Pierre Moscovici defends Commission’s ethics rules

STRASBOURG — The European Commission could not have prevented the scandals involving ex-members José Manuel Barroso and Neelie Kroes, economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Tuesday as he defended the institution’s ethics rules.

“No rule, even the strictest one, can replace individual responsibility of Commission members,” Moscovici told MEPs during a debate in the European Parliament.

The Frenchman said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was carefully monitoring “how the code of conduct is put into motion,” but added that “no change in the code” could have avoided the recent controversies and no changes to the code of conduct were planned.

Moscovici was speaking during a debate on how the Commission could prevent conflicts of interest when commissioners leave ...

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Theresa May bullish despite economic concerns

BIRMINGHAM — The U.K.’s economic outlook after Brexit is “more positive than people had expected,” Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Tuesday, in spite of falls in the value of the pound and a cut to growth forecasts for 2017.

Sterling fell to a 31-year low against the dollar after May signaled a “hard Brexit” at the ruling Conservative Party’s conference in Birmingham. The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, reduced Britain’s growth forecast for next year from 2.2 percent to 1.1 percent.

May has emphasized the importance of new controls on freedom of movement and said she wants to take the U.K. out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, both red lines that would make continued membership of the single market less likely...

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‘Hard Brexit’ fears see sterling fall to 31-year low

The British pound dropped to a near 31-year low against the U.S. dollar, as currency markets’ fear of an economic hit from a U.K. “hard exit” from the European Union and its single market mounted, the Financial Times reported.

The drop came after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative party conference during the weekend that the country would begin official legal proceedings to exit the EU “no later than the end of March.”

Sterling was down against the dollar by 1.2 percent at $1.2815 on Tuesday morning.

An earlier version of this article misstated the date when the U.K. is expected to begin official legal proceedings to exit the EU. It will be by the end of March.

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3 reasons Deutsche Bank is scary and 3 reasons it’s not

The viewing platform of the 'Maintower' with a view to the Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany | Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

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Investors jumped from Deutsche Bank over the past couple of weeks fearing that a colossal fine from American regulators would drive the cash-strapped lender into the wall.

After riding a market roller coaster, a semblance of calm has returned to the trading in Germany’s largest bank’s shares.

The ride isn’t over yet.

All eyes are now on whether the U.S. Department of Justice will stick with its initial $14 billion (€12.5 billion) penalty on Deutsche for its role in mis-selling financial products that helped stoke the U.S. housing crisis, or settle for less...

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UK’s Philip Hammond seeks to reassure Wall Street

NEW YORK — In a visit that was part charm-offensive, part defensive sparring, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told Wall Street executives Thursday that the City of London is still open for business despite concerns about the consequences of a so-called “hard Brexit.”

Brexit was the dominant topics at this week’s Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying on Sunday the U.K. will begin preparations for withdrawal from the EU by March next year. That imminent schedule has been dubbed hard Brexit.

“We don’t recognize this distinction between hard Brexit and soft Brexit,” Hammond said...

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Portugal’s ‘contraption’ creaks forward

LISBON, Portugal — A year after losing the election that brought him to power, António Costa has surprised many by still being comfortably ensconced as Portugal’s prime minister.

He’s dodged sanctions from Brussels over his efforts to turn the page on austerity and avoided rifts with the two hard-left parties that keep his minority government afloat.

His Socialist Party (PS) is sitting pretty in opinion polls — three to four points ahead of its main center-right opposition.

Yet the government faces major challenges from stagnant growth, mountainous debt and a fragile financial sector that are stoking fears Portugal could be forced into a second international bailout.

In elections last year, Costa was beaten into second place by the incumbent center-right coalition.

He responded by s...

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‘Hard Brexit’ would cost Scotland 80,000 jobs, billions

Losing access to the EU’s single market would cost the Scottish economy £8 billion in a decade, lead to the loss of 80,000 jobs and decrease wages up to £2,000 per person per year, according to a Scottish think tank.

The Fraser of Allander Institute in a study for the Scottish government also found that if the U.K. is forced to rely on World Trade Organization membership to deal with the European Union after Brexit, long-term growth in Scotland could fall by 5 percent.

Even if the U.K. maintained closer ties with the EU through a deal similar to Norway’s, the Scottish economy would suffer, according to the study. The country’s GDP would be about 2 or 3 percent lower than it would have been inside the EU and real wages would decline by £800 to £1,200 a year.

“Whatever the model ...

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Commission targets public funding in steel industry

Margrethe Vestager zeroed in on Europe’s steel sector Wednesday, with the European Commission announcing an investigation into whether €2 billion in loans, state-guarantees and direct subsides to Italy’s Ilva amounted to illegal state aid.

The Commission also said Belgium will have to claw back €211 million paid to Duferco, a worldwide steel group and its companies in the southern region of the country, between 2006 and 2011.

The steel industry is suffering from excess capacity globally, which makes it sensitive topic. Steelmakers employ 350,000 people in 500 plants in Europe alone.

“The Commission will not stand in the way of the Italian government … but the ‘polluter-payers’ principle must apply,” said Vestager at a press conference.

That means Ilva, which runs the largest steel ...

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Angela Merkel: No exception for Britain on freedom of movement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday there would be no special exemptions for Britain after it leaves the European Union and that Britons would have to accept freedom of movement for workers if they wanted to maintain unrestricted access to the single market.

“Full access to the internal market is linked to the acceptance of the four fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of movement for persons, and cannot be separated from it,” she told business leaders at a conference organized by the Federal Association of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA) in Berlin, Reuters reported.

Merkel called on business leaders at the conference to defend this principle even if sector-specific analysis showed that Britain’s departure from the single market would undermine profits.

“If eve...

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Berlin wants EU incentives for Middle East help on refugees

BERLIN – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble proposed on Thursday that the EU come up with “something similar” to the Marshall Plan for the Middle East to boost their economies and help stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

His comments came a few days after Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany and Britain wanted the EU to grant Jordan special trading benefits to help it cope with an estimated 633,000 Syrian refugees living there — a huge burden for a country with a population of 6.5 million. Only Turkey and Lebanon currently host more Syrian refugees than Jordan.

With a couple of thousand refugees still entering Germany every day, on top of more than 1 million who arrived in 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government is under pressure to show th...

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