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A comprehensive round-up of the latest business news covering all sectors within the Isle of Man’s diverse and dynamic business environment. OPPORTUNITY FOR ISLAND BUSINESSES TO SHOW ABILITY TO ADAPT AS POLITICAL HEADWINDS THREATEN GLOBAL TRADE Internationally-focused businesses in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands need to demonstrate their ability to adapt as political headwinds threaten to disrupt global trade patterns, according to HSBC’s Head of Commercial Banking in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Warwick Long Head of Commercial Banking, Channel Islands and Isle of Man A new HSBC survey of over 8,500 companies in 34 markets, ‘Navigator: Now, next and how for business’, published this week, shows that businesses around the world are upbeat about their prospects, encouraged by customer demand and favourable economic conditions, but are revising their strategies as protectionism dents the outlook for international trade. The report finds that more than three quarters (78%) of companies are positive about the trading environment, rising to 86% in ASEAN countries and 82% in the EU. Yet at the same time, political headwinds are gaining strength as 63% of firms think governments are becoming more protective of their home economies. For those companies with a negative outlook on their company’s prospects, tariffs and the US-China trade dispute are the main reasons for pessimism (31% each). In mainland China and Hong Kong, markets that Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey have all built strong links with over recent years, the political dispute with the US is the greatest concern (65% and 53% respectively). Reflecting these uncertainties, many companies are turning their attention to intra-regional rather than inter-regional trading opportunities. When asked about their top targets for future trade growth, for instance, the number of European 6 | companies citing Asian markets dropped from 26% in the first quarter to 13% now. At the same time, more Asia-Pacific companies are looking at China as a future growth market. Commenting on the findings, Warwick Long, Head of Commercial Banking, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, said: “Businesses are staying positive, but they’re signalling to policymakers that protectionism is a significant concern that’s reducing their appetite to grow through international trade. Some are looking closer to home for opportunities, and many are adapting their approach to stay fit for the future. “For globally-dynamic busineses in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, this means that now more than ever, they need to show their understanding of global markets and demonstrate an ability to adapt. As IFCs immersed in cross-border trade, these findings are particularly pertinent for financial services firms and those who have invested heavily in building relationships with overseas markets such as China. There are challenges but also real opportunities, and those that can best demonstrate their agility will emerge the winners.” ARRON BANKS FACES CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OVER BREXIT CAMPAIGN The elections watchdog in the UK says there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that pro-Brexit campaigner Arron Banks was not the true source of £8m made in loans to the so-called ‘Better For the Country’ organisaton which purportedly ran his Leave.EU Group. A criminal inquiry into “suspected electoral law offences” has been instigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) after a referral by the Electoral Commission. The watchdog claims a number of criminal offences may have been committed. Leave.EU’s CEO, Elizabeth Bilney, is also being investigated. Reacting to news of the investigation Mr Banks said he was pleased to have the chance to finally put an end to the ludicrous allegations levelled against him and his colleagues. The Electoral Commission’s inquiries have focussed on a reported £2m loan from Mr Banks and his group of insurance companies to Better for the Country. It’s also interested in a reported £6m loan to the organisation from Mr Banks’ Douglas based company, Rock Holdings. Just under 50 per cent of the sum was allegedly spent in the 2016 EU referendum on behalf of Leave.EU along with donations to other pro-Brexit campaign groups. Mr Banks angrily rejects the premise of the NCA investigation and claims it has been instigated due to intense political pressure from anti-Brexit supporters: “Isn’t it funny that none of the financial contributions made by George Soros to British political campaigns are ever subject to any level of scrutiny by the Electoral Commission despite his being a foreign national,” he told Sky News. The NCA said it would not normally investigate such matters, but that the “nature” of inquiries and “potential for offences to have been committed other than under electoral law” warranted its intervention.