1 UK House passes Brexit bill (San Francisco Chronicle) Britain’s House of Commons gave its final approval Wednesday to a bill authorizing the government to start exit talks with the European Union, despite fears by opposition lawmakers that the UK is setting out on the rocky path to Brexit with a sketchy roadmap.
As the votes were being tallied, a few pro-EU legislators whistled Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the bloc’s anthem. But the decisive 494-122 result was another big step on Britain’s road to the EU exit door. The bill now goes to the House of Lords, which has the power to delay — but not to derail — the legislation; it should become law within weeks.
Pro-EU lawmakers had hoped to prevent an economy-shocking “hard Brexit,” in which Britain loses full access to the EU’s single market and faces restrictions or tariffs on trade. One amendment would have committed the government to continuing tariff-free trade with the EU; another sought to guarantee the residency rights of EU citizens already living in Britain; another called for a new referendum on the eventual divorce terms.
All were defeated, as pro-EU lawmakers from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party backed the government despite their reservations. But the government appeared to bow to opposition pressure by promising lawmakers they will get to vote on an exit deal before it is finalized by the bloc.
2 Young men earn less than previous generation (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) Young men today will earn £12,500 less in their 20s than the generation before them, according to a thinktank, partly as a result of taking on low-paid jobs previously done by women.
Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, will argue that evidence showing Generation Y, also known as millennials, earn less than their Generation X predecessors in every year between 22 and 30 was a blow to the idea that each age group should be better off than the last.
In a lecture in Manchester on Thursday, Bell will show that women have adapted better to changes in the workplace brought on by automation in the past 25 years. Women have responded to the loss of secretarial jobs by moving into higher-skilled posts, whereas many of the men who lost manufacturing roles have ended up in lower-skilled and lower-paid occupations.
The foundation, which concentrates on issues affecting those on low and middle incomes, has set up an intergenerational commission to look at whether millennials, whom it defines as those born between 1981 and 2000, are getting a fair deal.
The thinktank’s research shows that millennial men are doing worse than those from Generation X, which it defines as those born between 1966 and 1980. The proportion of low-paid work done by young men increased by 45% between 1993 and 2015-16, in part a result of the number of young men in retail jobs rising from 85,000 to 165,000.
Women are still significantly more likely to work in retail than men, but the number of young women employed in the sector has fallen since the early 1990s. The number of young men working in bars and restaurants has gone up from 45,000 to 130,000 since 1993.
3 Oil falls on US inventories, low China demand (Khaleej Times) Oil prices slid on Wednesday to extend falls from the previous session, as a big increase in US crude inventories and a slump in Chinese demand implied that global oil markets remain oversupplied despite Opec-led efforts to cut output.
International Brent crude futures were trading at $54.69 per barrel and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $51.69 a barrel. The declines came on the back of unexpectedly big increases in US fuel inventories, as reported by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Crude inventories rose by 14.2 million barrels in the week to February 3 to 503.6 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.5 million barrel increase.
Prices also came under pressure from signs of slowing demand from the world’s biggest energy consumer. China’s 2016 oil demand grew at its slowest pace in at least three years.