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British PM’s Brexit timetable rejected by parliament

Johnson said that if the lawmakers back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill then “we can get Brexit done and move our country on.”

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Boris Johnson

London, Oct 23 : British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was defeated in a vote on his Brexit timetable, meaning his government could push for a general election.

Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 308 to 322 to turn down his proposed rapid timetable for Brexit bill. As a result, Johnson has to pause the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, Xinhua news agency reported.

After the vote, the Prime Minister said: “I must express my disappointment that the House has again voted for delay rather than a timetable that would have guaranteed the UK would have been in a position to leave the EU (European Union) on Oct. 31 with a deal.”

“We now face further uncertainty and the EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay,” he said.

“The first consequence is the government must take the only responsible course and accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome,” said Johnson. “Our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on Oct. 31 and that is what I will say to the EU.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Prime Minister told a parliament debate that he will pull the Brexit bill and push for an election if it is voted down by lawmakers.

“If parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen… in no circumstances can the government continue with this,” he said. “With great regret, I will have to say the Bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.”

Johnson said that if the lawmakers back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill then “we can get Brexit done and move our country on.”

The Prime Minister was seeking to win two crucial votes — the first asking lawmakers to back him on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and the second to support his bid to fast-track it through the lower House in three days.

Just minutes before the vote on the timetable motion, the government’s Brexit bill was backed by a vote of 329 to 299 in the second reading in parliament, clearing its first hurdle. However, the timetable motion was rejected.

London and Brussels reached a Brexit deal, known as the Withdrawal Agreement, last week. It needs to be approved by the British parliament to become legally binding before Britain leaves the European Union.

If the British government can force its Brexit bill through parliament in time, the UK could in theory still leave the EU by the October 31 deadline.

Given the latest defeat in parliament, Johnson has little chance of getting Brexit done on October 31. He had vowed to take his country out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

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Polish children biggest consumers of sugar in Europe

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Sugar Production-wefornews-min

Warsaw, Feb 21 (IANS) Polish children are the biggest consumers of sugar in Europe with those under 10 eating 95 grams per day, or 19 teaspoons, doctors of the Alliance of Health Care Employers (PPOZ) said.

The draft law on the so-called sugar tax was adopted by the ‘Sejm’ or the lower house of Polish Parliament last week, Xinhua news agency reported.

The bill drafted by the Health Ministry was aimed at imposing additional fees on soft drinks containing sugars as a tool to fight the rapidly increasing problem of Poles being overweight or obese and diseases caused by excessive sugar consumption.

“The introduction of the sugar tax, supposed to discourage Poles from drinking sweet drinks, was advocated by the Ministry of Health, the National Health Fund, the Ministry of Finance, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO),” doctors from PPOZ said on Thursday.

They added that excessive consumption of sugar-based products was a cause of many diseases of civilization.

A diet high in sugar increases the risk of diabetes. Furthermore, sugar consumption is addictive, like alcohol.

It also disturbs the endocrine system, increases oxidative stress and leads to metabolic diseases.

Research has shown that increased glycolysis (carbohydrate metabolism) can cause breast cancer, PPOZ board member Jaroslaw Krol said.

A maximum of 12 teaspoons of sugar should be consumed per day – up to 50 grams, according to the WHO, whereas the American Society of Cardiology recommends a maximum of six teaspoons per day (up to 25 grams) for women and nine (up to 37 grams) for men.

Meanwhile, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, and the Poles 24.

The PPOZ doctors added that a sugar tax was already in force in some European Union countries, and according to research, it has significantly reduced sales of sweetened drinks.

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AGR an unprecedented crisis, sought cut in taxes for industry: Mittal

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Sunil Mittal-wefornews

New Delhi, Feb 20 : Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal on Thursday met Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the wake of the current AGR payment to be made by the telcos, saying he suggested that for the overall health of the industry, taxes needed to be brought down.

Mittal, however, said the issue of AGR payment per se did not figure in the talks. The discussion was on the overall industry, he said.

“Adjusted Gross Revenue has been an unprecedented crisis for the telecom industry. I made certain suggestions on the overall health of the industry. Industry has been heavily taxed and taxes need to be looked at. The issue of very low revenues left in the kitty of the industry needs to be addressed and the AGR also need to be dealt with”, he said after the meeting with Prasad.

He said Airtel will make the balance payment expeditiously .”The demand for reduction in taxation for the telecom sector has been for a long time. The regulator has been supporting it”, he said in response to a query if he has sought any cut in levies.

Mittal met the minister amid reports that said government was looking at some form of relief for the sector in view of huge AGR dues to be paid by telcos.

The telcos, particularly Vodafone Idea, which is severely hit by the AGR payment, has sought a bailout. The options here before the government are limited. There could be a cut in licence fee and spectrum usage charges, staggered payment of AGR over long years with interests, a waiver of interest and penalties on AGR dues.

So far the Government has neither stated nor indicated any relief for the telcos. On Wednesday, Mittal met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and sought sustainability for telcos in the stressful times. He had said Indian telecom industry has been under stress for the last three-and-a-half years and the government should ensure sustainability of the sector.

“The only thing government needs to do is to focus on how to ensure sustainability of the sector,” he said after meeting the FM.

Airtel faces Rs 35,500 crore AGR dues. The company has already announced its plans to pay the dues that arose from the Supreme Court ruling.

Earlier this week, Bharti Airtel had paid Rs 10,000 crore to the telecom department as part of its AGR dues. The company plans to pay the balance amount before the next date of Supreme Court’s hearing which is on March 17.

Former Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg has said in a blog that telecom crisis is not limited to AGR and that the problems are much deeper.

Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Managalam Birla, had also met the Finance Minister on Wednesday. The troubled telecom major has also paid Rs 2,500 crore to the Department of Telecom (DoT) earlier this week and paid another Rs 1,000 crore on Thursday.

Vodafone Idea has an AGR bill of Rs 53,000 crore. The company has sought relief from government to remain a going concern.

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Vodafone Idea condition extremely precarious: Citi

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IDEA VODAFONE

New delhi, Feb 20 : Vodafone Idea’s situation remains extremely precarious given its net debt/EBITDA of 20 times, analyst firm Citi has said in a report.

The company has admitted that its ability to continue as a going concern remains at risk in the absence of relief on its over $6billion AGR liability. While some green shoots were visible in 3Q (+2 per cent qoq revenue growth, 4G sub adds accelerated, tariff hike benefits to be visible from 4Q), this could come to naught without any relief.

The company has, for now, announced that it intends to make a part-payment towards its dues shortly (quantum still being assessed), the report said.

The deleveraging depends on Relief on the company’s AGR liability, either in terms of quantum or in payment terms, further relief measures from the government which could reduce levies and improve the balance sheet and cash flows and better than expected execution on synergy extraction and better than expected pace of 4G subscriber additions.

The risks Vodaofne Idea currently faces are that the company being made to bear the entire AGR liability, depressed India mobile revenues resulting from competitive intensity worsening and increase in subscriber churn and lower than expected pace of 4G subscriber additions.

We struggle to see what the next recourse could be for VIL with most legal options appearing to be exhausted. While it may still be possible for the government to offer relief perhaps via some legislative/policy action if it so chooses, we are yet to see any such indication or willingness from the government. Given the heightened uncertainty, Potential market share gains on further industry consolidation could drive upsides for Airtel & RIL while further tenancy exits could create downside risks for Infratel (Neutral). We keep our estimates unchanged for the moment as the situation remains extremely fluid and uncertain.

The report said Airtel has begun clearing its dues following the strong and unforgiving stance that SC has adopted. Airtel has made a partial payment of $1.4billion of its $5billion dues and will pay the balance well before the next date of hearing on March 17 post self-assessment. Following its $3billion capital raise in Jan and $2+billion of cash on books as of Dec, this should not be a stretch for the company.

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