UK government source: It does not feel like we will have a Brexit deal by next week

LONDON (Reuters) – It does not feel like Britain will have secured the changes it needs to its exit deal with Brussels by next week, a British government source said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Theresa May will hold bilateral meetings with European Union leaders at an EU-League of Arab States summit in Egypt at the weekend, but the source said she was not expected to return from that with a “piece of paper” on a revised deal.

If May does not bring a revised deal back to parliament for a vote by Feb. 27, lawmakers will be given the opportunity to debate and vote on the next steps, and some have said they will seek to wrestle control of the process from the government.

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UK economy slowest since 2012, as Brexit and global worries weigh

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy slowed sharply in late 2018, pushing full-year growth to its weakest in six years as Brexit worries hammered investment by companies and the global economic slowdown weighed on trade, official data showed on Monday.

The pace of economic growth fell to a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent between October and December from 0.6 percent in the previous quarter, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll, while output in December alone dropped by the most since 2016.

“The UK economy lost its summer exuberance in the final months of 2018, and there are signs of further chill winds ahead,” economist Tej Parikh at the Institute of Directors said.

Sterling fell by a third of a cent to below $1.29.

For 2018 as a whole, growth dropped to its lowest since 2012 at 1.4 percent, down from 1.8 percent in 2017.

Exports suffered from global weakness and consumers and businesses grew increasingly concerned about the lack of a plan for when Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29.

Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to win parliament’s backing for the plan she agreed with Brussels to avoid reimposing checks on goods exported from Britain.

Major economies around the world also slowed in late 2018, due in part to trade tensions between the United States and China, while Brexit is an added challenge for Britain.

Last week the Bank of England chopped its forecast for growth this year by 0.5 percentage points to 1.2 percent, which would be the weakest year since the 2009 recession.

Monday’s data showed net trade lopped more than 0.1 percentage points from the fourth-quarter growth rate. Falling business investment did similar damage.

“GDP slowed in the last three months of the year with the manufacturing of cars and steel products seeing steep falls and construction also declining,” Office for National Statistics statistician Rob Kent-Smith said.

In December alone, the economy contracted by 0.4 percent, the biggest fall since March 2016.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said the data showed the economy remained “fundamentally strong” and that public-sector forecasters did not foresee a recession.

Business investment dropped 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, the biggest fall since the first three months of 2010, when Britain was emerging from recession. Investment has contracted for four consecutive quarters, the longest run since the third quarter of 2009.

Household spending – which offered an unexpectedly strong boost to growth in mid-2018 – remained resilient, up 1.9 percent on a year ago, as did government spending.

Overall, business investment has stalled since June 2016’s referendum, which the BoE blames for stagnating economic productivity.

The BoE expects business and housing investment to fall this year, and for export growth to halve.

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UK 2018 economic growth weakest since 2012, as Brexit and global worries weigh

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy slowed as expected in the final three months of last year, pushing growth in 2018 to its weakest in six years, as Brexit worries hammered investment, official figures showed on Monday.

Gross domestic product growth in the final quarter of 2018 fell to a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent from 0.6 percent in the previous quarter. This was in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of economists though slightly weaker than the Bank of England estimated last week.

“GDP slowed in the last three months of the year with the manufacturing of cars and steel products seeing steep falls and construction also declining,” ONS statistician Rob Kent-Smith said.

For 2018 as a whole, growth dropped to its lowest since 2012 at 1.4 percent, down from 1.8 percent in 2017. Exports suffered from global weakness and consumers and businesses grew increasingly concerned about the lack of a plan for when Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29.

Last week the BoE chopped its forecast for growth this year by 0.5 percentage points to 1.2 percent, which would be the weakest year since the 2009 recession.

The final months of 2018 saw concerns about a global slowdown hurt growth across major economies, due in part to trade tensions between the United States and China, and Brexit has remained an added challenge for Britain.

Monday’s data showed net trade lopped more than 0.1 percentage points from the fourth quarter growth rate. Falling business investment did similar damage.

Looking at December alone, the economy contracted by 0.4 percent, the biggest fall since March 2016.

Less than seven weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to win parliament’s backing for the plan she agreed with Brussels to avoid reimposing checks on goods exported from Britain.

Business investment dropped 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, the biggest fall since the first three months of 2010, when Britain was emerging from recession.

Household spending — which offered an unexpectedly strong boost to growth during the middle of the year — remained resilient, up 1.9 percent on a year ago.

Overall, business investment has stalled since June 2016’s referendum, which the BoE blames for stagnating economic productivity.

The BoE expects business and housing investment to fall this year, and for export growth to halve.

Figures on Monday showed that in December alone, Britain’s goods trade deficit came in broadly as expected at 12.1 billion pounds.

(This story has been refiles to correct day and date in first paragraph)

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'Red scarves' march in Paris in riposte to 'yellow vests'

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched through Paris on Sunday to condemn violence in the “yellow vest” movement that has rocked France for weeks with angry protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s rule.

Some 10,000 people turned out for Sunday’s counter-demonstration, a day after an 11th consecutive Saturday of “yellow vest” demonstrations across France that brought sporadic clashes with police.

Participants, some wearing red scarves after the name of the counter-movement, displayed slogans like “stop the violence” and “hands off my Republic” in a peaceful afternoon procession in eastern Paris that ended in Bastille square.

Saturday’s “yellow vest” march in the capital also ended at Bastille, where small groups confronted police and a demonstrator suffered an eye wound that inflamed a debate about whether the authorities are using excessive force.

The “yellow vest” protesters, who wear the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to have in their cars, took to the streets in November to oppose a fuel tax rise. Their movement then developed into a broader revolt against the government.

Around 69,000 people attended the latest Saturday protests, including 4,000 in Paris, a lower turnout than the previous weekend, the interior minister said.

However, the injury to well-known activist Jerome Rodrigues attracted more television coverage on Sunday than the “red scarves” march, as it heightened debate over use by police of dispersal grenades and so-called “flashball” pellet guns.

To help quell discontent, Macron this month launched a series of public debates that he has promised will lead to changes.

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French 'yellow vests' defy Macron with fresh protests

PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of “yellow vest” demonstrators marched through Paris and other cities on Saturday on the 11th weekend of action against the government, suggesting President Emmanuel Macron has yet to defuse public opposition to some of his policies.

The protests were mostly peaceful but there were sporadic clashes at the end of the Paris march at Bastille square, and incidents elsewhere around France, with a combined 22,000 people attending as of the early afternoon, the interior ministry said.

The protests – named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars – began in mid-November over plans to raise fuel taxes before developing into a broader revolt against the government that mobilized tens of thousands each weekend.

Turnout so far was lower than last Saturday, particularly in Paris. However, in a change of approach, some protesters have also called for an evening gathering, dubbed “Yellow Night”, at Republic square, a common venue for demonstrations in Paris.

In one of several processions in the capital, a few hundred demonstrators walked down the Champs-Elysees, the famous avenue that has been the scene of protests every weekend, and across town to Bastille square.

As in previous weeks, protesters carried French flags and held signs attacking “King Macron” as out of touch or calling for referendums tabled by ordinary citizens.

As the march converged on Bastille, small groups of protesters formed makeshift barriers, lit fires and threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water canon, television footage showed.

Police made 42 arrests in Paris, prefectural authorities said.

But as on the last two Saturdays in the capital, the incidents were minor compared with the violence seen in December – the worst trouble of its kind in decades in Paris.

Elsewhere in France, protesters marched through the eastern city of Strasbourg to the European Parliament.

In the southwest, marches took place in Bordeaux and Toulouse, which have been focal points of the movement, while there were some confrontations during protests in Marseille and Lyon.

To help quell discontent, Macron this month launched a series of public debates that he promised will lead to measures.

In a sign of divisions within the movement, some “yellow vests” have proposed a list of candidates to run in May’s election for the European Parliament, a move attacked as a betrayal by other activists.

Those opposed to the movement, meanwhile, are planning a counter-demonstration in Paris on Sunday, mainly to condemn the violence seen during the protests.

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