Welcome to the November 2020 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on new trade agreements, the end of the Transition period, regional investments plans, tourism and world trade issues.
UK Government sign trade deal with Japan
The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) has been signed by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu in Tokyo.
The deal is the first agreement that the UK has secured that goes beyond the existing EU deal, with enhancements in areas such as digital and data, financial services, food and drink, and creative industries.
- Cutting-edge digital & data provisions that go far beyond the EU-Japan deal, including enabling free flow of data, a commitment to uphold the principles of net neutrality and a ban on unjustified data localisation that will prevent British businesses from having the extra cost of setting up servers in Japan.
- Supporting UK car and rail manufacturing jobs at major investors in the UK like Nissan and Hitachi through reduced tariffs on parts coming from Japan, streamlined regulatory procedures and greater legal certainty for their operations.
- Strong tariff reductions on key agricultural products like pork, beef and salmon will benefit farmers and food exporters.
- A boost for UK brands with protections for more iconic UK agricultural products, from just seven under the terms of the EU-Japan deal to potentially over 70, including English sparkling wine, Scotch beef and Welsh lamb.
The UK Government said the deal could boost trade between the UK and Japan by over £15 billion and drive economic growth in the long run, benefiting all parts of the country and Scotland, London and the East Midlands in particular.
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/35MOEHo
UK firms can bid for foreign public sector contracts
The Department for International Trade has announced that British businesses will be able to continue bidding for public sector contracts around the world worth over £1.3 trillion a year, following extensive engagement with WTO members.
At a meeting in Geneva, the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) Committee confirmed the United Kingdom can join the GPA as an independent nation from 1 January 2021. Previously the UK participated through membership of the EU.
The agreement ensures UK businesses can compete fairly for overseas procurement contracts. This will benefit a range of British businesses from across the UK that work with international governments.
For example, UK advertising agencies can continue to export their services and remain competitive when bidding for tourism, branding and inward investment promotion work in other countries. Indeed, the GPA will continue to provide opportunities for businesses in diverse sectors to secure lucrative contracts from governments around the world. In turn, this will allow British businesses to expand their operations in the UK, supporting jobs and economic growth at home.
This will provide British businesses with the certainty they need to continue bidding for public sector contracts overseas covered by the GPA, on the same terms as they do now.
Overseas firms can also continue to bid for UK public sector contracts covered by the GPA, delivering better value for UK taxpayers, and the agreement will continue to protect vital public services such as the NHS. It does not, and will not cover healthcare services but will enable continued access to vital resources like medical equipment, cleaning and building management services at competitive prices.
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/3mz8jSc
Regional investment projects announced to boost local economies
Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone, has announced the second round of successful bids for the Government’s High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme. The programme, coordinated by DIT, selects investment opportunities to promote to foreign investors, driving investment into the UK’s regions and nations.
19 new investment projects were selected in the second round of the programme, following bids from Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the UK, Welsh Government and Scottish Enterprise.
The diverse new selection of HPO projects include investment opportunities into heat networks in the North East and Tees Valley, which will showcase an ecosystem in energy, engineering, and manufacturing; precision medicine in Scotland with opportunities to invest in AI applications in healthcare supported by national centres of excellence; and compound semiconductors in Wales for further investment into the UK’s next generation electronic devices.
Now the projects have been announced, DIT’s global network – based in 177 cities around the world – will provide support by showcasing these opportunities internationally and contacting investors to promote the projects.
For more information go to: https://bit.ly/3kFz3zU
Export Growth Plan to help businesses in England
A package of measures to help businesses in England through the pandemic has been announced by the Government.
The Export Growth Plan provides additional financial support and expertise, some of which is targeted towards specific regions that are most in need.
The plan includes a £38 million Internationalisation Fund for small businesses, which will help up to 7,600 SMEs in England grow their overseas trading and strengthen their business.
Additional support for exporters will be provided by 64 new International Trade Advisors (ITAs), many of them working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), who will lend their expertise to small businesses in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and South West.
A new pilot Export Academy will also be introduced to support smaller businesses in the same areas. The Academy will deliver a series of activities to build the capabilities of smaller companies, creating a new cohort of confident businesses ready to trade.
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/3eiVOY9
Broadband boost for Scotland
A new collaboration between the Scottish and UK Governments will see voucher funding joined up to make more money available to subsidise the costs of building gigabit-capable broadband networks to hard-to-reach areas of Scotland.
Gigabit-capable broadband enables internet download speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second (mbps) which is enough to download a HD movie in less than 30 seconds. It has the potential to make rural communities even more attractive places to live by giving people the freedom to work more flexibly and develop thriving digital economies.
The UK Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure, which often requires digging trenches to lay full fibre cables to people’s doorsteps, is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone.
Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs across the UK.
The Scottish Government’s supplier-led Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS) provides people with a voucher worth up to £5,000 to help deliver a permanent broadband connection to properties where there is no roll-out of superfast broadband planned.
To ensure even those in the hardest-to-reach areas of Scotland don’t miss out on gigabit-capable broadband, the Scottish Government has teamed up with the UK Government to combine their funding and expand that pot to up to £8,500 for SMEs and up to £6,500 for homes.
The offer means eligible people experiencing the slowest speeds in some of the most remote areas of Scotland will be able to access a voucher that provides the maximum funding from both schemes.
Ministers from the UK and Scottish governments are now urging businesses and communities to apply to future-proof their internet connections and be ready to reap the economic and social benefits brought by advances in technology.
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/3e8d3LD
Scottish Tourism Taskforce recommendations published.
The Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce has published its recommendations for supporting the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The taskforce was charged with looking at what priority rescue measures both the Scottish and UK governments can take to bolster recovery. The group’s recommendations, which will now be carefully considered by the Scottish Government include:
- working closely with the sector on necessary planning, advice and adequate compensation packages if evidence based restrictions are required
- facilitating international travel by progressing alternative options for robust COVID-19 testing regimes
- developing a package of short term measures, including marketing support and sectoral advice via VisitScotland to boost demand and increase visitor confidence
- extending the Business Rates Holiday for specific affected sectors and regions by another year
- creation of a skills development package to retain talent and enhance staff leadership skills
The UK Government is asked to consider a series of financial measures including further tailored support for the sector beyond what is offered by the current Job Support Scheme, reconsider the removal of duty free shopping, extend the VAT reduction for hospitality and the supply chain, reduce the cost of loans via a government backed soft equity loan scheme and a review of taxation.
Welcoming the recommendations, Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I am very grateful to the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the wider Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce for undertaking this vital piece of work. The report aligns with our ambitions in Scotland Outlook 2030 and highlights key themes regarding sustainable business, the importance of our people and communities and green tourism.
“Scotland’s world class tourism offering has faced unimaginable challenges this year, with no clear end in sight. The Scottish Government has worked extremely hard to provide critical support to the industry. We’ve engaged closely with the sector, even beyond the taskforce, to listen to exactly what support they need and we have strived to provide where possible. These recommendations take this support to the next level.
“Of course, there are also specific recommendations for the UK Government. They must step up and provide the much needed finance the sector requires to get through the coming winter and beyond. I urge the UK Government to consider the recommendations in detail and work with us to support recovery.”
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/37P7QHd
Less than 100 days left to complete tax return
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is reminding Self Assessment customers that there are less than 100 days left to complete their tax return ahead of the deadline on 31 January 2021.
Each year, around 11 million customers complete a Self Assessment tax return. Customers can complete their 2019 to 2020 tax return at any time up to the deadline but HMRC recommends completing it early to allow customers time to pay their tax bill or set up a payment plan.
The majority of Self Assessment customers choose to complete their tax return online, which provides an immediate calculation of any tax owed.
Customers must complete a Self Assessment return if they:
- have earned more than £2,500 from renting out property
- have received, or their partner has received, Child Benefit and either of them had an annual income of more than £50,000
- have received more than £2,500 in other untaxed income, for example from tips or commission
- are a self-employed sole trader whose annual turnover is over £1,000
- are an employee claiming expenses in excess of £2,500
- have an annual income of over £100,000
- have earned income from abroad that they need to pay tax on
For more information go to; https://bit.ly/2TAknGs
Pandemic contingency plan for freight transport – EU Council adopts conclusions
The European Union Council has adopted conclusions calling on the Commission to swiftly draw up a pandemic and other major crisis contingency plan for the European freight transport sector. Such a plan should include EU-level coordination measures and clear guidelines.
The contingency plan should cover at least the following aspects:
- maintaining cross-border freight transport operations along the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) corridors and other essential cross-border connections, as well as related ancillary services supporting the operation of that network
- ensuring free movement of transport workers while safeguarding the protection of their health and safety
- preparing guidelines and best-practice toolboxes in order to strengthen the sector's resilience
- setting up a coherent regulatory framework as regards exemptions to be applied when pandemics and other major crisis situations arise.
The Council encourages the Commission to extend, where appropriate, in part or in full, the contingency plan to passenger transport and transport in general.
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