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24 October 2019

Five things you need to know today: Cabinet split, extension looms and retail struggles

Also: billions in corrupt funds funnelled through… Birmingham.

By New Statesman

Cabinet split over Brexit strategy

The government divided over the next steps to take in its Brexit plans, the Sun reports this morning. The prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings is said to be pushing Boris Johnson to abandon his Brexit plan and call an election this week. But a number of ministers, including Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith, are still arguing the bill can be pushed through. 

The government has denied any such split. Well, they would, wouldn’t they.

EU poised to offer extension

Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU is still debating what sort of extension to offer the UK to complete its Brexit negotiations. European Council president Donald Tusk is recommending a three-month delay, taking the deadline to 31 January; this extension could be ended early in the event of a deal passing. But France’s President Macron is reported to be pushing for a shorter extension, so as to keep up pressure to pass the deal. The final terms are expected to be unveiled tomorrow.

Police investigating Essex lorry deaths

Police investigating the deaths of 39 people found in a lorry container on an Essex industrial estate yesterday morning will continue their investigations by questioning a lorry driver today. The BBC reports that officers in Northern Ireland have raided two houses as part of their investigations, while the National Crime Agency is working to identify “organised crime groups who may have played a part”. Local police will also today attempt to identify the bodies.

Shops shed jobs

UK retailers have axed 85,000 jobs over the past year, thanks to a combination of weak demand, soaring costs and online shopping, according to a report from the British Retail Consortium. In a statement, the consortium’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said that the problems had been exacerbated by Brexit uncertainty, adding pointedly: “While MPs rail against job losses in manufacturing, their response to larger losses in retail has remained muted.”

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Super rich still love Britain, alas

More than £300bn of funds suspected of involvement in money laundering or corruption cases have been funneled through UK banks or accountants, upsetting new research from Transparency International has found. The money was ultimately spent on items including a £1m Cartier diamond ring, art works sold at auctioneers Sobethy’s, and a “£50,000 Tom Ford crocodile-skin jacket with matching crocodile-skin handbag from Harrods”.

More than 1,400 shell companies were registered to the same office above a single wine bar in Birmingham, the report found. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it.