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BD inspection team to take over Accord, Alliance to leave by December: Tofail

Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed speaks at a programme titled ‘Capacity Building of Remediation Coordination Cell: Sharing Progress and Way Forward’ organised by the labour ministry at the city’s Purbani Hotel on Tuesday. State minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque, labour secretary Afroza Khan and ILO deputy director for Bangladesh country office Gagan Rajbhandari were present.

— photo courtesy of New Age

Business Report

As Bangladesh garment industry made significant progress in safety enforcement and  remediation process, the presence of foreign inspectors is no longer required in the sector and must leave soon.
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed made the comment on Tuesday last in the city at a seminar saying that the presence of Accord and Alliance in the country would not be extended beyond December this year.
‘Accord and Alliance will leave Bangladesh after six-month transition period on December 7 and then Bangladesh will take over the responsibility of factory remediation and inspection,’ Tofail said in a programme held at Hotel Purbani in the capital.
The labour ministry organised the event titled ‘Capacity Building of Remediation Coordination Cell: Sharing Progress and Way Forward’ attended by the state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque, labour secretary Afroza Khan, US ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, EU ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink were present.
President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Md Siddiqur Rahman, among others were also present.
Tofail said in the fourth review meeting of Sustainability compact held at Brussels last month the issue of extending time for Accord and Alliance was discussed and the meeting was told that Bangladesh was capable to take over the responsibility of factory remediation.
He said that with the support of International Labour Organisation, the government formed RCC and already 60 engineers were appointed. RCC would be able to take over the responsibility of factory remediation and oversee the industrial safety, the commerce minister said.
Tofail said that one of the entrepreneurs filed a case with the court on the presence of Accord when the country is capable to look into its interest and the Supreme Court has given its verdict that said Accord and Alliance will continue for six more months.
‘We cannot violate the verdict of our Supreme Court,’ he said.
After Rana Plaza building collapse, the government has taken various measures to ensure factory safety and no major incident took place in the RMG sector in last five years, Tofail said.
He said that Bangladesh was quite able to take over factory inspection and remediation.
Following the Rana Plaza Building collapse in April 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garments workers, EU retailers formed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh undertaking a five-year plan, while North American brands and retailers formed Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the platform.
‘I challenge that no Rana Plaza-like incident will take place in future in the country…. and the country’s readymade garment sector no longer required Accord and Alliance as we have made significant progress in strengthening the capacity of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments,’ state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said in a press briefing following the meeting.
Accord and Alliance run their factory safety initiative through Bangladeshi engineers and engineering farms. RCC also hired those Bangladeshi firms to carry out factory remediation work so there was no necessity of the two foreign initiatives, he said.

Comment

Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed speaks at a programme titled ‘Capacity Building of Remediation Coordination Cell: Sharing Progress and Way Forward’ organised by the labour ministry at the city’s Purbani Hotel on Tuesday. State minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque, labour secretary Afroza Khan and ILO deputy director for Bangladesh country office Gagan Rajbhandari were present.

— photo courtesy of New Age

Business Report

As Bangladesh garment industry made significant progress in safety enforcement and  remediation process, the presence of foreign inspectors is no longer required in the sector and must leave soon.
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed made the comment on Tuesday last in the city at a seminar saying that the presence of Accord and Alliance in the country would not be extended beyond December this year.
‘Accord and Alliance will leave Bangladesh after six-month transition period on December 7 and then Bangladesh will take over the responsibility of factory remediation and inspection,’ Tofail said in a programme held at Hotel Purbani in the capital.
The labour ministry organised the event titled ‘Capacity Building of Remediation Coordination Cell: Sharing Progress and Way Forward’ attended by the state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque, labour secretary Afroza Khan, US ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, EU ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink were present.
President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin and president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Md Siddiqur Rahman, among others were also present.
Tofail said in the fourth review meeting of Sustainability compact held at Brussels last month the issue of extending time for Accord and Alliance was discussed and the meeting was told that Bangladesh was capable to take over the responsibility of factory remediation.
He said that with the support of International Labour Organisation, the government formed RCC and already 60 engineers were appointed. RCC would be able to take over the responsibility of factory remediation and oversee the industrial safety, the commerce minister said.
Tofail said that one of the entrepreneurs filed a case with the court on the presence of Accord when the country is capable to look into its interest and the Supreme Court has given its verdict that said Accord and Alliance will continue for six more months.
‘We cannot violate the verdict of our Supreme Court,’ he said.
After Rana Plaza building collapse, the government has taken various measures to ensure factory safety and no major incident took place in the RMG sector in last five years, Tofail said.
He said that Bangladesh was quite able to take over factory inspection and remediation.
Following the Rana Plaza Building collapse in April 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garments workers, EU retailers formed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh undertaking a five-year plan, while North American brands and retailers formed Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the platform.
‘I challenge that no Rana Plaza-like incident will take place in future in the country…. and the country’s readymade garment sector no longer required Accord and Alliance as we have made significant progress in strengthening the capacity of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments,’ state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said in a press briefing following the meeting.
Accord and Alliance run their factory safety initiative through Bangladeshi engineers and engineering farms. RCC also hired those Bangladeshi firms to carry out factory remediation work so there was no necessity of the two foreign initiatives, he said.


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STALEMATE IN WAGE NEGOTIATION
RMG owners for Tk 6,360 at entry point

Business Report

As the wage negotiation kicks off, garment factory owners on Tuesday proposed Tk 6,360 as minimum monthly wage the sector’s 4.4 million workers — way less than their demand for Tk 12,020.
Now, the minimum wage for workers is Tk 5,300, meaning they would get a 20 percent hike, the sources said.  “We mainly considered inflation while proposing Tk 6,360 for minimum wage,” said Siddiqur Rahman, factory owners’ representative at the wage board but workers said the cost of living is too high and the new wage must improve their life standard.
But Siddiqur Rahman said the rising cost of doing business and competitiveness of the industry in global markets also need to be considered. He is the president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
He said the proposed wage include Tk 3,600 as basic salary and the remaining house rent, transport cost and others, he said. But the workers have demanded Tk 7,500 as the basic salary and Tk 4,520 as rent, transport cost and other expenses, said Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan, workers’ representative in the board.
“We also considered the inflation rate and cost of living while proposing the figure of Tk 12,020.”
The next meeting of the wage board will take place on August 29.
“I hope we can reach a decision by September,” she added.
The minimum wage board for garment workers was formed in January this year by the ministry of labour and employment following a request from the BGMEA itself to avert any labour unrest.
The minimum wage was last fixed at Tk 5,300 in 2013, up from Tk 3,000 in 2010, Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985.
Some union leaders have been demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum wage for workers.
The minimum wage for 10 other sectors were fixed the government this year.

Comment

Business Report

As the wage negotiation kicks off, garment factory owners on Tuesday proposed Tk 6,360 as minimum monthly wage the sector’s 4.4 million workers — way less than their demand for Tk 12,020.
Now, the minimum wage for workers is Tk 5,300, meaning they would get a 20 percent hike, the sources said.  “We mainly considered inflation while proposing Tk 6,360 for minimum wage,” said Siddiqur Rahman, factory owners’ representative at the wage board but workers said the cost of living is too high and the new wage must improve their life standard.
But Siddiqur Rahman said the rising cost of doing business and competitiveness of the industry in global markets also need to be considered. He is the president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
He said the proposed wage include Tk 3,600 as basic salary and the remaining house rent, transport cost and others, he said. But the workers have demanded Tk 7,500 as the basic salary and Tk 4,520 as rent, transport cost and other expenses, said Shamsun Nahar Bhuiyan, workers’ representative in the board.
“We also considered the inflation rate and cost of living while proposing the figure of Tk 12,020.”
The next meeting of the wage board will take place on August 29.
“I hope we can reach a decision by September,” she added.
The minimum wage board for garment workers was formed in January this year by the ministry of labour and employment following a request from the BGMEA itself to avert any labour unrest.
The minimum wage was last fixed at Tk 5,300 in 2013, up from Tk 3,000 in 2010, Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985.
Some union leaders have been demanding Tk 16,000 as the minimum wage for workers.
The minimum wage for 10 other sectors were fixed the government this year.


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NEXT TO MONEY HEIST
Anomalies in gold reserves found at BB vault

Business Report

Bangladesh Bank yesterday refuted the allegation that one of the gold bars kept in its highly secure vault by the customs department was adulterated to suggest that vested interest quarters may have put hands on the reserves to make good their ill motives.
The breaking news comes as a surprise after the money heist from the Bangladesh Bank reserves held in New York Reserve Bank branch two yeas back.
New disclosure about the gold reserve said when the gold was put to Bangladesh Bank vault it was stated 80 percent at 22 caret but now the BB official said “The purity of the gold [bar] was 40 percent at the time of deposit. It was mistakenly written 80 percent ... It was a clerical error.”
BB Executive Director SM Rabiul Hassan told it to reporters at an emergency briefing at the BB headquarters trying to remove misgivings.
State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan said on Wednesday that he will brief the finance minister after his return to the country as he stays abroad now in the highly sensitive issue.
The finance minister then will decide whether this issue needs further investigation, said MA Mannan while briefing reporters at his secretariat office in Dhaka after a meeting this afternoon.
Bangladesh Bank is responsible for looking after the property of the public and if there has been any negligence in the matter then it is the job of the government is to look into it, said MA Mannan.
Bangla daily Prothom Alo ran a report on Tuesday saying mixed metals were found in the gold bar kept at the vault, and the level of gold purity was found at 46 per cent instead of 80 percent. Rabiul reasoned that it happened because of similarity between the number 4 in Bangla and the number 8 in English.
Quoting a report of the National Board of Revenue’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), Rabiul said the anomalies occurred because of similarity between the number 4 in Bangla and the number 8 in English. The only designated goldsmith for the BB — Shokh Jewellers — made the mistake, he said.
On July 11, the BB governor sent a reply to the NBR chairman, addressing all the errors in the related documents. Yet, the CIID stuck to its investigation report and refused to accept it as a mere error in record keeping, he added.
The CIID report also mentioned that 20 and 24 carats gold was recorded as 18 carats in the BB register.
Md Shahidul Islam, director general of the CIID told the media that everything was done in front of the Bangladesh Bank’s representatives. There was no outsider. They [BB officials] received the gold as 22 carats and we have those papers in our hands but now it came down to 18.
He said a committee carried out the probe and everything was done in the presence of BB officials. “If they had disagreed, it would have been reflected in the [CIID] report.”
Asked whether the CIID suspects any wrongdoing at the BB, he said, “We have sent our observations.” Rabiul said the vault is highly secure, and there is no scope for anyone to change the metal.
Refuting the CIID report, Rabiul said customs officials measured the quality of gold digitally but the BB had done it manually when it received the metal. He explained that the record was maintained following the manual measurement method by the designated jeweller.
According to the CIID report, the purity of the 3.30 kg gold bar was recorded at 80 percent but it was found at 46 percent during inspection.
Rabiul explained that the goldsmith mistakenly recorded the purity of the bar at 80 percent instead of 40 percent.
The jeweller acknowledged this error to the central bank, he said.

Comment

Business Report

Bangladesh Bank yesterday refuted the allegation that one of the gold bars kept in its highly secure vault by the customs department was adulterated to suggest that vested interest quarters may have put hands on the reserves to make good their ill motives.
The breaking news comes as a surprise after the money heist from the Bangladesh Bank reserves held in New York Reserve Bank branch two yeas back.
New disclosure about the gold reserve said when the gold was put to Bangladesh Bank vault it was stated 80 percent at 22 caret but now the BB official said “The purity of the gold [bar] was 40 percent at the time of deposit. It was mistakenly written 80 percent ... It was a clerical error.”
BB Executive Director SM Rabiul Hassan told it to reporters at an emergency briefing at the BB headquarters trying to remove misgivings.
State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan said on Wednesday that he will brief the finance minister after his return to the country as he stays abroad now in the highly sensitive issue.
The finance minister then will decide whether this issue needs further investigation, said MA Mannan while briefing reporters at his secretariat office in Dhaka after a meeting this afternoon.
Bangladesh Bank is responsible for looking after the property of the public and if there has been any negligence in the matter then it is the job of the government is to look into it, said MA Mannan.
Bangla daily Prothom Alo ran a report on Tuesday saying mixed metals were found in the gold bar kept at the vault, and the level of gold purity was found at 46 per cent instead of 80 percent. Rabiul reasoned that it happened because of similarity between the number 4 in Bangla and the number 8 in English.
Quoting a report of the National Board of Revenue’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), Rabiul said the anomalies occurred because of similarity between the number 4 in Bangla and the number 8 in English. The only designated goldsmith for the BB — Shokh Jewellers — made the mistake, he said.
On July 11, the BB governor sent a reply to the NBR chairman, addressing all the errors in the related documents. Yet, the CIID stuck to its investigation report and refused to accept it as a mere error in record keeping, he added.
The CIID report also mentioned that 20 and 24 carats gold was recorded as 18 carats in the BB register.
Md Shahidul Islam, director general of the CIID told the media that everything was done in front of the Bangladesh Bank’s representatives. There was no outsider. They [BB officials] received the gold as 22 carats and we have those papers in our hands but now it came down to 18.
He said a committee carried out the probe and everything was done in the presence of BB officials. “If they had disagreed, it would have been reflected in the [CIID] report.”
Asked whether the CIID suspects any wrongdoing at the BB, he said, “We have sent our observations.” Rabiul said the vault is highly secure, and there is no scope for anyone to change the metal.
Refuting the CIID report, Rabiul said customs officials measured the quality of gold digitally but the BB had done it manually when it received the metal. He explained that the record was maintained following the manual measurement method by the designated jeweller.
According to the CIID report, the purity of the 3.30 kg gold bar was recorded at 80 percent but it was found at 46 percent during inspection.
Rabiul explained that the goldsmith mistakenly recorded the purity of the bar at 80 percent instead of 40 percent.
The jeweller acknowledged this error to the central bank, he said.


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BEZA seeks duty benefits eligible in BEPZA areas

Business Report

Some construction materials including SM rod/bar, cement, pre-fabricated building, iron and steel sheet locally available were not eligible for waiver for duty free import in the country for industries located in the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) areas apparently to support the growth of local industry.  
But industries are demanding the benefits in the list of duty free import of products in the BEZA areas like those eligible under Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authorities (BEPZA).
In a letter to NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BEZA executive chairman said that in May 2017, the BEZA made a request to amend the SRO and include spare parts in the list of products eligible for benefit to industries in the BEZA areas. It has  sought duty-free benefit on imports of spare parts for factories located in economic zones of the country, sources said.
In a letter to the National Board of Revenue, BEZA executive chairman Paban Chowdhury on July 10 made the request for including the benefit in the incentive package for investors in the zones.
He said that industries located in the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority areas also got exemption from payment of customs duty, regulatory duty, supplementary duty and value-added tax on imports of spare parts along with capital machinery.
Private EPZs also enjoy the same benefit.
The revenue board in 2015 waived all duties and VAT on imports of capital machinery and construction materials for factories located in the economic zones by issuing a statutory regulatory order with fulfillment of some conditions which included mandatory registration of EZ factories with the value-added tax authority and obtaining BEZA approval and certification of the import list of machineries and construction materials.
In the BEZA letter to NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BEZA executive chairman said that in May 2017, the BEZA made a request to amend the SRO and include spare parts in the list of products eligible for duty benefit.
The NBR is yet to either amend the SRO or issue a new one in this connection and so it made the request again as per the decision of the sixth meeting of the governing body of the authority presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He hoped the NBR will take required steps promptly on the issue after detailed scrutiny on the incentive proposal of the BEZA. NBR officials said that they would examine the proposal and take the decision accordingly.
The revenue board usually allows such benefits to sectors considering the potential of boosting private investment and generating employment, they said.

Comment

Business Report

Some construction materials including SM rod/bar, cement, pre-fabricated building, iron and steel sheet locally available were not eligible for waiver for duty free import in the country for industries located in the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) areas apparently to support the growth of local industry.  
But industries are demanding the benefits in the list of duty free import of products in the BEZA areas like those eligible under Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authorities (BEPZA).
In a letter to NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BEZA executive chairman said that in May 2017, the BEZA made a request to amend the SRO and include spare parts in the list of products eligible for benefit to industries in the BEZA areas. It has  sought duty-free benefit on imports of spare parts for factories located in economic zones of the country, sources said.
In a letter to the National Board of Revenue, BEZA executive chairman Paban Chowdhury on July 10 made the request for including the benefit in the incentive package for investors in the zones.
He said that industries located in the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority areas also got exemption from payment of customs duty, regulatory duty, supplementary duty and value-added tax on imports of spare parts along with capital machinery.
Private EPZs also enjoy the same benefit.
The revenue board in 2015 waived all duties and VAT on imports of capital machinery and construction materials for factories located in the economic zones by issuing a statutory regulatory order with fulfillment of some conditions which included mandatory registration of EZ factories with the value-added tax authority and obtaining BEZA approval and certification of the import list of machineries and construction materials.
In the BEZA letter to NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BEZA executive chairman said that in May 2017, the BEZA made a request to amend the SRO and include spare parts in the list of products eligible for duty benefit.
The NBR is yet to either amend the SRO or issue a new one in this connection and so it made the request again as per the decision of the sixth meeting of the governing body of the authority presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He hoped the NBR will take required steps promptly on the issue after detailed scrutiny on the incentive proposal of the BEZA. NBR officials said that they would examine the proposal and take the decision accordingly.
The revenue board usually allows such benefits to sectors considering the potential of boosting private investment and generating employment, they said.


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Unholy move fears DSE saw unusual price hike for 10 Cos

Business Report

Trading at Dhaka Stock Exchange saw unusual dealing on ten companies shares sending prices to sky rocketing without valid reason reminding investors if there is anything wrong in the draconian price build up.
“This is not a good sign for the capital market,” said Mohammed Rahmat Pasha, managing director and chief executive of UCB Capital Management as quoted by a major national daily in its July 17 report.
All the companies denied when quizzed by the DSE if there was any undisclosed information for which the share price was shooting up.
Legacy Footwear saw the highest price hike during the period: its share price more than doubled to Tk 167.50 within ten trading sessions, according to data from the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
Dragon Sweater saw the next highest rise in its share price: 78.17 percent.
It was followed by HR Textile at 53.10 percent, KDS Accessories 48.31, Sinobangla Industries 39 percent, Pacific Denims 38.75 percent, Anwar Galvanizing 38.68, Saiham Textile Mills 32.26, Peninsula Chittagong 34.19 percent and Shahjibazar Power 33.45 percent.
General investors should be careful about buying these companies’ shares as their prices can plummet as fast as they soared, Pasha said.
“Some people are playing with the low-cap companies as it is easy to play with them,” he said, while urging the stockmarket regulator to find out who are engaging in such mischievous behaviour.
The paid-up capital of Legacy Footwear is Tk 11.37 crore, HR Textile Tk 25.30 crore, Sinobangla Industries Tk 19.99 crore and Anwar Galvanising Tk 14.52 crore, according to DSE data.
Several DSE brokers said trading of some of the stocks was halted in the last few days as there were no sellers, which prompted the share prices to soar.
KAM Majedur Rahman, managing director of the DSE, said the bourse’s regulatory department is working with Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission to find out if there is any market manipulation in play.
The DSE has already sent a query notice to the companies about unusual price hike, though they all said the same thing: there is no reason for the price hike.
The next step would be stopping their trade and investigating the unusual price hike, he said.

Comment

Business Report

Trading at Dhaka Stock Exchange saw unusual dealing on ten companies shares sending prices to sky rocketing without valid reason reminding investors if there is anything wrong in the draconian price build up.
“This is not a good sign for the capital market,” said Mohammed Rahmat Pasha, managing director and chief executive of UCB Capital Management as quoted by a major national daily in its July 17 report.
All the companies denied when quizzed by the DSE if there was any undisclosed information for which the share price was shooting up.
Legacy Footwear saw the highest price hike during the period: its share price more than doubled to Tk 167.50 within ten trading sessions, according to data from the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
Dragon Sweater saw the next highest rise in its share price: 78.17 percent.
It was followed by HR Textile at 53.10 percent, KDS Accessories 48.31, Sinobangla Industries 39 percent, Pacific Denims 38.75 percent, Anwar Galvanizing 38.68, Saiham Textile Mills 32.26, Peninsula Chittagong 34.19 percent and Shahjibazar Power 33.45 percent.
General investors should be careful about buying these companies’ shares as their prices can plummet as fast as they soared, Pasha said.
“Some people are playing with the low-cap companies as it is easy to play with them,” he said, while urging the stockmarket regulator to find out who are engaging in such mischievous behaviour.
The paid-up capital of Legacy Footwear is Tk 11.37 crore, HR Textile Tk 25.30 crore, Sinobangla Industries Tk 19.99 crore and Anwar Galvanising Tk 14.52 crore, according to DSE data.
Several DSE brokers said trading of some of the stocks was halted in the last few days as there were no sellers, which prompted the share prices to soar.
KAM Majedur Rahman, managing director of the DSE, said the bourse’s regulatory department is working with Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission to find out if there is any market manipulation in play.
The DSE has already sent a query notice to the companies about unusual price hike, though they all said the same thing: there is no reason for the price hike.
The next step would be stopping their trade and investigating the unusual price hike, he said.


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May narrowly saved BRXIT bill in parliament

Agencies

British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly avoided a defeat in parliament at the hands of pro-EU lawmakers from her own party yesterday, fending off a rebellion that threatened to worsen a crisis over her Brexit strategy.
Parliament voted 307 to 301 against an amendment to trade legislation that would have required the government to try to negotiate a customs union arrangement with the EU if, by Jan. 21, 2019, it had failed to negotiate a deal with the bloc that offered frictionless free trade for goods.
The narrow victory is May’s third this week, underlining the difficulty she faces in passing legislation on one of the most divisive and important decisions in modern British history with only a minority government and a party at war with itself.
By winning Tuesday’s vote, May has avoided the prospect of having to go back on her word that Britain will not be part of any customs union after leaving the EU - something that would have infuriated the pro-Brexit wing of her party.
However, the government did suffer an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment which means they will now be required to seek to secure an agreement that allows Britain to have continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
The Trade Bill is focused on converting trade deals between the EU and third countries into bilateral deals with Britain. It is a technical bill and was not originally intended to define new trade policy.
Meanwhile, Britain’s official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has been fined and reported to the police for breaking spending rules in the 2016 EU membership referendum, boosting calls for a second vote.
The Electoral Commission regulator said the winning side in the referendum had worked together with a smaller pro-Brexit group called BeLeave to get around rules limiting its campaign spending.
Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and BeLeave founder Darren Grimes, a fashion student, was fined £20,000 — the maximum levy for an individual.
The report prompted angry questions in parliament, calls for the referendum to be annulled or re-run and claims that the entire Brexit process was now dubious.

Comment

Agencies

British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly avoided a defeat in parliament at the hands of pro-EU lawmakers from her own party yesterday, fending off a rebellion that threatened to worsen a crisis over her Brexit strategy.
Parliament voted 307 to 301 against an amendment to trade legislation that would have required the government to try to negotiate a customs union arrangement with the EU if, by Jan. 21, 2019, it had failed to negotiate a deal with the bloc that offered frictionless free trade for goods.
The narrow victory is May’s third this week, underlining the difficulty she faces in passing legislation on one of the most divisive and important decisions in modern British history with only a minority government and a party at war with itself.
By winning Tuesday’s vote, May has avoided the prospect of having to go back on her word that Britain will not be part of any customs union after leaving the EU - something that would have infuriated the pro-Brexit wing of her party.
However, the government did suffer an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment which means they will now be required to seek to secure an agreement that allows Britain to have continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
The Trade Bill is focused on converting trade deals between the EU and third countries into bilateral deals with Britain. It is a technical bill and was not originally intended to define new trade policy.
Meanwhile, Britain’s official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has been fined and reported to the police for breaking spending rules in the 2016 EU membership referendum, boosting calls for a second vote.
The Electoral Commission regulator said the winning side in the referendum had worked together with a smaller pro-Brexit group called BeLeave to get around rules limiting its campaign spending.
Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and BeLeave founder Darren Grimes, a fashion student, was fined £20,000 — the maximum levy for an individual.
The report prompted angry questions in parliament, calls for the referendum to be annulled or re-run and claims that the entire Brexit process was now dubious.


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