Handelsblatt Morning Briefing: A bolt against Great Britain

Good morning dear readers,

All of Europe is discussing Great Britain during these hours – not so much because of Brexit, but because of a mutation in the coronavirus. According to the London authorities, the new variant is up to 70 percent more contagious than the familiar form – and is completely out of control. US director Steven Soderbergh couldn’t have invented it better for his pandemic thriller “Contagion”. Since midnight, the federal government has stopped air traffic from the island in a kind of ad hoc emergency measure, initially until New Year’s Eve. Travelers from Great Britain were received at German airports with compulsory tests and camp beds.

The Benelux countries, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland and France are also blocking themselves against tourists from the United Kingdom. The Eurotunnel is now closed, as is the Dover ferry terminal. It is as if the isolationist dreams of the EU bogeyman Nigel Farage came true overnight.

Health Minister Jens Spahn warns: “The significantly faster transferability” of the mutated corona virus would “of course change a lot”.

Today the German cabinet wants to pass more far-reaching provisions for the period after January 1st and for South Africa, where a similar mutation has occurred. The modified virus has not yet been found in Germany, but it has been found in Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands. The new vaccines should also work against the mutated virus, that’s the reassuring news. However, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn warns: “The significantly faster transferability would of course change a lot and that is why it is important to prevent the entry in continental Europe.” “Europe isolates Great Britain” is our headline on the subject.

What the politicians in Berlin are currently missing, Allianz boss Oliver Bäte brings: the realization that there is a lot going on in financial supervision. Or – in other words – the representative of the insurance industry thinks about those thoughts that Olaf Scholz or Peter Altmaier should be thinking about. In an interview with the “Financial Times”, Bäte vigorously called for strict regulation in those areas where technology meets finance – that is his lesson from the scandal surrounding the Fata Morgana company Wirecard. There could be other similar cases, says the Munich-based CEO, “we need regulation more for what people do than for how they see themselves.”

Bäte saw deficiencies in the inadequate taxation of tech companies as well as in “dark pools” in which huge amounts of securities are traded, shielded from the public. One wished at least this criticism would trigger something in the Bundestag election year in the Union or the SPD.

Deutsche Post had already handled as many parcels at the end of November as in the entire previous year.

When we talk about the power of the Internet, about the “digital” revolution in e-commerce, for example, it immediately becomes apparent that quite a lot of analog energy is associated with it: Let’s just take the power consumption of all the vans and those in them parcel deliverymen driving around. The logistics groups are currently breaking record after record, according to our report. Deutsche Post had already handled as many parcels at the end of November as in the entire previous year. Overall, it should register an increase of 15 percent to 1.8 billion packages in 2020. This is due both to the new habits in the comfort zones of younger generations and to the shopping experience that was prevented in the corona crisis. The parcel boom even creates a small employment miracle, according to official information, often under the terms of the collective agreement.

A medium-term effect of the desire for online orders is the wasting away of the inner cities. The Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag therefore wants to tax parcels in online retail in the fight against the dying shops. According to the policy paper of two CDU politicians, an “inner city fund” should be launched, fed by tax money, but also by the new online levy. Their amount should be “proportional to the order value”.

The income would fully benefit the local retail trade – which, however, does not want that at all. In any case, says Stefan Genth, General Manager of the German Retail Association (HDE): “A parcel tax would also affect many domestic online retailers who are correct and punctual taxpayers.” For a start, it might help if US companies like Amazon were there paid significant amounts of tax on their business activities.

The dispute of the grand coalition over armed drones continues to intensify. Even the largely silent CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer makes a point, perhaps because she is also Minister of Defense. She calls it “irresponsible” for the protection of soldiers that the SPD does not want to agree to the acquisition of such aircraft. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of the SPD, in the black-red coalition something like the “brave little tailor” in questions of principle, has accomplished a real feat in this dispute: It sounds just like Kramp-Karrenbauer and her antipode, SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich. As is well known, the high-ranking comrade recently announced the need for further discussion about drones and put the matter on hold for the time being.

Maas practices the classic balancing act: If there is material that is really necessary for the well-being of the troops, it should be made available, he now announces on the one hand. On the other hand, he turns: “If parts of Parliament are of the opinion that this has not yet been discussed, then I accept that.” Konrad Adenauer demonstrated humor for such verbal art: “All human organs get tired at some point, except the tongue.”

Morning Briefing: Alexa


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