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British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. 

Francois Lenoir | Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018. 

May is widely expected to lose and this would leave open the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without any transitional arrangements to smooth the economic shock.

Calls for a second referendum — which May has rejected — are growing.

Friday’s figures showed that compared with a year earlier, the economy stood 1.4 percent larger. In November alone, it expanded 0.2 percent, compared with forecasts for a rise of 0.1 percent.

The data are broadly in line with the Bank of England’s view that the economy is likely to have grown around 0.2 percent over the fourth quarter of 2018.

Britain’s economy slowed after the June 2016 Brexit vote, its growth rate slipping from top spot among the Group of Seven group of rich nations to mid-table or lower.

Consumers in particular were squeezed by the jump in inflation which followed the pound’s tumble after the referendum, especially as wages have failed to keep up.

That said, an unusually warm summer in mid-2018 encouraged many to splash out on drinks and pub and restaurant visits.

But retail sales data suggests consumers reined in spending over Christmas.

Earlier this week closely watched purchasing managers’ surveys pointed to fourth-quarter growth of around 0.1 percent in Britain, according to data firm IHS Markit which compiles the surveys.

Friday’s data showed that Britain’s services sector grew by 0.3 percent over the three months to November, while industrial output dropped by 0.8 percent, the biggest decline since May 2017.

Looking at November alone, industrial output dropped 1.5 percent on the year — the biggest fall since August 2013.

Separate figures showed Britain’s goods trade deficit widened unexpectedly in November to 12.0 billion pounds from 11.9 billion pounds, worsened by the highest oil imports since September 2014.

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Ex-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn makes new request for bail

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Ghosn’s latest bail hearing comes exactly two months after he was detained by Japanese authorities who were investigating allegations Ghosn and another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, did not disclose the full amount of Ghosn’s compensation over several years.

Last week, a judge in Tokyo denied Ghosn’s request for bail, clearing the way for him to potentially remain in jail until March 10th. Ghosn is appealing that ruling, and has amended his request for bail by offering new guarantees to the Japanese court. Among the guarantees Ghosn is willing to meet:

  • Live at a private apartment in Tokyo
  • Pay a higher amount for bail and, if requested by the court, submit his shares in Nissan as collateral.

In addition, the former Nissan CEO says he is willing to report on a daily basis to prosecutors, surrender his passports, wear an electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring device and pay for court-approved security guards to monitor his whereabouts.

At a bail hearing earlier this month, Ghosn spoke publicly for the first time about his detention, and denied the charges against him. “I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” Ghosn told the judge at his hearing on January 7th.

Last week, Ghosn’s wife Carole released a letter she sent to Human Rights Watch, decrying the harsh treatment he husband faces while detained and being investigated.

“For hours each day, the prosecutors interrogate him, browbeat him, lecture him, and berate him, outside the presence of his attorneys, in an effort to extract a confession. No human being should be detained under conditions so harsh that their only plausible purpose is to coerce a confession,” she wrote.

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Trump is going to dominate Davos – even though he won’t be there

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President Donald Trump and his cabinet are skipping out on Davos this week, but he’ll still be the biggest presence at the annual gathering of the world’s richest and most powerful people.

Whether it’s the U.S.-China trade dispute, Trump’s reported wish to withdraw from NATO, or the government shutdown threatening the world’s biggest economy, it’ll be hard to avoid discussing Trump at the World Economic Forum’s meeting in the Swiss ski town of Davos.

“Donald Trump will be a predominant voice at Davos regardless of whether he’s there,” Tom Nides, a Morgan Stanley vice chairman and former deputy secretary of State, said in an interview.

“The most important thing people are worried about globally is the U.S.-China trade relationship and the health of the global economy,” Nides said. “The reality is, the U.S. is a massive player in all conversations around Davos, and because Donald Trump has decided to be relatively controversial, that increases the likelihood that the conversations in the hallways are about Donald Trump.”

As 2019 begins, uncertainty is the only certainty. Trump, in the midpoint of his term, is grappling with showdowns at home and abroad, and repercussions are being felt around the world. His games of brinkmanship top the list of potential risks, along with Brexit, that could cripple economic growth.

Anxiety about the end of the old world order is sure to be on the minds of the Davos set – a list of attendees including billionaires Bill Gates, Ray Dalio and George Soros – a group who have been huge beneficiaries of the stability of the previous era.

“The American order is over, and we don’t know what the next order will be yet,” said Ian Bremmer, founder of consultancy Eurasia Group. “It’s a much more dangerous, chaotic period we are entering, and what people attending Davos need to think about is how to ensure resilience given the coming shocks.”

When Trump attended Davos last year to articulate his “America First” worldview and boast about the virility of the U.S. economy, he had a surging stock market and recent corporate tax cut to crow about. “America is open for business, and we are competitive once again,” he told the Davos crowd in 2018.

Now, with swaths of the U.S. government literally closed and 800,000 federal employees going without pay, economists are increasingly alarmed at the fallout, saying that if it persists, the longest shutdown in history could wipe out economic growth.

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Paris informs Tokyo it wants Renault and Nissan to integrate

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Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, speaks during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. 

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, speaks during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. 

A French government delegation has informed Tokyo that it would seek an integration of Renault and Nissan, most likely under the umbrella of a single holding company, the Nikkei reported on Sunday.

The delegation, which included French government-designated Renault director Martin Vial, also said that it wanted to name Nissan’s next chairman, according to the report. Nissan was not immediately available for comment.

Nissan ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn, arrested and detained in Tokyo since Nov. 19, has been indicted in Japan on charges of under-reporting his salary for eight years through March 2018, and temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan during the global financial crisis. Ghosn has denied all charges.

The French government has requested Renault hold a board meeting in coming days to replace Ghosn. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that Michelin (MICP.PA) Chief Executive Jean-Dominique Senard could be a good choice to head Renault.

“The French state, as shareholder, will have its say. What I can tell you, is that Jean-Dominique Senard has a renowned competence with regards to the automobile industry,” Le Maire told France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

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