British Prime Minister Theresa May was supposed to deliver a deal on Brexit, but the week ended with a leadership challenge. May has defeated an attempted coup by Conservative MPs unhappy about her handling of Brexit but has been politically wounded and compelled to signal that she will step down before an election in 2022. 

According to Peter Dixon, senior economist at Commerzbank, Brexit's been "expensive both in terms of absorbing government time and the energy which businesses now have to spend in order to prepare for something which may not even happen".

Irrespective of whether there's a hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no Brexit, it already had an impact on the financial services industry.

Peter Dixon, senior economist, Commerzbank

"Those people who pushed for Brexit didn't expect to win and clearly never had a plan to deliver in the event that they did, so now we've wasted an awful lot of time and effort since the referendum trying to figure out how to deliver a Brexit, which is not even clear what the electorate wants."

Brexit's also been costly to the economy of the United Kingdom, explains Dixon. "Broadly speaking, GDP is about two percentage points below where it would otherwise have been in the absence of Brexit and that could be calculated in a number of ways. That's a bit like saying we've almost lost a year's growth over a two-year period, which is quite a considerable sum. So it's fair to say the number's big."

He says it's challenging to predict exactly what the UK economy would look like with a hard Brexit, "but it could be quite a dramatic environment".

"My guess if there's a hard Brexit, it will be such a nasty experience that it'll be very quickly reversed in subsequent quarters. But nonetheless, over the course of a two-year horizon, even under those circumstances, the best you could hope for is a growth rate of around one percent, which is lower than what we're used to."

The cost of Brexit (0:36)

The current uncertainty's also diminishing the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for business investments, notes Dixon.

"We're seeing indications that companies are beginning to think about shifting their operations out of the UK, we're seeing signs that companies are postponing their investments, so the numbers clearly indicate there are some margin impact."

"When it comes to the financial sector in particular, we're certainly seeing indications that companies are much more circumspect about expanding their London operations. They're in the process of transferring people out of London to other European destinations in order to ensure business continuity after March of next year."

"So, irrespective of whether there's a hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no Brexit, it already had an impact on the financial services industry."

Is the internet broken? 

The United Nations estimates that over half of the world's population will be online by the end of this year. But what about the other half?

"It's quite an achievement that half of the world's population is online and it's important to say that a lot of these people, especially new internet users aren't actually accessing free and open internet in lots of places where there's government censorship," explains Frederike Kaltheuner, data exploitation programme lead at Privacy International.  

"Also, lots of new internet users aren't able to afford services outside of very closely walled corporate gardens like Facebook products, such as Facebook Zero, so while inclusion and access are tremendously important, the fact is these people don't access the full internet." 

Meanwhile, the founder of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, thinks the internet is broken and he's not alone. There is a growing concern about the power of internet giants like Google and their power over our digital lives.

The issue of digital encroachment of human rights is "a huge problem", says Kaltheuner"The main lesson of 2018 has been that the current status is not just unsustainable but also quite dangerous from a human rights perspective."

"There's a growing consensus that self-regulation has failed epically, and that's a very good thing. We're seeing regulatory developments not just in the EU but in other parts of the world... so that shows there's an interest to regulate. That said, mass surveillance by government is still a problem that hasn't been solved."

Is the Internet broken? (5:54)

"We're also seeing authoritarian governments as well as right-wing populist governments around the world who embrace this new criticism of big technology companies to promote a very different agenda that's not quite compatible with human rights."

Individuals are the weakest link in the chain and should be "protected by design and by default", says Kaltheuner. "There are things you can do to protect yourself but it will not be enough, which shows that the problem is much more systemic and that we need better laws and protections, but also strong enforcement." 

"Companies like Facebook and Google would like us to believe that they're the internet and the sad truth is that in many parts of the world that is the case."

"That's a problem" because it contradicts what the original vision of the internet is supposed to do. Additionally, Facebook and Google "always love to say they don't sell data, but the truth is they're selling access to your attention, so by tackling the way in which data's being used in these industries we're also tackling the way in which our attention is being sold", says Kaltheuner.

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Denmark environment: The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, trains and ships combined. But that doesn't reflect anywhere on meat products. Denmark wants to change the practice. The Scandinavian country is considering laws which would require food manufacturers and supermarkets to label products with a rating of their impact on the environment, as Fleur Launspach reports from Copenhagen.

Kenya economy: Coral reefs contain the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They're crucial for fish reproduction and protecting shorelines from tropical storms. But the world has lost about half of them in the last 30 years, and most of what remains could be gone by 2050. Rising sea temperatures, because of climate change, are a key factor in their destruction, Malcolm Webb reports from the coast of Kenya.

Cuba private sector: The government of Cuba has announced it will scrap some tough new restrictions on the private sector, which had caused concern among entrepreneurs. The most controversial rule, which would have allowed only one business licence for each person and location, is among those that have been dropped, as Lucia Newman reports from Havana.

Source: Al Jazeera