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Week in review: slow progress

The Brexit discussions rumble on. Two and a half months after the June 23 vote, the details of Britain’s proposed departure from the European Union (EU) remain unclear. Perhaps worried that the phrase is becoming parodied, Prime Minister Theresa May has been careful not to repeat her famous line, “Brexit means Brexit.”

Brexit means…

Many questions remain. When will Britain trigger Article 50 and begin the formal exit process from Europe? Will there be a “hard” Brexit involving Britain leaving the single market without free-trade deals with the EU, or will Britain stay in the single market and potentially cede some control over its borders? Ms. May has announced that Britain would not adopt an Australian-style “points” system on EU migrants, but such specifics have been few and far between.

On the economic front, news has been relatively positive. The UK’s manufacturing and services sectors and business and consumer confidence recovered strongly in August. Additionally, the pound has at least shown some signs of stabilization against the dollar and euro following its post-Brexit collapse.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, which cut the benchmark interest rate to 0.25% in August, welcomed the improved economic data. He stated that the risk of the UK economy falling into a recession had decreased since the EU referendum, partly as a result of the Bank’s actions.

Draghi stays put

European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi kept the benchmark borrowing rate on hold at 0.0% and the deposit rate at -0.4% on Thursday and announced no extension to its €80 billion (US$90.2 billion) monthly bond-buying program. Asset purchases are expected to run until “at least” March 2017, with the ECB not yet looking to extend the program by another six months as some expected.

Draghi announced that the Eurozone is likely to experience “moderate, steady” recovery but blamed some of the economic uncertainty in Europe on the Brexit vote. While the ECB seems to be adopting a wait-and-see approach, persistently low inflation and anemic growth could spur it to extend its quantitative easing program into the second half of next year.

Formula 1 deal crosses the line

If all goes to plan, Formula 1 is set to have a new owner. John Malone, head of Liberty Media, a U.S. entertainment and communications group, has agreed to an US$8 billion takeover of the global motorsports’ parent Formula One Group, purchasing a 35% stake from CVC Capital Partners. Chase Carey, the vice chairman of 21st Century Fox, has been appointed chairman of Formula One Group.

Formula 1 is one of the leading brand names, and its logo is up there with Pepsi and Nike, so the attractions for Liberty Media are obvious.

Bernie Ecclestone, the current chief executive, remains in the pole position for another three years. How Formula One Group will adapt when octogenarian Ecclestone eventually retires remains to be seen.

Enbridge and Spectra energized by deal

The world of oil and gas experienced its biggest corporate deal in two years on Tuesday as Enbridge of Canada agreed to buy Spectra Energy of the U.S. in an all-stock deal valued at US$28 billion. The combined entity will be the largest North American infrastructure company.

The deal has been seen as a bet on natural gas by Enbridge, which has historically specialized in oil pipeline operations. Spectra operates a network of natural gas pipelines that feed New York City, the Gulf Coast and the East Coast. The deal represents part of a larger recent trend – many energy companies have been pressured to merge in an environment of lower commodity prices and stricter regulation.

And finally…

Twenty-first century urban life is not always a peaceful stress-free existence. Arduous commutes, long working days and multiple social and family commitments mean we often don’t have a chance to relax. Some resort to exercise or stress balls to alleviate stress. Not Thomas Thwaites, who has bucked the trend and decided to live as a goat.

Using funding from the Wellcome Trust, which helps fund healthcare initiatives, Thwaites got in touch with his pastoral side and visited a goat farm in the Alps. He even arranged for bespoke prosthetic hooves and back legs to be built for him and rather bizarrely adopted a diet of grass to train his digestive system to be more goat-like. Ewe might think we’re kidding but it’s true.

Image credit: Ikon Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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