Tag Archives: UK

Marks and Spencer closes European stores, heralds new ‘Global M&S’ strategy


2017-09-25 15.57.58Marks & Spencer is closing down its stores across Europe in a bold first step of its new ‘Global M&S’ trading strategy.

M&S proudly unveiled the plan in Brussels as its flagship store in the capital of Europe closed its doors for the last time, whilst Brexit negotiations in the same city head towards a triumphant conclusion. Explaining the decision to withdraw from Europe, M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe heralded the innovative and forward-looking strategy.

‘This move to close all our EU stores will create a deep and special partnership with our European customers,’ enthused Rowe, as removers pushed past him to begin packing vans full of M&S crumpets and muffins for repatriation back to the UK.

‘Now we can finally embrace the sunlit uplands of global trading’, said Rowe. ‘We are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe, oh no’, he asserted, whilst balanced precariously on a crate of innovative M&S raspberry jam. ‘Well, not unless you count closing all of our stores in France, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.’

‘We may be closing down our Champs-Élysées store, but we have just opened a new M&S Simply Food in Torrington Service Station, North Devon, that will welcome customers from all over the world’, announced Rowe proudly. ‘Our European customers will now be able to do some tourism in Devon whilst stocking up on microwavable dinners. Plus, our new outlet sells petrol as well, which the Brussels and Paris stores didn’t do. And you’ll need to refuel after driving the 776 km from Paris,’ he added.

‘Oh, look, it’s half price today on the Victoria sponge cakes, so help yourselves – you really can have your cake and eat it!’ exclaimed Rowe, in an attempt to deflect difficult questions. ‘Until you’ve actually eaten it, of course. Then the cake will be gone for good. I never really understood that metaphor to be honest.’

Although the company has launched its new strategy, it admits that some of the details remain to be defined, and it is asking others to fill in the gaps in a spirit of ambition and innovation.

‘Today, M&S is appealing to our European partners to be creative, and help us make Global M&S a success. It shouldn’t be up to us, our European consumers should be the ones to find a solution’, pleaded the CEO, surrounded by boxes of out of date cucumber sandwiches.

‘Perhaps they could hire drones to fly across the Channel to collect their chicken tikka masala?’ he suggested. ‘Or what about using pigeons to deliver shortbread – look, do I have to think of all the answers, we are in this together,’ he snapped, removing his foot from a box of crushed scones.

‘Yes, having a retail presence in major European capitals could be seen as good business sense by some,’ conceded Rowe. ‘But focusing all our efforts on Europe ignores the huge growth opportunities that we are seeing from Fiji. We are sure there will be great interest from the Pacific in our range of men’s tweed jackets and thermal underwear,’ he claimed, as he stumbled backwards into several boxes labelled ‘M&S Desserts – return to UK’.

With the rent on the huge Belgian store reported as being 10 million Euro per year and commercial leases in Belgium known to be of long duration with serious exit clauses, Rowe refused to be drawn on reports that M&S would still be liable for payments on the lease until well into the future.

‘It is possible that we may have to make some payments during a transitional period, but I promise this strategy will save us lots of money eventually. In fact, I’m so sure of it, I’ll put it on the side of a bus.’

‘Look, the details don’t really matter, everyone just needs to get behind the plan and stop talking M&S down’, sulked Rowe, in the face of sceptical questioning.

‘Anyway, we’ve decided now, it would look stupid to change our minds,’ he huffed, whilst angrily scraping sticky toffee pudding off his trousers.




Announcing the new ‘BRITOSTAR’ service

I am delighted to be here today to announce the launch of ‘BRITOSTAR’, an entirely new rail link between Great Britain and the rest of the world.

union jack train

This new, post-Brexit transport service will be the first time that Global Britain is able to directly connect with our international dominions, through a bespoke, and uniquely British deal.

Today I can reveal that BRITOSTAR will introduce a new service, departing from London Saint Pancras for a range of global cities, including Paris, Lille, and Brussels. From there, British businesses will find it easy to connect with the entire world, opening up totally new opportunities for travel, trade, and tourism that were previously restricted by our membership of the European Union.

The all-new BRITOSTAR service features our patriotic liveried train carriage, entirely decorated in the Union flag. Yes, this rail service is the true reflection of this government’s red, white and blue Brexit!

I would like to take this opportunity to correct some fake news that has been published about the BRITOSTAR service.

Contrary to some reports, BRITOSTAR will be entirely and gloriously independent of European rail services. It is true that we have concluded a partnership agreement with an existing service, whereby our BRITOSTAR carriage will be coupled to Eurostar trains in order to be towed to the continent.

But the lack of our own engine does not mean that we are dependent upon Eurostar for our service. As part of our bespoke agreement we have guaranteed that BRITOSTAR can decouple itself from the Eurostar train at any time it chooses. Simply by removing the connecting coupling, the BRITOSTAR carriage can transform itself into a splendid static embassy, able to represent British interests from a practical, stationary position on the tracks.

We have also successfully negotiated an agreement that our carriage will be the last one coupled to the Eurostar train, a premium position which will allow BRITOSTAR travellers to lead from behind as they set forth on the path to global domination.

Some have claimed that BRITOSTAR will simply mirror the existing Eurostar timetable, offering the same service, but in a different colour. This is a complete misunderstanding. After due consideration, the British government has evaluated different timetable options, and concluded that an itinerary which happens to match the existing Eurostar service suits our needs at present. However, in contrast to the pre-Brexit situation, we retain complete freedom to vary both the destination and timing of our service, according to British needs, and British aspirations. (Subject to future Eurostar decisions on timetabling and destinations, terms and conditions apply.)

Certain malicious reporting has even suggested that this entire exercise is a costly and pointless rebranding through which UK travellers receive an inferior, more expensive service, a pretence of independence, but no control over direction or destination.

To this I say… Behold, Our Union Jack Carriage, Behold The Sunlit Uplands, Behold Global Britain!

Taking the Brexit Bus Seriously

As Theresa May announces her plan to notify Article 50 by next March, the UK is drawing up its ‘red lines’ on its exit from the EU. Although there is little detail as to what the UK government will seek, one thing is clear: an end to free movement of people is being considered as the major implication of the British people’s vote to leave. Everything else – including single market membership – must come second to this goal. Even the Labour Party has stepped in line with this new political orthodoxy. The interpretation is that the referendum result was a vote against free movement for EU citizens to the UK.

The problem with this approach is that Theresa May is not just abiding by the result of the referendum, but she is trying to infer a single reason for the vote.  And the choice she has made has huge implications for the Brexit negotiations. So what if there was another basis for the negotiations, a different ‘red line’ to limiting immigration?

We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead


There were many arguments used in favour of leaving the EU, but the most prominent was written on the side of the Leave campaign’s bus and driven around the country.  It dominated large parts of the referendum campaign, formed the backdrop to hundreds of photo opportunities and interviews, shaped the news agenda for weeks, was hotly contested, but was never erased, and never withdrawn. After years of austerity, the official Leave  campaign zeroed in on the EU membership fee as one of the major solutions for over-stretched public services. Opinion polls in the run-up to the vote showed that many people shared the sense that the UK paid too much into the EU, and as a net contributor was somehow being ‘taken for a ride’.

So let’s imagine basing our Brexit negotiations on repatriating the £350 million per week that is handed over to the EU. How does that change our approach to the EU27?

The first result is that the focus shifts hugely towards discussing the Article 50 separation deal, rather than ignoring that in favour of discussions on a future relationship. The terms of the separation are crucial to getting the UK a good Brexit deal, one where we can save money and reinvest that for the public good. Instead of an army of trade negotiators, the UK government recruits hundreds of accountants, to go through the EU’s books and find ways to limit the UK’s future liabilities. So what are the Brexit bus red lines?

1) Brexit means a clean financial break: Once the UK is out of the EU it will not accept making any transfers to the EU27. This will include payments for future EU liabilities, such as pensions for EU officials, EU institutions and agencies (including the cost of their relocation). A settlement may have to be made with regard to the current budgetary period.

2) The costs of immigration should be limited: the access of EU migrants to U.K. social security was a major feature of the referendum campaign, so the question of who pays for the social benefits of EU citizens in the U.K., and UK citizens living in EU Member States will be a major factor in the negotiations. Expect the UK to try to drive a hard bargain about social security payments and liability for health and social costs incurred by U.K. retirees in Spain, and liabilities for EU nationals in the UK.

Of course, the benefits of Brexit can only be truly realised if the new UK-EU relationship is also based on financial neutrality. So the negotiations about the future relationship should be driven by this key principle. The next principle is therefore:
3) Solidarity is a national issue: EU Member States can fund solidarity and social cohesion from their own budget; the UK’s relationship will be based solely on trade, not the redistribution of wealth via social programmes.

Finally, the UK will argue for a single market, but with no fees:
4)  No pay for play: no contributions from the UK to the EU’s budget in exchange for single market access. The UK will have no political say in the making of the single market’s laws, so should not have to pay a fee to access them. If the EU wants to continue to trade smoothly with the UK, then the UK will accept adopting the single market’s rules, but will not subsidise its operation. The financial benefit that the EU27 will receive through the UK’s large balance of payment deficit should be sufficient without further contributions.

Together, these key red lines will ensure that Brexit can respect the clearly expressed will of the British people, and make Brexit a success for the NHS, and for Britain.

Of course, most, if not all of these red lines might prove impossible to realise. And at some stage, the fact that the £350 million per week claim was a lie would also have to be addressed. However, it is certainly not unrealistic to imagine that a UK negotiation in Europe might be based entirely upon money.  Margaret Thatcher’s ‘handbagging’ of Brussels to secure the UK  budget rebate should remind us that the UK is often happy to take a transactional approach to Europe.

The point of this post is not to suggest that this would be a better Brexit strategy, but merely to point out that there is more than one type of Brexit possible. Brexit does not mean Brexit – there are many different versions. The one that is chosen over the coming months will have huge ramifications for both the UK and the EU.

Why Brexit Britain should still be interested in the circular economy action plan

Another piece on the Green Alliance blog:

Why Brexit Britain should still be interested in the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan