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A decade of pension freedoms

— Ten years since Osborne’s pension freedoms announced. — Rachel Reeves outlines a Labour economic recovery. — Treasury Committee looks at HMRC loan charge. Good morning readers! Today we’re looking back on the ten years since Osborne introduced pension freedoms. How the world’s changed since then … We’ve also got a preview of a Rachel Reeves speech and the latest on MPs looking into dodgy tax schemes and their consequences. Send tips to: [email protected], [email protected] & [email protected] And why don’t you follow us on Twitter/X: @eleanor__myers, @jamesfitzjourno & @hannahcbrenton POPPING CORKS: Today marks ten years since then-U.K. Chancellor George Osborne introduced pension freedoms. The move was a genuine “rabbit out of the hat” budget moment when it was announced in March 2014, and a decade on everyone is still talking about it. Read James’ great story here. What is it: In his 2014 spring budget, Osborne announced the pension freedoms — a landmark piece of legislation that meant as of April 2015, millions of pensioners over 55 are free to use their pension cash however they like, and enjoy a tax-free withdrawal on 25 percent of it. Until that point, they had been forced to use it to purchase an annuity, which guarantees an income. Vroom vroom: Then-pensions minister Steve Webb raised eyebrows nearly a decade ago when he said he wasn’t that concerned if pensioners spent their retirement savings on a Lamborghini and ended up on the state pension. Considering the chunky depreciation value of Audis and the like (probably more realistic motor purchases by U.K. retirees), anyone regretting their spontaneous sports car acquisition may not get much to fund their retirement if they’re later forced to sell it. Lambo no-no: There’s no suggestion that retirees spend all their money the minute they turn 55, but the freedoms have been wildly popular, with £72.2 billion withdrawn “flexibly” from pensions since they were introduced. The total amount taken out has risen each year since then, with over £12 billion expected to be taken out this tax year. Webb told us: “Fears of people blowing the lot on a Lamborghini have proved unfounded; in many cases, the sort of person who has been frugal enough to save a decent pension tends to manage it carefully and draw it slowly — many pensioners don’t spend all they have, preferring to be cautious.” But: There were, and still are, accusations that the government of the time rushed to implement the policy, with no formal consultation launched for industry to have their say. This did lead to problems, such as Osborne’s decision to only give workers a 12-month window to transfer out of public sector pension schemes — which led to a rush to do so, with thousands now at risk of being stuck in less stable defined contribution schemes. Another but: The other is the £71.2 million redress bill for the 8,000 British Steel Pension Scheme members who were coerced by financial advisers to transfer out of gold-plated pensions after the freedoms opened the floodgates to transfer. MFS U.K. view: The freedoms have been successful in allowing retirees to access and spend their hard-earned pensions. But rushed policymaking was always going to end in tears for some, especially those paying the price by having lost most of their retirement savings. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt faces the Economic Affairs Committee in the Annual Scrutiny Session, 3 p.m. Rachel Reeves gives annual Mais Lecture, 6:30 p.m. London. **A message from Nationwide: Unlike the big banks Nationwide isn’t closing our branches. We know branches are important to our customers. So, everywhere we have a branch, we promise to still be there until at least 2026. Branch Promise, a commitment to our members | Nationwide** REEVES REVS UP: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will outline a “new chapter” for the U.K. economy in what MFS U.K. hears is an hour long (!) speech at the annual Mais Lecture in the City of London this evening. Reeves will set out how an incoming Labour government will deliver Britain’s economic recovery on “strong and secure foundations” to unlock growth and spread prosperity. The ghost of Chancellors past: A week after former Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor Gordon Brown called for a shake-up of the Treasury, Reeves will use her speech to announce a No.11 reset. The reforms are set to include bolstering the Enterprise and Growth Unit that was set up under the last Labour government, and integrate it into the budget and spending review processes alongside fiscal and spending departments in the Treasury. The idea is…if the Unit is embedded with Treasury teams then it will help No.11 come up with better policy ideas to boost the ever-elusive economic growth in the U.K. Only last month, the Institute for Government noted that the Unit is widely seen to be underpowered, its influence diminished compared to 20 years ago, and it is not involved in the management of fiscal events. Growth: Reeves is expected to say that the Treasury must be ready to “get to work from day one” to bring economic growth back to the U.K., and will pledge to work with the City and businesses as they are the “lifeblood of economic growth is business investment.” She will close her speech by stating that the U.K. economy stands “at an inflection point” and the solution “lies in wide-ranging supply-side reform to drive investment.” **Berlin Playbook, the newest addition to POLITICO’s Playbook family, launched! Täglich informieren wir Sie darüber, was am vor Ihnen liegenden Arbeitstag wirklich zählt. Die aktuellsten Ereignisse aus Kanzleramt, Bundestag und den politischen Zentren der Welt. Mit nur einem Klick anmelden.** LOAN CHARGE LATEST: The taxman doesn’t expect individuals who may have accidentally avoided tax to pay back more than half their disposable income per month, Jim Harra has told MPs. In a letter published by the Treasury Committee today, Harra confirmed that HMRC would continue to request money from individuals for the “loan charge” issue — a policy introduced by HMRC to crack down on historical dodgy tax schemes called disguised remuneration (DR) — even though there have no arrests for those pushing the tax avoidance facilities. The history: Starting in the 2000s, tens of thousands of self-employed workers signed up to a remuneration scheme, and were paid their salaries in loans via offshore trusts. Many did so because a tax adviser told them to — unaware they were being paid from trusts often used to evade tax. HMRC decided it wants the unpaid tax back. But many of those involved have argued that tax advisers presented these schemes as legitimate, so they shouldn’t be to blame. About 50,000 people have been affected and HMRC has admitted there have been 10 suicides linked to the loan charge. What Harra said: The chief executive of HMRC said he recognizes some people were given “false assurances” but that the tax department does “not have any estimates of how many DR scheme users entered into schemes ‘unwittingly.'” And, most importantly: “The motives of those engaging in tax arrangements do not affect whether tax is due under the rules passed by Parliament.” In other words, it’s up to MPs to stop the taxman going after these people. The numbers … Harra told MPs in the letter that users of the scheme earned on average twice as much income as the average U.K. taxpayer. The median settlement for disguised remuneration schemes is £19,000 for individuals and £205,000 for companies. Around 40,000 individuals and 5,000 employers have yet to settle. Muted: The usually outspoken Harriett Baldwin, MP and chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “I hope the information contained in Mr Harra’s response makes a useful contribution to the public debate.” **It’s election year – and we’ve done our homework so you can get the most out of it. POLITICO’s Media Solutions team has cracked the code on brand policy communications during a pivotal year for global democracies. Spoiler alert: our informed audience tells us brands are needed more than ever in shaping post-election policy. Read more here.** REGULATORS SEEK TO IMPROVE DEBT COLLECTION: The FCA and other regulators have released a statement calling on firms to improve debt collection practices. Released yesterday with Ofcom, Ofwat and Ofgem, it sets out expectations such as making sure a customer in debt doesn’t receive excessive amounts of communication, and that they are clearly pointed to free debt advice. If firms fail to meet standards expected of them, the FCA will take “robust action,” it said. In 2020, the financial services regulator fined companies £90 million for failures in this area, resulting in consumers receiving over £570 million in compensation. The FCA has fined a trader £6 million euros and banned him from operating in the industry, because of his involvement in a sham refund trading scheme, reports Bloomberg. The FT reports Deloitte will undergo a huge reorganisation to cut costs, after choosing not to split its audit and consulting businesses. The Singaporean state fund may buy a $50 million stake in Monzo, reports Sky News. Thanks to: Fiona Maxwell and Izabella Kaminska. **A message from Nationwide: To help us deliver fairer banking, Nationwide would like to work with policymakers on the issues that impact our customers and the products and services we offer them. Our focus is on helping people manage their everyday finances, own a home and save for their future. The Personal Savings Allowance has not been updated since 2016 and now interest rates have risen, more people will now pay tax on interest from their savings accounts. Interest rates are expected to remain higher than in recent years. Raising the tax threshold would help support those who rely on income from savings interest, encourage people to save and reflect recent economic developments. Find out more.

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EU president congratulates Putin on ‘landslide’ win … as Russian voting kicks off

Russians headed to the polls Friday for the first day of voting in a rigged election that Putin is almost certain to win, granting him another six years in power. The Russian president, who spent years cracking down on any form of dissent against his rule, is expected to face off against three candidates who have voluntarily abstained from criticizing him. The only two significant anti-war opposition candidates, Ekaterina Duntsova and Boris Nadezhdin, have been disqualified. Russia’s grassroots opposition has organized mass participation of voters at polling stations at noon on Sunday in a show of protest at Putin’s longtime reign over Russia. Putin was first elected as Russian president in 2000 and — other than a break when he took on the role of prime minister between 2008 and 2012 — has held the top job ever since. In February 2022, he launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, upending Europe’s security landscape.

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Poland dismisses 50 envoys appointed by old right-wing government

On Tuesday, Tusk announced that he and Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski would ask Polish President Andrzej Duda to make changes to most embassies. “Either way, we’re going to have a very massive change in embassies,” Tusk said. Tusk said it is “not a retaliation,” but that it’s important to “build a team loyal to the Polish state.” The new pro-EU government of Tusk ― a former president of the European Council ― has vowed to restore democratic standards in the country and improve relations with Brussels, moving swiftly to purge people associated with the former Law and Justice government and to free state media from political control. But Duda, still loyal to the PiS party, has been critical of some of the changes.

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Slovak defense minister: Instead of NATO troops, send draft-age Ukrainian men back home to fight

“Nothing would help the Ukrainian army more than the return of the Ukrainian men of draft age capable of fighting the war,” said Kaliňák, who is also deputy prime minister. “They are sufficiently patriotic, so we have to motivate them and provide resources to these young men who are able to serve in the Ukraine army to go back and do so. It’s surely better than sending our own soldiers there.” Kaliňák said some 300,000 Ukrainian men have left the country since Russia invaded in February 2022, and can be legally drafted under existing mobilization rules. Kyiv’s new mobilization bill, which has so far only passed first reading in the parliament, lowers the mobilization age from 27 to 25 years, which would allow the rotation of Ukraine’s exhausted front-line soldiers. It has proven unpopular, however, with politicians struggling to recruit public support and more money for a new wave of troops.

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Nigel Farage’s new right-wing party bags its first Tory defector

“I want my country back,” Anderson said. “I don’t expect much in politics other than to be able to speak my mind.” His defection was announced by Richard Tice, Reform’s current leader. After founding the party in 2021, Farage stepped back from frontline politics months later — though speculation is rife that he will return to the party in some form before the general election. He remains the party’s honorary president. “I have found that champion of the ‘red wall’ for Reform U.K.,” Tice said, referring to the historic northern Labour heartlands won en-masse by the Conservatives — and MPs like Anderson — in the 2019 election. Anderson is a well-known and controversial figure in Westminster. Sunak appointed Anderson to the Conservative deputy chairman role in February last year, but he was sacked from the role after he rebelled in a vote on the government’s Rwanda asylum policy. Sunak and his ministers left the door open for Anderson to return if he apologized — while several Conservatives rallied around the MP. MPs from the Tory’s populist New Conservatives grouping blamed the current party leadership for Anderson’s defection, tweeting on X that the leadership had “failed to hold together the coalition of voters who gave us a 90 seat majority …”

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Net zero meets the NIMBYs: Inside the battle for the UK’s biggest solar farm

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he is committed to making sure net carbon emissions hit zero by 2050. His likely successor, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, is much more an instinctive environmentalist and even more bullish about the country’s green ambitions. But the U.K. won’t get there without radically accelerating its own clean energy sources. That includes sources like solar — and the proposed Botley West Solar Farm, just down the road from this Oxfordshire village hall. Botley West, if built, would be the U.K.’s largest solar development, a mega farm covering 18 kilometers of countryside, with the potential to power 330,000 homes. It would take over three hours to walk from one end to the other. The size of the scheme has been agreed with National Grid and can’t be reduced. “It is just too big,” said two residents in the hall, visibly offended by the plans laid out in front of them, a procession of artwork and heavily bullet-pointed factsheets laid out as part of a public event by Botley West’s developers to canvas local views. “Just not right for the area,” tuts an elderly lady, fingers pinched tensely over a laminated map of the development, which shows a sea of glass and steel imposed across English countryside. “This is a large development covering quite a lot of agricultural land. It’s way too big,” another resident said. He would prefer “rooftop” solar, he explained, like the small panels tucked away on the village hall roof. Those panels provide enough energy for this one building, but not much else.

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Rishi Sunak’s mother-in-law appointed to Indian parliament

He added that her “contributions to diverse fields including social work, philanthropy and education have been immense and inspiring.” Most members of India’s upper house are elected but 12 are nominated by the president for a six-year term in recognition of their contribution to public life. An engineer by training, Murthy is also an author and her foundation is credited with establishing libraries in rural areas. The Murthys’ daughter Akshata married Sunak in 2009, and she has recently taken a more visible role in his political career, introducing him at last year’s party conference. The Indian government has already bestowed Sudha with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honor, for her career in social work. Her husband Narayana has an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion, according to Forbes. Sunak is known to be close to his in-laws, who often visit the couple in the U.K.

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Big banks vs little banks in the battle of who pays for failure

— Banks: who pays if smaller ones collapse? — Budget highs, lows, and no-gos. —City minister meets with top female finance gurus ahead of International Women’s Day. Good morning! Today we’ve got battling banks, budget chat and crypto. Keep reading! BIG BANKS AND SMALL BANKS BATTLE OVER WHO SHOULD PAY IN A COLLAPSE: The U.K. banking industry is split over who should foot the bill if a smaller lender collapses, as the government today closes a consultation on reforms to protect the taxpayer in the aftermath of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. SVB lessons: The U.K. Treasury proposed in January that the U.K. banking industry as a whole should have to cough up to cover the costs of a smaller bank’s failure. The reforms followed the collapse of SVB, a mid-sized U.S. tech lender, in March last year, which also triggered the demise of its British arm and spread further turmoil across the banking system. The big investment banks don’t think they should have to pay: The Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) said in its response to the Treasury consultation that the plan goes against the idea that the party responsible should pay for the damage. There should be a more “targeted” solution to recouping funds from the industry, via smaller banks themselves, said the trade body, which represents large global players. Banks that don’t have to raise loss-absorbing debt should have to cough up, or have to pay more proportionately, AFME said. And subsidiaries of big international banks should be excluded. Plus, the influential organization said the costs imposed on the industry should be less than if a failing small bank was put into insolvency like any other business. At the other end, U.K. building societies also want to be scoped out. Ruth Doubleday, head of prudential regulation at the Building Societies Association (BSA), said government policies were being “blindly applied to building societies and credit unions despite significant differences in business and funding models, and risk.” “We believe that there is more room for proportionality in these proposals, for example to avoid credit unions paying for the recapitalisation of failing firms despite the fact they cannot benefit from this scheme,” she said. This is a challenging issue: Since the global financial crisis, big banks have been forced to raise loss-absorbing capital and come up with living wills so that shareholders and creditors are on the hook in a collapse rather than taxpayers. Smaller banks have struggled to raise that riskier capital but they don’t generally pose such a big risk of contagion to the financial system as a whole. Contagion: But SVB showed that problems at one bank can trigger a domino effect if investors become concerned that there could be similar issues at other lenders. The government proposed the Bank of England should be able to use an industry levy to recapitalize or sell the assets of that bank. The bottom line: The U.K. banking industry won’t face any new costs immediately, but it would have to replenish any funds used from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to a maximum of £1.5 billion a year. Now the fight is over who exactly should be on the hook. The Treasury closes a consultation on reforms to the U.K. bank resolution regime. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision publishes a consultation on “window-dressing.” The Bank of Spain hosts a conference on diversity in finance and central banking. Bank of England’s monthly Decision Maker Panel data for February 2024 published, 9:30 a.m. Tapestry Networks is hosting a Financial Services Leadership Network, 2 p.m. James Benford, executive director at the Bank of England, gives speech at the Big Data & AI World conference, 10 a.m. **A message from Nationwide: Unlike the banks, Nationwide Building Society is owned by its members, not shareholders. That’s anyone who banks, saves or has a mortgage with us. Which means we can always focus on what’s best for them. It’s our fundamental difference and what makes us a good way to bank.** IT’S OVER: Well, what to make of yesterday’s budget. Jeremy Hunt announced almost all of what was briefed to the media pre-spring budget, with no real surprises or a “rabbit out of the hat.” Here are the MFS U.K. main takeaways from the day that was. Cuts cuts cuts: The chancellor announced a widely anticipated second successive 2p cut to National Insurance, but no reduction to income tax. OBR chair, Richard Hughes, said that despite the cuts, the total burden on the British public will remain higher than any period after the second world war. Ouch. Hunt also hinted at ending the “double taxation” of NI which will excite many in his party. But doing so would cost £50 billion — again, ouch. The VAT registration threshold will be increased from £85,000 to £90,000 from the start of April, too. Investment: The Great British ISA is here, and the government will consult on it between now and June. But, according to broker AJ Bell, the plan is “doomed to fail.” Hunt announced the sale of its holding in NatWest, to take place by summer, plus the introduction of British Savings Bonds, offered through NS&I, at a fixed rate of 3 percent over three years. Elsewhere, the government looks committed to a “pot for life” pension, but will further consult on it. The government will also regulate ESG ratings providers. Frozen: Hunt extended the freezes to booze and fuel duty, introduced a new duty on vapes from 2026 and abolished the “multiple dwellings relief.” He went ahead and nicked Labour’s plans to scrap non-dom tax status, introducing a new plan that he claims is a “modern, simpler, residency-based system.” He also reduced the higher rate of property capital gains tax from 28 percent to 24 percent, and binned tax breaks for furnished holiday lets. A rabbit — sort of: One shock was a shake up to child benefit rules. The chancellor raised the threshold at which high-income families have to start paying back their child benefit, with the current thresholds being moved in April 2024 to £60,000 and £80,000. What’s missing: Despite courting the industry for months, there were no changes to the Lifetime ISA. Consumer champion Martin Lewis said on X/Twitter that Hunt spoke to him this week and said: “I want to do more than remove the penalty, I want to reform LISAs.” Watch this space. The chancellor also didn’t cut stamp duty on shares and dividends tax, meaning millions more people will pay tax on investment gains. Tight: Today’s policies mean Hunt is on target to meet his own primary fiscal rules by just £8.9 billion, down from £13 billion in November — so the next budget, either Tory or Labour, will be very interesting as the cupboard is bare. Will Snell, CEO of the Fairness Foundation, said: “This budget has failed to deliver what the public want: more investment in schools, hospitals and the crucial services we all rely on daily. Not tax cuts funded by cuts to essential public services after the general election.” To come: A Parliament Treasury Committee grilling. MPs will hold a session with the OBR and economists on March 12, and with Jeremy Hunt on March 13. IS THE CITY ON BOARD WITH VALUE FOR MONEY BENCHMARKS? City players on Wednesday backed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget plans to bring in “value for money” benchmarks to weed out badly performing pension schemes — in stark contrast to the financial industry’s attitude toward a similar attempt in Brussels. U.K. insurers, fund managers and pension funds all had warm words for the proposal — which is intended to improve outcomes for savers and consolidate the pensions market. “The framework will highlight where schemes are focusing on short-term cost savings at the expense of long-term investment outcomes, and where schemes’ current scale may be preventing them from offering value to savers,” the government said in the budget document. How will this work? Under the plans, defined contribution pension schemes — where savers pay into a pot but are not guaranteed retirement incomes — would have to publicly compare their performance and costs against competitors, including at least two schemes managing at least £10 billion in assets. Schemes performing badly won’t be able to take on new business. The Financial Conduct Authority will set out the details in a consultation which will require pension schemes to publish historic net investment returns and a breakdown of their U.K. investments. EU contrast: But while the City seems to be on board, in the EU, the financial industry has fought hard against proposed “value for money” benchmarks for retail investment — arguing they are effectively a price intervention in the market. The U.K. industry seems to view the benchmarks the opposite way — as a means to include performance alongside costs. Belgian plans: Under the latest proposals in the EU, the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU is today floating a compromise that wouldn’t ban investment products that cost more than the benchmark and would give the industry more leeway to justify pricey products. (You can read more in our sister EU newsletter.) BESPOKE INSIDER TRADING REGIME FOR PISCES: The Chancellor also unveiled his plans for PISCES — a trading venue that sits in between public and private markets. The Private Intermittent Securities and Capital Exchange Systems proposals, which are intended to get more companies to list on the U.K.’s languishing stock markets, are out for consultation until April 17. The sun is in Pisces, right now: The plans would allow private companies to trade some of their shares on a market without having to make loads of public disclosures — in an effort to attract smaller, growing companies and create a pipeline for initial public offerings, eventually. Plus, investors would get access to more companies than if they stayed totally private. Brexit breakaway? In the consultation, the government said PISCES would operate as a secondary market but won’t fit into existing buckets for trading venues, inherited from the EU. It’ll offer investors trading windows, such as monthly or quarterly, and disclosures to investors will only take place then and won’t be public beyond that. Market abuse safeguards: That creates some risks for market abuse. The government is proposing a “tailored” market abuse regime, which would only apply around the trading windows — allowing companies to keep sharing information with investors outside of those windows without those rules applying. But there would be an offense for unlawful disclosure of inside information, as in public markets, and market manipulation and insider dealing would also be caught. Restricted access: Retail investors won’t be able to take part — at least at first. But the government is also weighing whether to allow “sophisticated investors,” high-net worth individuals and company employees to participate. **Berlin Playbook, the newest addition to POLITICO’s Playbook family, launched! Täglich informieren wir Sie darüber, was am vor Ihnen liegenden Arbeitstag wirklich zählt. Die aktuellsten Ereignisse aus Kanzleramt, Bundestag und den politischen Zentren der Welt. Mit nur einem Klick anmelden.** BREAKING BARRIERS: MFS U.K. understands that City minister Bim Afolami will hold a roundtable in Downing Street today with a group of the City’s top female finance gurus ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday. What’s on: Likely topics on the menu will be what can be done to tackle the barriers women face in business and investing, how the government and City can encourage more female entrepreneurs and investors, and potential areas of support. Some members were also integral in discussions around Angel Investors reforms, which were announced by the Treasury earlier this week. Attendees include…Grace Beverley, founder of TALA, Erika Brodnock MBE, Carol Knight and Faith Reynolds of TISA, Emma Sinclair of Enterprise Alumni, Martha Dalton of Lodestone, Emma Wright of Harbottle and Lewis law firm and cofounder of InvestHER, Lavinia Osbourne, Anna Brading of Mentora Money, and Jenny Tooth of UK Business Angels. CRYPTOASSET REPORTING FRAMEWORK COULD EARN EXCHEQUER MILLIONS: The government, in its deluge of post-budget documents, announced yesterday a consultation on the future of taxing cryptoassets. The government has calculated that, if properly implemented, a new reporting framework will provide the taxman with access to standardized information to help identify and tackle tax non-compliance, which could bring the exchequer £35 million between 2026-7 and £95 million between 2027-8. Non-existent taxes: Because of the nature of the crypto industry, it’s typically been difficult to tackle tax evasion and avoidance. Cryptoassets can be transferred without financial intermediaries, so the taxman can’t take a cut. But in 2022 the OECD launched its Cryptoasset Reporting Framework (CARF), which involves the automatic exchange of tax information on transactions in cryptoassets. The U.K. is now implementing its rules based on the OECD’s CARF. Do write in: The government wants to hear from relevant parties — businesses, lawyers, tax advisors — on what they think about implementation. By implementing CARF, the UK government wants to get the taxes they believe they’re owed, and also support sector growth by creating a standardized transparency framework. MoD CONTRACTOR CONVICTED FOR MISCONDUCT: Jeffrey Cook, a former employee at the U.K. government’s Ministry of Defence, has been convicted for taking secret payments of over £70,000 in exchange for commissioning offshore consultants to work for the MoD. The Serious Fraud Office secured the conviction for misconduct in public office yesterday. Cook was employed at the MoD, but seconded to a defense contractor, Paradigm, owned by Airbus. The commissioned work was five reports (between 2004 and 2008) for the MoD, focused on providing military communications and equipment for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Cook will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 12 April. Lex Greensill has sued the U.K. government over misuse of private information, according to the FT. AP News reports that new SEC rules will require companies to publicly disclose climate risks. Bitcoin’s value is soaring, but smaller tokens have outperformed it, writes Bloomberg. UBS chief hits out at European regulators for letting US banks dominate, in the FT. Thanks to: Fiona Maxwell & Izabella Kaminska. **A message from Nationwide: Our mutual status means that Nationwide does not have to pursue profit to pay shareholders dividends. Instead, we return additional value to our members as owners through our Fairer Share products and payments, and a focus on keeping branches open. To support diversity of business models, we would like all policymakers to commit to doubling the size of the cooperative and mutual economy, and in particular strengthening mutuals in the financial services sector. Key actions could include better consideration of mutuals when making regulation and legislation, new capital instruments that work for mutuals and a dedicated “Minister for Mutuals” in Government. Find out more.

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Kaja Kallas: I don’t eat Russians for breakfast … rather muesli, yogurt and blueberries

That vivid imagery sparked laughter in Tallinn, with Kallas — who is one of the EU’s harshest critics of Russian leader Vladimir Putin — dispelling the notion that she starts her day by scoffing Russians. “My breakfast, dear @POLITICOEurope readers,” Kallas wrote Tuesday, linking POLITICO’s article and attaching a photo of her breakfast. Pictured is a bowl of seemingly muesli, topped with yogurt and blueberries. My breakfast, dear @POLITICOEurope readers ☺️ pic.twitter.com/ryB6omsF6p— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) March 5, 2024 It’s not clear whether Kallas eats muesli regularly, or does in fact sometimes eat Russians. Kallas has long urged other EU leaders not to waver in their support for Kyiv as it resists Russia’s full-scale invasion. Her decision to remove war monuments dating from Soviet times in the eastern Estonian city of Narva even earned her a spot on Russia’s wanted list last month. There was a drink in Kallas’ breakfast picture, though sadly POLITICO was unable to confirm whether her mug contained hot lemon and honey, green tea … or Russian imperialist tears.

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Iran has supplied Russia with ballistic missiles, UK defense chief suggests

Iran publicly denied supplying Russia with the missiles. Speaking this week, Shapps suggested Britain has intelligence backing up the claim. “I do. I can’t go into it,” Shapps told the House Magazine when asked if he had any information on Iran’s provision of ballistic missiles to Russia. “But whether it’s ballistic missiles, or the Shahed drones that they supplied Russia with, we’ve seen that if there’s struggle in the world, often Iran are egging it on, or helping to supply the food chain in this case,” he said. Shapps added: “”They are a bad influence, not just on their region, but in this case in Europe as well.” Any supply of missiles from Iran to Russia would indicate a strengthening of military ties between the two countries. Tehran initially held off from offering Russia missiles due to the threat of further sanctions.

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