Heathrow Airport has had a subway link for decades. When the Elizabeth line’s next phase is opened in the fall, passengers will be able to travel from Heathrow to the banks at Canary Wharf in East London in 40 minutes; that is a prime selling point for a city desperate to hold on to its status as financial mecca after Brexit. All told, the line has 10 entirely new stations, 42 miles of tunnels and crosses under the Thames three times.

“We’re jealous, it’s fair to say,” said Danny Pearlstein, the policy director for Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group in New York. “Imagining a new, full-length underground line here is not something anyone is doing. The Second Avenue subway, which people have been talking about for 100 years, has three stations.”

To be fair, Transport for London is not without its problems. It has shelved plans to build a north-south counterpart to the Elizabeth line, not to mention an extension to the Bakerloo tube line, because of a lack of funding. Still reeling from a near-total loss of riders during pandemic lockdowns, the system faces many of the same financial woes as New York’s subway.

Though ridership has recovered from a nadir of 5 percent, it is still at only 70 percent of prepandemic levels. Transport for London is also heavily dependent on ticket fares to cover its costs, more so than the New York subway, which gets state subsidies, as well as funds from bridge and tunnel tolls.

“My other obsession is sorting out the finances,” Mr. Byford said. “One way is to wean us away from dependence on fares.”

He is somewhat vague about how to do that, and it is clear that Transport for London will depend on additional government handouts to get back on sound financial footing. That is why the opening of the Elizabeth line is so important to London: It makes a powerful case for public transportation at a time when people are questioning how many workers will ever return to their offices.

Mr. Byford lays out the case with the practiced cadence of a stump speech. The new line will increase the capacity of the system by 10 percent. Its spacious coaches are well suited to a world in which people are used to social distancing. It will revitalize economically blighted towns east of the city, while making central London accessible to people who live in far-flung towns to the east and west.

While Mr. Byford does not expect ridership ever to return completely, he thinks 90 percent is attainable. If office buildings remain underpopulated, London could develop like Paris, with more residential neighborhoods downtown. (The Elizabeth line bears a distinct resemblance to the high-speed RER system in Paris.) The line, he says, is an insurance policy against the “siren voices of doom” about Brexit.

At times, Mr. Byford slips perilously close to a real estate agent’s patter. “These super-high-tech stations simply ooze quality,” he said. But emerging from Liverpool Street, with its spectacular, rippling, pinstriped ceiling, it is hard to argue with his basic assertion: “This is a game changer.”

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Sam Bankman-Fried, Crypto Billionaire, Wants Washington to Follow His Lead

Mr. Bankman-Fried spent much of Crypto Bahamas shuttling back and forth from his laptop to the convention stage. Even his mother, Barbara Fried, had trouble getting time alone with him: As she tried to catch his eye one afternoon, a blockchain bro in a polo shirt cornered Mr. Bankman-Fried, asking him to film a birthday message for a friend. A few minutes later, he was backstage, shaking hands with Tony Blair and making awkward small talk about Brexit.

Unlike some crypto conferences, the gathering in the Bahamas was an invitation-only affair, and it drew a high-rolling crowd. As a party favor, FTX’s guests were offered discounts at a private jet company. On the bus ride to a beachside party, one attendee talked up his crypto yacht collective — “the most exclusive club that’s the most inclusive once you’re in.”

In places like Puerto Rico, the arrival of crypto millionaires chasing tax breaks has sent housing prices skyrocketing, outraging longtime residents. But the political leadership of the Bahamas has welcomed FTX with open arms. Prime Minister Philip Davis began the first day of conference programming with an enthusiastic speech, declaring that crypto entrepreneurs are “better wired for innovation and change than most people on the planet.” Later, in an interview, Mr. Davis said he’d been pleasantly surprised when Mr. Bankman-Fried wore a suit to a meeting at his office. “We want you here,” Mr. Davis recalled telling him.

Mr. Bankman-Fried skipped most of the conference festivities, but he didn’t neglect his hosting duties. He had dinner with Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton, and rarely turned down a selfie. He also made plenty of time for Mr. Scaramucci, the chairman of SALT, a corporate events organization that helped put on the conference.

SBF’s double act with the Mooch marked the end of Crypto Bahamas. Back in the green room, FTX staffers exchanged hugs and high fives. Mr. Bankman-Fried was scrolling on his phone. He stretched and ran his hands through his hair. Then he checked his watch. The comedy bit had taken about four minutes. “I’ve got a lot of emails to catch up on,” he said.

Outside, the convention center was emptying, as hundreds of crypto enthusiasts headed for the airport. It was the calm before the coming meltdown. To leave the resort, guests had to walk through the Baha Mar casino, the largest in the Caribbean, a brightly lit hall of flashing slot machines.

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Britannia, With Fewer Rules

“Every stage of the crisis has been characterized by the idea that Britain is a special case,” Mr. Sanghera wrote.

It was special, and sometimes for the best of reasons. When the vaccines debuted in the United States, millions of people chased them online. In Britain, the vaccine chased you. One day, a notification showed up on your phone, from the National Health Service, asking which day and vaccination center was convenient. The entire process was easier than buying an iPad online.

But England was often special in the worst way. For stretches of the pandemic it had the highest death rate in Europe. In March 2020, when Mr. Johnson contracted Covid after seeming to defy recommended precautions, The Irish Times described Mr. Johnson’s leadership as “another example of British exceptionalism backfiring in grand style, some might say, and a bad omen for Brexit, the U.K.’s other social distancing project.”

To date, England’s efforts to prevent death from Covid-19 have been more successful than those of the United States, on a per-capita basis, but lag most of Europe. In Germany, there have been 141 deaths per 100,000, in Spain 197. In England, the per capita death rate is 240.

Not the worst, and far from the best. The historian and podcaster Dan Snow argues that this showing flows from the U.K.’s faith in the power of vaccines, which is of a piece with England’s love of — and gift for creating — life-altering technology.

“The vaccine was a kind of tech optimism, it was the moonshot,” he said. “Like the U.S., we’re a country open to transformative technology and that makes sense because this is where the industrial revolution began. We start by fiddling around with looms and textiles and eventually there’s a man on the moon.”

This faith in the power of English minds to dig the country out of any mess is a variation on the theme of exceptionalism. Put another way, the English are different. Expecting them to trod the same path as the rest of Europe is folly.

Or as Mr. Snow put it, “The boring, social democratic solution of ‘Let’s slow down transmission, sit apart from each other, let’s not do whatever we want’ — to English ears, that all sounds a bit Dutch.”

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London is top global finance centre but lags in key areas, says study

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St Paul’s Cathedral and areas of the financial district of the City of London are seen at dusk October 9, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – London remains the top global financial centre, according to a study from its own financial district, but is outgunned by New York and Singapore in access to talent, while Paris is adding competition from the European Union.

The study from the City of London Corporation selected seven centres that feature in other research on financial hubs, such as Z/Yen, which consistently puts New York in the top spot and London second.

The study, which added Paris this year, looked at five areas like digital skills, regulation and talent. While London remains top overall from last year, New York is only slightly behind and closing the gap, followed by Singapore, Frankfurt, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

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City of London Graphic

New York remains by far the biggest financial centre, while London lags Singapore in resilient business infrastructure, access to talent and skills, and a friendly regulatory and legal environment.

“UK policymakers need to guarantee that its businesses continue to enjoy unrivalled access to the best of global talent,” the study said.

“Withdrawal from the EU, the end of freedom of movement and the introduction of a new immigration system have damaged perceptions of the UK as an attractive business environment for international talent in recent years.”

Total tax for UK-based financial services firms, in particular banks, is also relatively high, it said. The finance ministry is reviewing some of the taxes.

Britain’s finance ministry has proposed that the Bank of England has a formal remit to “facilitate” London’s competitiveness.

A year since Britain left the EU’s orbit, leaving the financial sector largely cut off from the bloc, there are no signs of a “Brexit dividend” in looser regulation, though listing rules have been eased to help London catch up with New York in IPOs.

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Reporting by Huw Jones;
Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Dearth of chips drives UK car production to lowest since 1956

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New cars are parked at a dockyard in Grimsby, northern England, January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis/File Photo

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LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – British car production last year fell to its lowest since 1956, largely due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips that caused automakers to slow or shutter plants while waiting for parts, an industry group said on Thursday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said production fell 6.7% from 2020 to 859,575 vehicles and was 34% below the pre-pandemic year 2019.

“Overall, this was a deeply depressing year,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told reporters. “The impact of the semiconductors really hit home hard in the last quarter of last year.”

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The SMMT said it expected the shortage to ease this year and cited independent production forecasts that British car output should increase 19.7% to above 1 million vehicles.

The pandemic-fuelled shortage of chips, used in everything from brake sensors and power steering to entertainment systems, has led automakers around the world to cut or suspend production, pushing up both new and used vehicle prices amid robust demand from consumers.

The overall fall in British car production was also partly caused by the long-planned closure of Honda’s (7267.T) vehicle plant in Swindon.

One bright spot was that Britain’s electric vehicle production rose 72% last year.

The SMMT said earlier this month that fully-electric BEVs accounted for 11.6% of sales in 2021 – more than the cumulative sales for 2016 to 2020. read more

Hawes said that while the government’s Brexit deal had resulted in additional costs in 2021 for carmakers to handle increased bureaucracy in trade with the European Union, the industry had avoided the tariffs that would have accompanied a “no deal” rupture with the economic bloc.

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Reporting by Nick Carey
Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Nuclear-Powered Submarines for Australia? Maybe Not So Fast.

SYDNEY, Australia — When Australia made its trumpet-blast announcement that it would build nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the United States and Britain, the three allies said they would spend the next 18 months sorting out the details of a security collaboration that President Biden celebrated as “historic.”

Now, a month into their timetable, the partners are quietly coming to grips with the proposal’s immense complexities. Even supporters say the hurdles are formidable. Skeptics say they could be insurmountable.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has laid out an ambitious vision, saying that at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines using American or British technology will be built in Australia and enter the water starting in the late 2030s, replacing its squadron of six aging diesel-powered submarines.

For Australia, nuclear-powered submarines offer a powerful means to counter China’s growing naval reach and an escape hatch from a faltering agreement with a French firm to build diesel submarines. For the Biden administration, the plan demonstrates support for a beleaguered ally and shows that it means business in countering Chinese power. And for Britain, the plan could shore up its international standing and military industry after the upheaval of Brexit.

lagged the average for wealthy economies. Its past two plans to build submarines fell apart before any were made.

Marcus Hellyer, an expert on naval policy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“We sometimes use the term nation-building lightly, but this will be a whole-of-nation task,” he said. “The decision to go down this path while burning all of our bridges behind us was quite a brave decision.”

American officials have already spent hundreds of hours in talks with their Australian counterparts and have no illusions about the complexities, said officials involved. Mr. Morrison “has said this is a high-risk program; he was upfront when he announced it,” Greg Moriarty, the secretary of the Australian Department of Defense, told a Senate committee this week.

Failure or serious delays would ripple beyond Australia. The Biden administration has staked American credibility on building up Australia’s military as part of an “integrated deterrence” policy that will knit the United States closer to its allies in offsetting China.

“Success would be tremendous for Australia and the U.S., assuming open access to each other’s facilities and what it means in deterring China,” said Brent Sadler, a former U.S. Navy officer who is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Failure would be doubly damaging — an alliance that cannot deliver, loss of undersea capacity by a trusted ally and a turn to isolationism on Australia’s part.”

Australia is hoping for a reversal of fortune after more than a decade of misadventures in its submarine-modernization efforts. The plan for French-designed diesel submarines that Mr. Morrison abandoned had succeeded a deal for Japanese-designed submarines that a predecessor championed.

wrote in a recent article critical of Mr. Morrison’s plan.

two Virginia class boats a year for the Navy and are ramping up to build Columbia class submarines, 21,000-ton vessels that carry nuclear missiles as a roving deterrent — a priority for any administration.

A report to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month warned that the “nuclear shipbuilding industrial base continues to struggle to support the increased demand” from U.S. orders. That report was prepared too late to take into account the Australian proposal.

“They are working at 95-98 percent on Virginia and Columbia,” Richard V. Spencer, a Navy secretary in the Trump administration, said of the two American submarine shipyards. He supports Australia’s plan and said his preferred path on the first submarines was to galvanize specialized suppliers to ship parts, or whole segments of the submarines, to assemble in Australia.

“Let us all be perfectly aware and wide-eyed that the nuclear program is a massive resource consumer and time consumer, and that’s the given,” he said in a telephone interview.

said during a Senate committee hearing.

often behind schedule. Britain’s submarine maker, BAE Systems, is also busy building Dreadnought submarines to carry the country’s nuclear deterrent.

“Spare capacity is very limited,” Trevor Taylor, a professorial research fellow in defense management at the Royal United Services Institute, a research institute, wrote in an email. “The U.K. cannot afford to impose delay on its Dreadnought program in order to divert effort to Australia.”

Adding to the complications, Britain has been phasing out the PWR2 reactor that powers the Astute, after officials agreed that the model would “not be acceptable going forward,” an audit report said in 2018. The Astute is not designed to fit the next-generation reactor, and that issue could make it difficult to restart building the submarine for Australia, Mr. Taylor and other experts said.

Britain’s successor to the Astute is still on the drawing board; the government said last month that it would spend three years on design work for it. A naval official in the British Ministry of Defense said that the planned new submarine could fit Australia’s timetable well. Several experts were less sure.

“Waiting for the next-generation U.K. or U.S. attack submarine would mean an extended capability gap” for Australia, Mr. Taylor wrote in an assessment.

town of 67,000 that is home to Britain’s submarine-building shipyard, are handed iodine tablets as a precaution against possible leaks when reactors are tested. The Osborne shipyard in South Australia, where Mr. Morrison wants to build the nuclear submarines, sits on the edge of Adelaide, a city of 1.4 million.

Australia operates one small nuclear reactor. Its sole university program dedicated to nuclear engineering produces about five graduates every year, said Edward Obbard, the leader of the program at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Australia would need many thousands more people with nuclear training and experience if it wants the submarines, he said.

“The ramp-up has to start now,” he said.

Michael Crowley and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

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David Amess, Conservative Lawmaker in U.K., Is Fatally Stabbed

LEIGH-ON-SEA, England — For the second time in little more than five years, a British lawmaker meeting with constituents was killed in full view of the public, this time in a genteel seaside town, where the victim, a Conservative Party member of Parliament, was fatally stabbed on Friday inside a church.

The attack, which the authorities declared a terrorist attack early Saturday, stunned Britain’s political establishment, raising questions about the security of lawmakers at a time when the country is already on edge, unnerved by shortages of food and fuel, and frayed by a political culture that has become increasingly raw and combative in the aftermath of Brexit.

“The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism,” the police said.

The lawmaker, David Amess, 69, was a long-serving member of the House of Commons known for his soft-spoken manner and hard-line views on Brexit. He was engaged in the everyday political routine of meeting with constituents when the attack occurred in Leigh-on-Sea, on the mouth of the Thames, about 40 miles east of London.

a right-wing extremist targeted her outside a meeting with constituents.

In 2010, another Labour lawmaker, Stephen Timms, was stabbed twice in the abdomen by an Islamist extremist, but survived.

Photographs taken at the scene showed a number of emergency responders and a cordoned-off area around the church. The police said that officers had responded to reports of a stabbing shortly after 12:05 p.m., and that Mr. Amess had died at the scene.

the Brexit referendum, and the assailant, Thomas Mair, an unemployed gardener, was sentenced to life in prison.

on Twitter. “Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself,” he wrote. “There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”

Across the political spectrum, lawmakers and other prominent Britons recalled Mr. Amess’s gentle manner and work on behalf of animals.

“He was hugely kind and good,” said Carrie Johnson, the wife of the prime minister, on Twitter. “An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

“Heartbroken,” wrote Tracey Crouch, a fellow Conservative lawmaker. “I could write reams on how Sir David was one of the kindest, most compassionate, well liked colleagues in Parliament. But I can’t. I feel sick. I am lost. Rest in Peace. A little light went out in Parliament today. We will miss you.”

In Leigh-on-Sea, known for its annual regatta and folk festival, news of the attack reverberated through normally tranquil tree-lined streets.

“This doesn’t really happen, this is a nice quiet area,” said Alysha Codabaccus, 24, who lives in an apartment a few doors down from the church. “I mean, it literally happened in a church.”

At Mojo’s Seafood, a small white shack that serves fresh fish from the nearby coastline, the customers expressed horror and sadness. One remarked on the impact on Mr. Amess’s family. “He’s got five kids,” the man said quietly.

Lee Jordison, who works at a butcher shop 100 yards from the church, said he had heard sirens and seen armed officers running up the street, shattering the typical autumn afternoon quiet, and had known instantly that something was very wrong. He said a shaken woman had told him that people ran from the church screaming, “Please get here quick, he’s not breathing!”

Mr. Jordison said he had met Mr. Amess a few times. “He always used to visit our shop,” he said. “He was a very nice guy from the time I met him. He had a lot of time for the community.”

Megan Specia reported from Leigh-on-Sea, and Stephen Castle and Mark Landler from London.

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A Brexit-Weary Britain Finds Itself in a New Crisis With Brexit Overtones

LONDON — Few things are more likely to set teeth on edge in Downing Street than the tentative winner of an inconclusive German election declaring that Brexit is the reason Britons are lining up at gas stations like it’s 1974.

But there was Olaf Scholz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, telling reporters on Monday that the freedom of movement guaranteed by the European Union would have alleviated the shortage of truck drivers in Britain that is preventing oil companies from supplying gas stations across the country.

“We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union,” Mr. Scholz said, when asked about the crisis in Britain. “Now they decided different, and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that.”

For ordinary people, Mr. Scholz’s critique might also seem like old news. Britain is no longer debating Brexit. Nearly everyone is exhausted by the issue and the country, like the rest of the world, has instead been consumed by the pandemic.

began to run out of gasoline, sparking a panic and serpentine lines of motorists looking for a fill up.

While it would be wrong to blame a crisis with global ramifications solely on Brexit, there are Brexit-specific causes that are indisputable: Of the estimated shortfall of 100,000 truck drivers, about 20,000 are non-British drivers who left the country during the pandemic and have not returned in part because of more stringent, post-Brexit visa requirements to work in the country, which took effect this year.

reversed course last weekend and offered 5,000 three-month visas to foreign drivers to try to replenish the ranks (while also putting military drivers on standby to drive fuel trucks, a move he hasn’t yet taken.)

“You have business models based on your ability to hire workers from other countries,” said David Henig, an expert on trade policy for the European Center for International Political Economy, a research institute. “You’ve suddenly reduced your labor market down to an eighth of the size it previously was. There’s a Brexit effect on business models that simply haven’t had time to adjust.”

after Britain’s successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Some attributed the government’s ability to secure vaccines and obtain swift approval of them to its independence from the bureaucracy in Brussels.

party’s leaders have failed to find their voices. It is reminiscent of earlier debates, where the party’s deep divisions on Brexit hampered its ability to confront the government.

“I’ve been amazed by the reluctance of Labour to go after them,” said Anand Menon, a professor of European politics at Kings College London. “You can allude to Brexit without saying Brexit. You can say it’s because of the Tories’ rubbish trade deal.”

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