N Ireland business calls for 6-month delay in Brexit trade plan

Business leaders in Northern Ireland have called for the deferral of new Brexit trade checks due in January, warning that they still lack crucial details after “little or no engagement” with the UK government on the plan. 

The demand for a pause of at least six months after the end of the UK’s transition from the EU on December 31 came as regional trade bodies said coronavirus disruption meant business has “little bandwidth or financial capacity” to deal with new post-Brexit arrangements.

The intervention on Friday by the Northern Ireland business Brexit working group — comprising 15 trade bodies, representing 90 per cent of the region’s companies — has raised fresh doubts about the lack of readiness to implement the Irish protocol in the UK’s EU withdrawal treaty. 

The protocol aims to keep Northern Ireland within the European trading regime, to maintain open borders with the Irish Republic, and to

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Dividend-paying groups use BoE support facility

A number of large dividend-paying multinational companies have used the Bank of England’s coronavirus funding scheme, according to data released just weeks after ministers belatedly sought to crack down on businesses accessing the programme to cover shareholder payouts.

Companies backed by billionaire owners, including Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur, have also used the BoE’s scheme.

The BoE for the first time on Thursday disclosed a list of companies using its emergency scheme, currently worth £16.2bn, prompting MPs to complain at how some businesses benefiting from UK government financial support were this year paying dividends.

The central bank set up its covid corporate financing facility at the behest of the government at the start of the virus crisis in March, under which it buys commercial paper issued by companies that have an investment grade credit rating.

Companies receiving help through the BoE scheme — a form of low cost borrowing

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Coronavirus: We can supply two billion potential vaccine doses, AstraZeneca says | Business News

British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca says it now has capacity to deliver two billion doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine over the next two years.

The number is twice what the company had originally promised, an increase due to new deals with the Serum Institute of India and two Bill Gates-backed organisations.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said on Thursday that the firm would consider more partnerships over the next few months, with the potential to expand production beyond two billion doses.

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Pascal Soriot says the company will know by August if the vaccine works

It is all, however, dependent on proof a vaccine is effective in protecting against coronavirus.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University have been working together on a possible vaccine and are thought to be among the front runners in a global race.

Mr Soriot said he expected to know by August whether the vaccine works, adding:

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Face masks to be made compulsory on public transport in England

Passengers on public transport in England will be compelled to wear face coverings from mid-June — with potential fines for non-compliance — under instructions issued by the government on Thursday to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement is a significant hardening in the approach by ministers after months of a more laissez-faire attitude.

It comes as the government expects an increase in the use of public transport in the next few weeks as economic activity starts to pick up after several months of the lockdown.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the next loosening of restrictions from June 15, with the reopening of non-essential shops, would mean more pressure on public transport.

“We are ramping up services of buses, trams and trains with substantial government funding but we still need to do more,” he added.

Mr Shapps said those who could work from home should continue to do so while

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