Briefing :- 27/3/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 27th of March, 2017 :-

1. Thousands evacuated as Australia braces for ‘monster’ cyclone :-

Storm clouds gather in the town of Ayr in far north Queensland as Cyclone Debbie approaches.

Thousands of people including tourists were evacuated Monday as northeast Australia braced for a “monster” cyclone packing destructive winds, with warnings of major structural damage and dangerous tidal surges.

Cyclone Debbie has been forming off the coast of Queensland state over recent days, the Bureau of Meteorology said, and is expected to make landfall as a category four storm — on a scale of five — after daybreak Tuesday.

Residents, who have been sandbagging and boarding up homes, were told to prepare for the worst weather to pummel the state since Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which ripped houses from their foundations and devastated crops.

Some 3,500 people have been evacuated between the towns of Home Hill and Proserpine, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Townsville, a tourist hotspot used to access the Great Barrier Reef.

Another 2,000 in the coastal area of Bowen were also on the move, Palaszczuk said, with cyclone shelters available for those with nowhere else to go.

Up to 25,000 more in low-lying parts of Mackay were urged to head to higher ground amid fears the storm could cause a tidal surge up to 2.5 metres (8.0 feet).

The ferocity of Debbie has been building and it was upgraded to a category four cyclone late Monday before making landfall, expected somewhere between Ayr and Mackay, with a warning that “it may intensify further”.

The meteorology bureau forecast pounding rain and wind gusts of up 280 kmh (174 miles) near its centre. More than 100 schools have been closed, along with local ports.

2. First warning signs appear post-Brexit for UK’s resilient economy :-

First warning signs appear post-Brexit for UK's resilient economy
The economy grew by a wholly respectable 1.8% in 2016 and could expand by 2% this year, according to latest forecasts.

Britain’s economy has for months defied the cataclysmic predictions made by campaigners for staying in the EU ahead of last year’s referendum but its smooth run shows signs of hitting the skids.

As Britain begins the delicate process of extracting itself from the European Union, headwinds are expected for the economy even though the forecast financial storm has so far failed to materialise.

The first nine months since the Brexit vote have been deftly handled by Prime Minister Theresa May, aided by the Bank of England’s injections of liquidity into the banking system and unflagging consumer confidence.

The economy grew by a wholly respectable 1.8 per cent in 2016 and could expand by 2 per cent this year, according to the latest forecasts.

But economists say the positive results are due to the fact that nothing concrete has happened on the Brexit front since the referendum on June 23. The real question is what will happen over the two years of likely fraught negotiations ahead.

Businesses are also questioning whether to invest over the next two years, since there will be uncertainty until the end of the negotiations.

“UK demand for funding from both businesses and households has been softening somewhat at the beginning of this year, which we believe is the first sign of the gradual slowing of the economy that we expect for 2017,” said Boris Glass, senior economist at S&P Global Ratings.

Consumers are also beginning to feel the effect of a sharp rise in prices due to more expensive imports — a consequence of the devaluation of the pound on currency markets caused by the Brexit vote.

With Britain facing turbulence, finance minister Philip Hammond presented a cautious budget last week that he hopes will give him enough spending power to act quickly if the economy starts to sputter.

Hammond said that “as we embark on the journey that we will be taking over the next couple of years, we are confident that we have got enough gas in the tank to see us through that journey”.

3. British PM Theresa May to press for stronger union on Scotland visit :-

British PM Theresa May to press for stronger union on Scotland visit
May is a fierce unionist and hopes to stall plans by Sturgeon to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will press her case on Monday for a strong union in Scotland, using a visit to staff working on international aid to say “there is no limit to what we can do” when Britain works together.

May is battling to keep the United Kingdom together after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union revealed deep divisions, with England and Wales voting for Brexit, while Scotland and Northern Ireland supported staying in the bloc.

Just days before the British leader launches the formal divorce procedure with the EU, May wants to try to stem demands in Scotland for a new independence referendum by promising to get a Brexit deal that will suit all parts of the country.

Due to visit staff from the Department for International Development in East Kilbride in southern Scotland before meeting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, May will also say Britain will not turn its back on the world as it negotiates Brexit.

“Indeed, we are going to take this opportunity to forge a more global Britain. The closest friend and ally with Europe, but also a country that looks beyond Europe to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike,” she will say, according to excerpts of a speech released by her office.

Referencing British support for programmes in Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Syria and Afghanistan, May will say “UK Aid is a badge of hope for so many around the world”.

“And it says this: That when this great union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – sets its mind on something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force,” she said.

May is a fierce unionist and hopes to stall plans by Sturgeon to hold a new referendum on independence in late 2018 or early 2019 after the country voted against breaking away in 2014 by 55 to 45 per cent.

A debate in the Scottish parliament before voting on Sturgeon’s proposal was suspended last week when an attacker, later identified as British-born Khalid Masood, ploughed his car into pedestrians and tried to force his way into parliament in London, killing four. He was shot dead. That debate is due to resume on Tuesday.

On Monday May will appeal to a sense of history and shared values to make her case for a strong union in Scotland, saying Britain has a “proud shared heritage”. “And on that foundation we have built a country where we share the challenges that we face, and bring all the expertise, ingenuity and goodwill we share across this union to bear to tackle them,” she will say. “So as Britain leaves the European Union, and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our union will become even more important.”

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