Services on 23 October to discuss Libra and its planned roll-out.

Regulators have raised multiple concerns over Libra, including the risk it may be used for money laundering.

Mercado Pago, a payments firm serving mostly Latin America, also pulled out. It means of the six payments-related firms first involved in Libra, just one, PayU, remains. Netherlands-based PayU did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment on Friday.

In a statement released on Friday, eBay said it “respected” the Libra project.

“However, eBay has made the decision to not move forward as a founding member. At this time, we are focused on rolling out eBay’s managed payments experience for our customers.”

A spokesperson for Stripe said the firm supported the aim of making global payments easier.

“Libra has this potential. We will follow its progress closely and remain open to working with the Libra Association at a later stage.”

A spokesperson for Visa said: “We will continue to evaluate and our ultimate decision will be determined by a number of factors, including the Association’s ability to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations.”

The Libra Association, set up by Facebook to manage the project, said of the departing companies: “We appreciate their support for the goals and mission of the Libra project.

“Although the makeup of the Association members may grow and change over time, the design principle of Libra’s governance and technology, along with the open nature of this project ensures the Libra payment network will remain resilient.

“We look forward to the inaugural Libra Association Council meeting in just 3 days and announcing the initial members of the Libra Association.”

Facebook’s executive in charge of its Libra effort wrote on Twitter that losing the firms was “liberating”.

“I would caution against reading the fate of Libra into this update,” wrote David Marcus, who before joining Facebook was PayPal’s president.

“Of course, it’s not great news in the short term, but in a way it’s liberating. Stay tuned for more very soon. Change of this magnitude is hard. You know you’re on to something when so much pressure builds up.”

Last week, PayPal said it would no longer be part of the Libra Association, but did not rule out working on the project in future – prompting a strong reaction from the Association.

“Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else,” it said in a statement. “We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now.”

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The US has agreed to suspend its next tariff hike on Chinese imports after two days of trade talks in Washington.

US President Donald Trump said negotiators had reached a “phase one deal” that would include increased agricultural purchases and address financial services and technology theft.

China’s top negotiator Liu He also said he was “happy” with progress.

The US was due to raise tariffs on some Chinese goods to 30% next week.

US share markets, which had risen on reports of a deal, closed higher, but shed some gains in the final minutes of trade as it became clear any agreement was relatively limited.

‘A deal, pretty much’

“We’ve come to a deal, pretty much, subject to getting it written,” Mr Trump said, adding that negotiators would begin discussing additional phases as soon as this set of agreements is put to paper.

Mr Trump said he might sign the deal alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping at a United Nations summit in Chile in December.

The US has claimed progress in the past on similar issues, such as increased agricultural purchases and foreign exchange and currency, without the dispute being resolved.

Another planned tariff hike, in December, remains on the table, said Robert Lighthizer, America’s top trade negotiator.

Lobby group Farmers for Free Trade said the promise of increased agricultural purchases by China – to between $40bn and $50bn, according to Mr Trump – was welcome, but noted that details were scant.

“While we are pleased that tariffs aren’t going up, this agreement seemingly does nothing to address the crippling tariffs farmers currently face,” said Brian Kuehl, the group’s co-executive director.

“From the very beginning of the trade war, farmers have been promised that their patience would be rewarded. To date, the deal they’ve been promised has not come.”

Long dispute

The US and China have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods over the past 15 months, casting a pall over the global economy.

The US wants better protection for US intellectual property, and an end to both cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms.

It also wants China to reduce industrial subsidies and improve access to Chinese markets for US companies.

This week’s talks were the first high-level negotiations in more than two months. They kicked off amid a backdrop of renewed tensions, as the US blacklisted 28 Chinese entities over human rights concerns.

US business groups, which have largely opposed the tariffs, said they hoped the breakthrough would set the stage for a bigger deal that would remove the import tax hikes already imposed.

Mr Trump said the range of issues under discussion warranted breaking up the negotiations into parts.

“It’s going to be such a big deal that doing it in sections and phases I think is really better,” he said.

Planes owned by failed airlines could to be used to repatriate passengers – instead of being immediately grounded – under government plans.

Proposed legislation would enable collapsed carriers to be placed into “special administration”, it said.

This would mean aircraft and crew could continue flying in the short-term.

Under the existing system, the grounding of planes when an airline goes bust leaves passengers at risk of being stranded.

When the government wanted to bring Thomas Cook customers back to the UK after the travel firm collapsed in September, it had to ask the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to get hold of 150 aircraft from around the world.

The regulator operated nearly 700 flights at a cost of £100m, in effect by building a shadow airline.

Even though some passengers were not Atol-protected – meaning they would not have been eligible to automatically claim the cost of an alternative flight – the decision was taken to try to repatriate everyone and avoid people being stranded abroad, or facing long waits to get home.

The proposed legislation would allow the CAA to use an airline’s existing infrastructure, planes and staff to bring people back, which has not previously been allowed by the UK’s insolvency laws.

The government said that this would mean less disruption and would cost taxpayers less.


Analysis

By BBC business reporter Howard Mustoe

When a company goes under, any assets it rents – like planes – will be seized by their owners. The rest of the firm’s belongings will be auctioned off to pay off creditors, such as bond investors and banks. In other words, there’s always someone who has a claim to the airplanes of a bust airline.

Borrowing the hardware for a short period to bring passengers home makes perfect sense, and makes thing much easier for the government.

To rescue Thomas Cook’s passengers they needed to cobble together a short-term fleet, and do so quietly to avoid causing a panic and turning the company’s likely demise into a certainty.

But this new plan does mean making the planes’ owners wait a bit before they get them back.


The recommendation of “keeping the fleet flying” is from a review into airline insolvency published in May this year which looked into the protections available to air passengers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’ve seen recently the huge impact airlines collapsing can have on passengers and staff.

“To bring over 140,000 Thomas Cook passengers home, the government and UK CAA worked together round the clock and, with the support of people across the globe, carried out the biggest peacetime repatriation exercise in UK history.

“I’m determined to bring in a better system to deal with similar situations in future, helping ensure passengers are protected and brought home quickly and safely.

The report also recommended the introduction of a 50p levy per air fare to cover the cost of bringing UK passengers home when an airline goes bust.

“It feels good to be kneaded,” Pizza Express quipped on Twitter after worries it could go under prompted an outpouring of affection from diners.

In a quick piece of savvy marketing, the chain told customers: “We’re still making dough”, trying to reassure the legions of parents and savvy, voucher-wielding customers who had expressed concern that another family-friendly, mid-priced restaurant chain could disappear from the High Street.

Pizza Express was responding to reports it had hired advisers to negotiate with lenders over a £1.1bn debt pile.

The news saw the almost 55-year-old pizza chain become the latest High Street eatery to have its money troubles splashed across the financial pages.

But what separates Pizza Express from the likes of Jamie’s Italian, which went under in May, and Carluccio’s and Prezzo, which have both closed dozens of restaurants, is its customers’ response to news of the financial troubles.

Some Twitter users called for the restaurant chain to be nationalised, while others encouraged people to pay full price for their pizza, rather than use the discount vouchers that have become a centrepiece of the firm’s business model.

Out of fashion

Pizza Express won a place in UK diners’ hearts by managing to appeal to both adults and children. Its low lighting, tall stemmed glasses, and wine bar vibe happily coexist alongside kids’ meals and colouring pencils.

But more recently, it has gained popularity for its special offers, which are nearly always available.

Danny Shaw, a footwear branding consultant, wrote on LinkedIn, that this approach is backfiring.

“Pizza Express really isn’t fashionable any more.” Now, he says, “it’s all about discount codes”, and that means “it doesn’t feel special”.

Retail expert Kate Hardcastle agrees that the restaurant chain’s relentless focus on discount vouchers and other special offers has “devalued and eroded” the once-strong brand.

On top of that, she accuses Pizza Express of cannibalising its own market by selling its pizzas through supermarkets.

Because “there’s nothing very special” about the chain’s restaurants, Ms Hardcastle thinks, people may choose to pay less and eat its pizzas at home.

‘Nothing right with it’

She says Pizza Express falls squarely into the “middle market” category of chains that have failed to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Those chains promote “blandness”, she tells the BBC. “There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing right with it.”

Nevertheless, the chain does appear to hold a special place in the hearts of many.

Partly, that’s because of its heritage – which stretches back over half a century.


A brief history of Pizza Express

1965: Pizza Express founder, the late Peter Boizot, brought a pizza oven from Napoli and a chef from Sicily to open his first restaurant in London’s Soho.

1992: Mr Boizot grew his empire over the following almost-three decades before selling it for £15m to Hugh Osmond and Luke Johnson, the man who was – until recently – chairman of Patisserie Valerie. They floated it on the stock market the next year and ultimately sold out in 1997 when it was worth £150m.

2003: It was taken private again in a £278m deal by two private equity firms who then floated it two years later – although it lasted less than a year on the public markets before it was returned to private equity hands.

2014: It changed hands again, this time to be acquired for £900m by its current owner, Chinese private equity house Hony Capital.


Analyst Peter Backman thinks the brand evokes a nostalgia in people whose parents and grandparents ate at Pizza Express restaurants. They may also have childhood memories of eating at the chain’s family-friendly restaurants themselves.

“My family and I would personally miss pizza express,” says Jayne Golden, who works for a bank.

Her five-year-old son was diagnosed with coeliac disease last year and she likes that the chain caters for him.

“Being able to eat there – safe in the knowledge his food is prepared in the way it should – has been a blessing to us when others restaurants have let us down,” she says.

But Pizza Express is operating in a difficult environment.

Mr Backman says there is too much competition from other High Street chains.

“There are now too many restaurants chasing not enough business so each restaurant suffers,” he says, blaming the economic uncertainty around Brexit for putting people off buying meals out.

He says the chain, which depends heavily on EU workers to staff its restaurants, has also struggled to hire since the referendum in 2016, which has driven up its wage bill. On top of that, Pizza Express has been hit by a hike in rates and the weak pound has made it more expensive to import ingredients.

But the firm’s biggest challenge, appears to be its debt.

The interest on that £1.1bn is costing the company £93m a year, which wiped out all its operating profit last year.

In fact, the debt payments have pushed Pizza Express into the red for the last two years with a loss of £55m last year alone.

‘It may not be the sexiest’

But Mr Backman thinks Pizza Express has something going for it, which many of its younger rivals – like Franco Manca and Pizza Pilgrims – do not.

“People will argue that it’s the discounts that are pulling the people in but I’m not 100% convinced,” he explains.

“It may not be the sexiest or the most modern,” he says. But, he argues: “There is a lot of goodwill towards Pizza Express.”

This week has been a big one for the lingerie industry.

Victoria’s Secret – home of the impossibly-sculpted, minutely-clad supermodel – unveiled the first “plus-size” model to grace its stores in its 42-year history.

As part of a campaign with British lingerie firm BlueBella, the US underwear giant is featuring body positive campaigner Ali Tate Cutler in its shops alongside transgender model May Simón Lifschitz.

It is a far cry for a company which, in the words of its now departed chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, had no interest using “plus-size” or transgender models, who the septuagenarian referred to as “transsexuals”.

The reaction to the Victoria’s Secret-BlueBella campaign, entitled #loveyourself, has been surprise.

Model and influencer Elenna Owen, 22 who attended the launch at the Victoria’s Secret Bond Street store in London, said: “Victoria’s Secret models are usually very skinny and tall and in the past they made a big fuss about not using other types of models.”

“To be honest, I’ve never been interested in Victoria’s Secret because I’m more on the curvy side myself and it doesn’t really relate to me.

“But now I would be more open and in general…when brands celebrate curvier women I’m more inclined to shop there.”

Could it be that Victoria’s Secret is finally representing all women of all body types?

‘Slow’

The answer is not quite.

Ms Tate-Cutler, who is a UK size 14 to 16, and May Simón Lifschitz are employed by BlueBella, not Victoria’s Secret.

A recent campaign Victoria’s Secret ran featuring the models Solange Van Doorn was also a collaboration, this time with LA-firm For Love & Lemons.

And while Victoria’s Secret’s sister brand, Pink, used its first trans model this year when it hired Valentina Sampaio, the bigger lingerie group is yet to really commit to a fundamental shift that has taken place in the industry.

The company has been “slow to implement meaningful change”, according to Citigroup analyst Paul Lejuez, who said that “cultural norms” were “shifting away” from Victoria’s Secret.

The Love & Lemons campaign, which Victoria’s Secret describes as a “north star” in terms of where its marketing is heading, was only launched in September.

Katharine Carter, fashion and retail analyst at Edited, which uses shopping data to spot trends, says that women now want more comfortable, softer and naturally-shaped underwear inspired by the popularity of athleisure.

“Styles like bralettes and triangle bras have risen to the fore whereas push-up bras and balconette bras used to be the drivers of the market,” says Ms Carter.

UK retailers have, for example, stocked 39% more triangle bras this year compared to 2018.

Societal changes are also influencing what woman want to see from retailers, including the #metoo movement, which gained momentum in 2017 following widespread allegations of sexual abuse against film producer Harvey Weinstein,

Ms Carter says that female empowerment has “eclipsed outdated ideals of what sexy is”.

She says it is “about women dressing for themselves [and] no longer needing to conform to the stereotypical views of lingerie”.

Maria Stockova, 26, from the Czech Republic, says that Victoria’s Secret is “sometimes too sexy”. Nevertheless, she is a fan of the brand and was happy to see Ms Tate Cutler in its store “because I am not thin”.

‘Evolution’

John Mehas, Victoria’s Secret’s new chief executive – its third in three years – admitted at a recent investor day that the company needs to evolve.

Though when asked about how he was positioning the company against this backdrop, his answer was somewhat garbled: “The feedback that we get from the social component of the business and the #metoos and some of all of that sort of blended all together, we’re going to be responding to.”

The lack of clarity over its marketing has affected sales at Victoria’s Secret.

It is still a huge brand, with last year’s revenue reaching $7.3bn, but its like-for-like store sales – which ignore the boost that a retailer gets from opening new stores – have been heading in the wrong direction for some time.

In contrast, brands who have fully embraced showing all sorts of women in their marketing, have thrived.

Aerie, the clothing firm owned by American Eagle Outfitters, launched a campaign in 2014 using models with no airbrushing. It recently reported a 16% rise in like-for-like sales for the three months to 3 August – its 19th consecutive quarter of double digit growth.

Who is Victoria?

Victoria is not just a name used by the firm to sell underwear. she is a collection of ideas about who the company’s customer is, according to Mr Mehas.

He said: “She’s college educated. Her parents are French and English…we’ve updated it a bit…she’s a USC film student now and not fully at Oxford.

“She’s got a fabulous life, she’s travelled around the world…and she’s in her late 20s, really early 30s, cosmopolitan, has a lot of friends.”

One tangible thing Victoria’s Secret is doing is “re-evaluating” its flashy annual fashion show, famed for the procession of so-called “Angels” in wings, high heels and underwear.

The televised catwalk show that once drew viewers of 12.4 million, pulled in just 3.3 million viewers in 2018 – a record low.

It has arguably been eclipsed in recent years by Savage X Fenty, the lingerie line by singer, actress and businesswoman Rihanna, whose events showcase a huge range of body types.

Turmoil

Perhaps one of the reasons Victoria’s Secret has struggled to find its way in recent years is the turmoil both inside and outside the company.

As it prepared to unveil the #loveyourself campaign with BlueBella, it emerged that Victoria’s Secret executive vice president of stores, April Holt, was stepping down.

The company also said it was laying off around 15% of its staff at its Ohio headquarters.

Then there’s Jeffrey Epstein.

The late US financier, was a long-time financial adviser to Les Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.

He died in prison in August, while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges in August.

At L Brands’ investor day last month, Mr Wexner made it clear he was keen to move forward – as is Victoria’s Secret.

Mr Mehas assured shareholders that they would soon “start to see an evolution”.

“For us, it is being very thoughtful about this precious brand that has been built over the course of 30-40 years,” he said.

The campaign with BlueBella could give Victoria’s Secret a much-needed injection of energy.

Kate Ormrod, lead retail analyst at WorldData said it is a “good step” for the company.

“But perhaps it is a little late in the day.”

Victoria’s Secret declined a request for an interview.

Senior Barclays executives warned each other it was “dodgy” to pay the Prime Minister of Qatar millions for “advisory services”, a court has heard.

They raised concerns with lawyers and discussed the risk of jail if they were blamed for the arrangement.

But audio recordings played to the court revealed they expected responsibility to lie with the chief executive and board of directors.

Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath are on trial at the Old Bailey.

They are accused of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.

On Friday the court heard phone calls from June 2008, when Barclays was seeking billions of pounds in extra capital to boost its weak finances.

The then Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, indicated to Roger Jenkins he was prepared to invest £2bn.

But the Qatari investors wanted a commission for doing so of 3.25% – more than double the 1.5% commission other investors were getting.

Rather than paying all investors the same, higher amount, the court heard, Barclays arranged to pay the Qatari investors an “additional fee” of 1.75% – or £35m – for ‘advisory services’.

Roger Jenkins negotiated the deal in close consultation with Bob Diamond, then deputy chief executive, according to transcripts of phone calls read out in court.

“I was on and off the phone with Bob and on and off the phone with Hamad and we eventually agreed,” Mr Jenkins was quoted telling Mr Boath in 2008. “The night of 11 June, I had a conversation with Sheikh Hamad, exploring the advisory agreement.”

The Serious Fraud Office’s case is that the advisory services agreement was fraudulent because it was in fact simply a mechanism to pay the Qataris’ additional fees.

‘A bit tricky’

Mr Kalaris told Mr Boath the scheme had been approved by then-deputy chief executive Bob Diamond and finance director Chris Lucas, and also by compliance director Steve Morse.

Only after the deal was struck did they realise that it might be wrong to retain the Prime Minister of Qatar as an adviser to Barclays.

Mr Boath and Mr Jenkins told Sheikh Hamad he had to disclose his beneficial ownership of the vehicles used to invest the money.

“He is the prime minister,” Mr Boath told Mr Jenkins in a phone call on 18 June 2008. “So him getting paid to provide us with advisory services is a bit tricky”.

“Actually that’s true,” Mr Jenkins replied. “I don’t know what to do with this… But he wants his money”.

Richard Boath suggested a legitimate solution:

“You know what I want to do? You know what I think the best thing to do is… we basically start again… the Chinese come in, everybody comes in, we disclose 3% fees…. none of us is going to jail and we get a deal done on Tuesday.”

Jenkins: “Fine, but let’s deal with the real… what we’ve got.”

In court, Ed Brown QC, prosecuting, said: “You may well think he was beginning to say ‘reality’. You may wish to take that recording into account carefully – it is revealing”.

Later in the same call, Mr Jenkins returned to the same point:

“…given his position of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister -“

Richard Boath: “It’s a bit dodgy.”

Roger Jenkins: “It’s a bit dodgy. You can’t as a Prime Minister, take these services…”

Following the call with Mr Jenkins, Richard Boath spoke to Barclays lawyers Judith Shepherd and Matthew Dobson who advised him the Qataris had to provide “valuable services” in exchange for the Barclays’ money.

Matthew Dobson: “And it’s actually beyond Roger, it’s the board actually, because you know this is all part of the –

Richard Boath: “Are we going to have to demonstrate over time that they have provided these services?”

Judith Shepherd: “If anybody challenges us.”

Mr Boath: “Like any, any of the other investors?”

Ms Shepherd: “Any of the other investors, the FSA, the UKLA, the criminal authority, the Fraud Unit.”

Mr Boath: “I’m already feeling sick. There’s no need to use all those words to make me feel sicker.”

Ms Shepherd: “Well, I haven’t even finished my list yet.”

Mr Boath: “Right…”

Ms Shepherd: “It’s serious stuff; we’re not playing a game here.”

Mr Boath: “No… well if it were me I wouldn’t have agreed to it. But there you go… So, all right.”

Ms Shepherd: “Well Big Dog [Roger Jenkins] will be in the dock first.”

Mr Boath: “Otherwise known as the ‘Dodger’ so maybe he might even dodge that one… By the way, are the board going to see this agreement?”

Ms Shepherd: “Of course they are.”

Mr Dobson: “It’s their necks on the block.”

The trial continues.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not adequately review the new automated safety system in Boeing’s 737 Max, an international panel has found.

The panel said the FAA delegated too much oversight to Boeing, while the planemaker had provided confusing information about the system, which has been linked to two deadly crashes.

The FAA thanked the panel for its “unvarnished” report.

Boeing pledged to work with the FAA on the recommendations.

The FAA, which oversees plane safety in the US, commissioned the review in April after Boeing 737 Max disasters in Ethiopia and Indonesia, which killed 346 people.

The agency had faced criticism over its approval of Boeing’s 737 Max, which has been grounded since March following the crashes.

In both incidents, investigators focused on the role played by a software system called MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System), which was designed to make the aircraft easier to fly.

Inquiries have shown the software – and the failure of sensors – contributed to pilots not being able to control the aircraft.

In the wake of the two accidents involving the 737 Max, the FAA has come in for some strong criticism.

Over the years it has delegated more and more safety certification work to Boeing. It simply doesn’t have the expertise or resources to do it all itself, and it’s a policy which US politicians have supported.

But recently it has been accused of becoming too close to the aerospace giant, and failing to exercise proper oversight.

This report bears out a least part of that claim.

It concludes that the FAA wasn’t sufficiently aware of what MCAS was and so was unable to exercise proper oversight; and that “undue pressures” were placed on Boeing staff carrying out tasks on behalf of the regulator.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has said he will review every recommendation made in the “unvarnished” review.

But the problem remains: if certification depends on Boeing marking its own homework, how can the FAA be sure it’s doing the job properly?

‘Undue pressures’

In a report published on Friday, the panel found that the the agency’s “limited involvement” and “inadequate awareness” of the automated MCAS safety system “resulted in an inability of the FAA to provide an independent assessment”.

It also found that Boeing staff performing the certification were also subject to “undue pressures… which further erodes the level of assurance in this system of delegation”.

While the FAA’s approval process scrutinised individual changes, it did not adequately consider how the changes might interact with existing systems or with pilots and crew, the report added.

The panel included representatives from the FAA, as well as officials from NASA and nine other countries, including Canada, China and Indonesia.

‘Bolster aviation safety’

The FAA pledged it would act on the report’s recommendations.

“We welcome this scrutiny and are confident that our openness to these efforts will further bolster aviation safety worldwide,” FAA Chair Steve Dickson said. “The accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia are a sombre reminder that the FAA and our international regulatory partners must strive to constantly strengthen aviation safety.”

Boeing, which has blamed the crashes on erroneous data fed into the system, called safety a “core value”. It has said it is revising the plane’s software to improve safeguards.

“Boeing is committed to working with the FAA in reviewing the recommendations and helping to continuously improve the process and approach used to validate and certify airplanes going forward,” the company said in a statement.

The government has awarded £86.6m of contracts to ferry companies to transport medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O and Stena Line will be able to deliver those supplies from 31 October, it said.

The contracts are aimed at making sure deliveries of vital products continue, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The government was criticised earlier this year after awarding a transport contract to a company with no ferries.

The contracts will be in place for six months so the government is prepared for different Brexit scenarios, a spokesperson said.

Should the contracts need to be cancelled, the UK will pay the firms £11.52m. The UK paid £51m to cancel no-deal ferry contracts after the Brexit deadline extension at the end of March.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK is getting ready to leave the EU on the 31 October and, like any sensible government, we are preparing for all outcomes.

“Our decisive action means freight operators will be ready and waiting to transport vital medicines into the country from the moment we leave.”

The firms will operate on routes away from the busiest ports to minimise disruption, the Department for Transport said.

The ferries run between Teesport, Hull, Killingholme, Felixstowe, Harwich, Tilbury, Portsmouth and Poole in the UK and Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, Zeebrugge, Hook of Holland, Rotterdam, Europort, and Vlaardingen.

‘Patients may die’

Earlier this week, the government established a customs paperwork support unit for medical goods suppliers to help with getting across borders in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The extra capacity will help drugs firms plan for a no-deal Brexit, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said.

“This capacity is an important part of our members’ preparations,” said the industry body’s chief executive Mike Thompson.

“Stockpiles are also in place, and some companies have already sourced their own alternative ferry routes.”

Earlier this week Dame Sally Davies warned that patients could die should there be medical supplies shortages.

“We cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages, not only in medicines, but technology and gadgets,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There may be deaths, we can’t guarantee there won’t.”

In February the government scrapped a ferry contract with Seaborne Freight, which had no ships, after the Irish company backing the deal pulled out.

Dyson, the technology company best known for its vacuum cleaners, has scrapped a project to build electric cars.

The firm, headed by British inventor Sir James Dyson, said its engineers had developed a “fantastic electric car” but that it would not hit the roads because it was not “commercially viable”.

In an email sent to all employees, Sir James said the company had unsuccessfully tried to find a buyer for the project.

The division employs 500 UK workers.

Dyson had planned to invest more than £2bn in developing a “radical and different” electric vehicle, a project it launched in 2016. It said the car would not be aimed at the mass market.

Half of the funds would go towards building the car, half towards developing electric batteries.

In October 2018 Dyson revealed plans to build the car at a new plant in Singapore. It was expected to be completed next year, with the first vehicles due to roll off the production line in 2021.


Dyson wanted to make something revolutionary – but also needed to make it pay. And the sums simply didn’t add up.

Sales of electric cars are climbing rapidly. Yet they still cost more to make than conventional cars, and generate much lower profits – if any.

Major manufacturers like VW can afford to plough tens of billions into the EV industry – on the basis that economies of scale will ultimately make the technology cheaper and generate returns.

Even the upstart Tesla, widely credited with showing everyone else just how good electric cars could be, has burnt through mountains of cash and had to go cap in hand to investors.

Dyson has concluded it simply can’t afford to play with the big boys – although its efforts to make a quantum leap in battery technology will continue.


The company also planned to invest £200m in the UK in research and development and test track facilities. Much of that money has already been spent and Dyson said it would use the site for other projects.

The rest of the funds intended for the electric car project would still be spent on developing other products, including its battery technology, Dyson said.

The assistant managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board Tan Kong Hwee said the country would still play a significant role in Dyson’s growth plans.

“As Dyson’s decision not to pursue the electric vehicle business was taken at an early stage, the disruption to its operations and workforce in Singapore will be minimal,” he said.

The first cars had already been developed and were being tested.

But in an email on Thursday, Sir James revealed that Dyson was closing electric car facilities both in the UK and Singapore.

The project employed 523 people, 500 of whom were in UK, and Sir James praised their “immense” achievements.

“This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest,” Sir James wrote.

But, he said: “We have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable.

“The Dyson automotive team has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies.”

He said the firm was trying to find alternative roles for the workers in its home division, which makes things such as vacuum cleaners, fans and hairdryers.

Sir James said Dyson would continue to work on the battery technology, which was used in the car.

“Our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions.”

“In summary, our investment appetite is undiminished and we will continue to deepen our roots in both the UK and Singapore,” he said.

“This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last.”

There is growing concern among key aerospace manufacturers about regulatory alignment and the ability to bring products to market after Brexit.

The firms have sought reassurance that the UK would continue to be a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency after any Brexit deal.

They also warned that alignment with chemicals regulations is “vital” for the sector.

The government said it would pursue agreements where necessary.

The government is facing a backlash from key manufacturers amid growing industrial concern that Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have dropped existing commitments to participate in specific EU regulatory institutions after any Brexit deal.

BBC News has obtained a letter from the aerospace industry body, the ADS, to the government asking for “reassurance” that “continued membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and alignment with EU chemicals regulations” which “are vital for our sector”.

It said that “we received assurances from the previous [May] government that the UK would seek to continue membership of or retain participation and influence in EU agencies such as EASA”.

The letter, dated this week, and sent to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, expresses “concern” that the PM has signalled a different approach.

Repeated attempts to get clarity on this issue have not reassured the aerospace and other industries on this topic.

It says that “regulatory divergence would pose a serious risk to our sectors” will result in “huge new costs and disruptions to many of our member companies”, and an “inability to shape safety rule making” which “will make it much more difficult to bring UK technology to market”.

In the existing political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, negotiated under Theresa May, there were specific references to ongoing close cooperation between a post-Brexit UK and three named regulatory agencies – the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Chemical Agency as well as the European Medicines Agency.

The political declaration said “in this context the UK will consider aligning with [European] Union rules in relevant areas”.

After the completion of negotiations, Mrs May confirmed to parliament that the political declaration meant for her negotiating a form of UK membership of these agencies which set technical specifications and safety standards across the whole European single market.

The concerns are shared in other industries, who have asked for similar reassurances, only to be told in recent weeks that the government is seeking a “best in class” free trade agreement, where the UK would set its own regulatory standards.

The government has acknowledged that it wants to take the “level playing field” arrangements out of the political declaration that promised alignment on environmental, social, labour and some tax measures.

These were also seen as crucial to ongoing industrial regulatory cooperation, and preventing the introduction of many types of checks on trade.

But the government fears such measures agreed by Theresa May will restrict the ability of a post-Brexit government to strike meaningful trade deals with other countries such as the US.

A source close to the negotiations acknowledged to the BBC that among changes being negotiated to the political declaration references to EU agencies could get scrapped.

Even as most of the negotiating attention remains on Northern Ireland, the change in approach from the Johnson government suggest a significantly different, more diverged end point for Brexit for England, Scotland and Wales, than envisaged under Theresa May.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is getting ready for Brexit on 31 October. We want a deal, but we must be prepared for every eventuality and we have recently announced substantial extra funding to support businesses to get ready.

“The government is seeking a best in class FTA [free trade agreement] drawing on the precedent of existing EU FTA deals.

“We have been clear that we are committed to maintaining high standards after we leave the EU.

“Where necessary, the government will pursue additional agreements to cover areas outside traditional FTAs – for example, on aviation and civil nuclear cooperation.”

A number of Labour MPs who say they want to support a deal have already expressed a desire for a deal with less scope for regulatory divergence.