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Summary

  1. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk
  2. Europe blocks LSE and Deutsche Boerse deal
  3. Theresa May has triggered Article 50
  4. Ryanair: aviation must be a priority
  5. Ford recalls cars in US

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

Get involved

That's all from the Livepage, on a day when there's really only been one story in town. If you've not had your fill of Brexit, I'm sure we'll have more to report on Thursday. Please join us from 6am. 

Is UK trade with the EU declining?

Reality Check

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall said: “At the moment we’re doing less trade with the European Union year-on-year - more with the rest of the world”.

The overall value of the UK’s trade with the EU has increased in most years, but if we take trade with the EU as a proportion of the UK’s total trade, there has indeed been a moderate downward trend since its peak in 1992.  

However, it’s not a completely consistent pattern. In some recent years the proportion has risen, the year-on-year changes have been fairly small, and trade with the EU is consistently around half of the UK’s overall trade.

Wall Street close

The benchmark S&P 500 eked out a gain on Wednesday in low trading volume as strength in the energy and consumer sectors offset declines in financial shares. 

At the close, the Dow Jones was down 42.18 points, or 0.2%, to 20,659.32, the S&P 500 gained 2.56 points, or 0.11%, to 2,361.13 and the Nasdaq added 22.41 points, or 0.38%, to 5,897.55. 

Scottish budget gap

Reality Check

During his interview with Andrew Neil, Jeremy Corbyn said he was against a second referendum on Scottish independence because “there is a £15bn gap between Scottish taxation income and the requirements of Scottish public services”. That is essentially the gap between how much the Scottish Government spends and what it raises through tax.

Scottish government statistics say the Labour leader is right. In 2014-15 Scottish public sector revenue was estimated at £53.7bn - the equivalent of £10,000 per person, and about £400 per person lower than the UK as a whole. Meanwhile, total expenditure by the public sector was £68.6bn. Overall, that’s a gap of £14.9bn between revenue and expenditure.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the "foundations of the Scottish economy remain strong" and that “Scotland's long-term economic success is now being directly threatened by the likely impact of Brexit".

You can read more here.

Amazon closes loss-making website

Screenshot of Diapers.com
Quidsi

Amazon is closing Quidsi, its nursery, beauty and pet products website after the business failed to turn a profit.

"We have worked extremely hard for the past seven years to get Quidsi to be profitable, and unfortunately we have not been able to do so," an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement.

Amazon bought the business, which runs Diapers.com and Soap.com, for $545m.

Call for US rates to rise at faster pace

A US central banker - once a strong advocate of keeping interest rates on hold - said on Wednesday that he favours four increases in the key rate this year, one more than projected by the majority of Federal Reserve policymakers.

Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said in a speech that he would like to see policymakers increase rates every other month. "Looking ahead over the course of this year, I believe it is likely to be appropriate for [rate setters] to raise rates at a more regular - though still gradual - pace," he said.

£50bn exit fee?

Reality Check

Andrew Neil has been asking about the possibility of the UK having to pay a £50bn exit fee on leaving the EU.

The prime minister wouldn’t discuss figures and stressed that people had voted to stop making large annual payments to the EU. But she didn’t rule out paying an exit fee and she said the UK is a law-abiding nation and that the government would have to look at what its obligations are.

She also said there had been no formal demands, which is not surprising as the official negotiations have not yet started.

Here’s a Reality Check on where that figure comes from. 

Small businesses want answers

Mike Cherry
FSB

The Federation of Small Businesses has called for clarity on trade and talent following the triggering of Article 50.

Mike Cherry, the national chairman at FSB, says: "FSB members want to see the easiest possible access to the single market. There must also be reassurance for small businesses which employ non-UK EU citizens, and rely on the ability to recruit those with the skills and talents they need.

“Small business exporters tell us that the EU single market is still their top market of choice, but firms are also keen to focus on the US, China, Australia and Canada. One third of exporting small businesses have told us they would be genuinely deterred from trading with the EU if a tariff of between two to four per cent was imposed on trade between the UK and EU."

US market update

The Dow Jones is off a touch just after lunch New York time. The index is 0.2%, or 41 points, lower at 20,659.

The wider S&P is just 0.06% down at 2,360. And the Nasdaq is 0.3% lower at 5,892.

Sterling falls against dollar

Sterling has fallen against the dollar but risen against the euro after the UK government triggered the process to leave the European Union.

The pound fell further into the red against the US dollar, down 0.22% to $1.242.

It also fell against currencies including the yen, the rupee, the rouble, and the Mexican peso.

Sterling rose 0.29% against the euro to 1.1546.

Lloyd's of Brussels?

Lloyd's of London office
Getty Images

Venerable insurance market, Lloyd's of London, is expected to announce tomorrow that it will open a new European base in Brussels.

We've known since late last year that it - along with a lot of other financial institutions - was scouting new locations in the face of Brexit. And we think that for Lloyd's the short list boiled down to the Belgian capital and Luxembourg.

The online publication, Insurance Insider, has reported that Brussels is the one they're plumping for, but the company is keeping tight lipped until Thursday morning when they publish their financial results.

Read more here.

Banks' Brexit reassurance

City of London skyline
PA

Banks in Britain have tried to reassure their London staff over possible Brexit disruption, including a shift in jobs to continental Europe.

Goldman Sachs and Nomura were among those who sent messages to employees in London.

Richard Gnodde, boss of the European arm of Goldman Sachs, stressed that no big changes were imminent, even though he said last week that the Wall Street bank would begin by moving hundreds of staff as part of its "contingency plans" for Brexit.

"All of this work leads us to conclude that although Brexit may well bring some changes to our footprint, a lot will continue to operate as it does today," he said in a voicemail sent to all London employees' phones.

"We also understand that you will have many questions regarding the implications of Brexit," he said. "We are sensitive to those concerns, and want you to know that we will share any information on changes that will impact our European footprint as quickly as we can."

Nomura said in a message to staff that although it had been actively planning for Brexit, no final decision had been made on either location or timing of any new European entity, Reuters reported.

Brexit: linking a trade with security 'not credible'

Line of new cars at Grimsby port
Getty Images

The details of Britain's Article 50 letter did little to scare financial markets, but one key point has raised eyebrows among trade experts.

The prime minister's link between securing a trade deal and security co-operation is not credible says Professor L Alan Winters. 

Theresa May's letter was "generally very conciliatory", but making a security-trade link looked like a threat, said the director of UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex.

He told the BBC: "The World Trade Organization agreements – the international basis of trade cooperation – recognise that trade rules have almost no direct bearing on security and, except in the vaguest terms, security and trade are almost never directly linked in trade agreements.

"Countries that trade together often cooperate on security, but an explicit intention to reduce security cooperation if you can’t get a trade deal you like is almost unheard of. Neither is it very credible... It is difficult to work out who would gain from this," he said.. 

Former trade minister says he's 'delighted' that Article 50 has been triggered

BBC Hereford and Worcester

Lord Digby Jones says that countries will continue to trade with the UK post-Brexit. 

Lord Digby Jones
BBC

Lord Jones, from Worcestershire, who served as the trade minister in Gordon Brown's government, says negotiations will be difficult, but the end result won't result in "armageddon". 

It follows Theresa May's decision to trigger Article 50 - the two-year process in which the county will leave the EU.

We've got loads and loads of countries all over the world saying when you're free from the EU... we'd love to trade with you."

Lord Digby Jones

FTSE 100 recovers in afternoon trading

London's leading share index took the Brexit timetable news in its stride, sinking in morning trading before recovering later.

At the close, the FTSE 100 was up 0.41% at 7,373.7 points. 3i lead the way with a 5.7% rise after an upgrade from Morgan Stanley. The London Stock Exchange gained 2.7% on news that its planned merger with Deutsche Boerse had been blocked by EU regulators.

Gold miners Randgold Resources and Fresnillo were among the biggest fallers as the price of gold slipped. 

Samsung Galaxy S8 hides home button

Galaxy S8
Samsung

Samsung's latest flagship phones have ditched the physical home button found in their predecessors and introduced a new virtual assistant.

The screens of the Galaxy S8 and bigger S8+ are also larger despite the devices being smaller than last year's S7 and S7 Edge.

This time, both models feature displays that curve round the phones' sides.

The launch follows Samsung's botched release of the Note 7, which was recalled twice after fires.

The South Korean firm blamed the problem on battery faults and said it had since put in additional safety measures, including X-ray scans of batteries.

EasyJet backs Ryanair's Brexit call

EasyJet plane
BBC

With the Brexit negotiation process formally underway, airlines are pushing hard to have their voices heard in the talks. 

EasyJet has agreed with Ryanair (it's not every day you see that) about the pressing need for a new UK-EU deal on air travel. 

It says that, at the very least, the UK needs to agree "a straightforward bilateral aviation agreement" which will allow UK airlines to fly to Europe and European airlines to fly to the UK.

Although the main Article 50 talks will take two years, Ryanair said earlier that the deadline for the aviation industry is tighter because airlines choose their schedules a year in advance. 

Lords leader distances government from WTO option

Article 50 statement

House of Lords

Parliament

Lords Leader Baroness Evans says the government has made it clear it does not want to see the UK fall back on World Trade Organisation rules. 

She reiterates her commitment to engage with Parliament at every stage. 

Vauxhall to end football sponsorship

Vauxhall sponsorship on Scotland shirt
PA

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will all be seeking new main sponsors, with Vauxhall ending a seven-year partnership with the home nations after the 2018 World Cup. 

The car manufacturer has been the leading sponsor for the four nations since 2011, but announced on Wednesday that the agreements would come to an end next summer after the games in Moscow.

England announced their 2014 World Cup squad at Vauxhall's headquarters in Luton, with the British carmaker playing a major role in media activities and across social media platforms, especially at last summer's European Championships where England, Wales and Northern Ireland all competed. 

Vauxhall said in its statement that it had "agreed to explore other opportunities to continue its relationship with the FAs beyond the conclusion of the existing contracts".

Blackrock bond boss 'nervous over Brexit timeline'

The head of global bonds at the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, said on Wednesday that he remains invested in the pound but has concerns over the timeline for Brexit negotiations.

"We are still positive on sterling but there are still... risks," Scott Thiel said at an event in London, adding that the possibility of a "hard" Brexit where there is no agreement had increased.

Mr Thiel also said he likes the euro as an investment but has bought so-called put options on the single currency to protect against French election risk.

Steady as she goes

FTSE 100 graph
BBC

Markets are shrugging off the countdown to Brexit. On the day the timetable began, sterling stayed in the $1.24-$1.25 range, while shares edged into positive territory in late afternoon trading, rising 0.27% to 7,363.48 points.

ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson said that, while "no fears were allayed today, nor have we had anything that especially roils the markets".

Ford recalls cars over potential fires

Ford sign
Reuters

Ford is recalling more than 440,000 vehicles in North America to fix problems that can cause engine fires and doors to open unexpectedly.

The first recall covers more than 230,000 Escape SUVs, Fiesta ST subcompacts, Fusion midsize cars and Transit Connect vans with 1.6-litre turbocharged engines from 2013 to the end of 2015. 

The company says engines can overheat, causing the cylinder head to crack and leak oil that can catch fire. Ford has 29 reports of fires, but no injuries.

Owners can keep driving the vehicles but should go to a dealer if the cars overheat or frequently need coolant. The company also is adding 211,000 vehicles to a previous recall to replace faulty door latches. That recall covers the 2014 Fiesta and the 2013 and 2014 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ. 

Expect financial volatility as Brexit talks continue, says ex-MPC member

Andrew Sentance
PwC

Andrew Sentance, senior economic adviser at PwC and a former member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, says of Brexit:

"Most likely, we face another two years of uncertainty before a new relationship between the UK and the EU is properly agreed. During this period we will probably see some bouts of financial volatility affecting the value of the pound and reduced business and financial confidence. 

"As a result we expect UK economic growth to slow to 1.6% this year and 1.4% in 2018, the slowest growth experienced since the euro crisis in 2011/12. The longer term outlook for the UK economy will depend on the success of the negotiations with the other EU countries and our ability to maintain a high degree of open access to EU markets."

HS2 deal hits hurdle

An engineering firm handed a £170m deal last month to develop Phase 2b of HS2 has announced it is pulling out of that section of the project, amid alleged conflicts of interest.

CH2M was chosen by HS2 Ltd last month to deliver two stretches of the high speed rail line, from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds.

But the contract signing was delayed as officials were reportedly investigating concerns from rival bidder Mace that there may have been conflicts of interest. 

American-based firm CH2M has been involved with HS2 Ltd since 2012 and has been awarded a £350m deal to develop Phase 1 of the line from London to Birmingham. 

Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd's new chief executive, is a former CH2M employee, as was his temporary predecessor Roy Hill.

Investment winners and losers

London skyline
PA

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf has been looking into some of the financial markets' winners and losers since the Brexit referendum last June.

He says: "The main effects of the Brexit vote so far have been on UK interest rate policy and the pound, which have led to very contrasting fortunes for cash savers and stock market investors."

Since the referendum, interest rates and inflation have headed in opposite directions, putting even more of a squeeze on cash savers. "By contrast the UK stock market has prospered, thanks in large part to the weakening of sterling," he says.

Cash ISA rates have halved since the June vote, and there is £13bn more in cash accounts paying no interest, he says.

In contrast, the UK stock market is up 17.8%. The international focussed FTSE100 is up 19.1%; the more UK focussed FTSE 250 is up 11.3%; and the even more domestically focussed FTSE Small Cap beat them both, rising 19.6%.

"The main reason is small caps sold off to a much lesser extent than midcaps in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, but subsequently bounced back more than large caps," says Khalaf.

Francois: Free trade is in Britain's DNA

Article 50 statement

House of Commons

Parliament

Mark Francois
HoC

This is a great day for our country, says Conservative Mark Francois.

He adds that it is in Britain's DNA to be a free trade, outward looking nation.

The prime minister agrees that the UK's outward looking spirit "will stand us in good stead".

Toshiba: too big to fail

Analyst Amir Anvarzadeh, who's been covering Toshiba for 27 years and heads the Japan Equity Research desk for BGC in Singapore, had this to say about the bankruptcy news this morning:

"We aborted our second stab at shorting Toshiba, sensing that recent concerns expressed by US State Department officials have jolted the Japanese government to open up its safety net and guarantee Toshiba's obligations to see this restructuring through.

"We never thought Toshiba will be allowed to go bust given the sheer size of its workforce, not to mention, its importance in the nuclear industry which Abe's government has been trying to prop up. However, the question is whether the rest of the business will be big enough to service its debt and what kind of sales multiple the rest of the business deserves." 

Chemical firm in UK expansion

Accsys Technologies plant in Arnhelm
Accsys Technologies

Chemicals company Accsys Technologies has secured a financing deal to invest in an all-new plant near Hull and the expansion of a facility in the Netherlands.

The AIM-listed company called the €82m (£71m) raised a "transformational" deal.

The money will fully fund the construction of a new plant at Saltend Chemical Park, and the expansion of its factory (above) in Arnhem.

Ford calls for 'ambitious Brexit deal'

Jim Farley
Getty Images

Jim Farley, Ford's chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has called for "an ambitious Brexit deal that maintains strong EU and UK economies".

"Any deal must include securing tariff-free trade with the wider Customs Union and not just the EU27, whilst retaining access to the best talent and resources," Mr Farley said.

"Given the short timeframe for negotiations, it also is critical that a transitional period is put in place to ensure that customers are not penalized and to maintain free trade."

CBI sets out business hopes for Brexit talks

Companies want early wins to set the right tone for trade, says Josh Hardie, deputy director-general at business lobby group the CBI.

“Business has three suggestions to help set a constructive tone for the talks.

“Firstly, we want to see certainty for EU workers here and UK citizens overseas.

“Secondly, discussing new trading arrangements should go hand-in-hand with negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.

“And we need both sides to commit to interim arrangements if a deal is not possible inside two years.  

“Above all, UK companies need to know as soon as possible about the UK’s future trading relationships. That’s why the next six months are crucial."

FTSE 100 trades lower

The FTSE 100 is trading 25.58 points down at 7,317.84 following the 

The pound is flat against the dollar at $1.245.

German industry body calls for 'damage limitation'

Dieter Kempf
Getty Images

Dieter Kempf, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), calls for the "maximum damage limitation" following the British application for withdrawal from the European Union: 

"The extent of the damage limitation is largely the responsibility of the British government," said the BDI president on Wednesday in Berlin. 

"It is extremely difficult to avert negative effects, particularly for UK companies.

"For the policy in Brussels and Berlin, there can be only one motto: to keep and strengthen Europe," Kempf said.