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The UK economy has grown by a measly 0.3% since the start of the year. Announced today, it has been the slowest growth since the first three months of 2016. Bank officials had predicted a 2-3% growth for the year, so it goes without saying we’re not off to a good start. The slower pace in the January to March period has been put down to the service sector, which grew by 0.3% against 0.8% at the end of last year according to the Office of National Statistics. Today’s figure is a first estimate and could be revised in the coming months. However, growth had been expected to slow as consumers continue to tighten their belts in the face of rising inflation, although economists had predicted a higher figure of 0.4%. There have been falls in several important consumer-focused industries, such as retail sales and accommodation due to prices increasing more than spending. Businesses are starting to feel the pressure; Suren Thiru head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce said that data confirmed this. He also added that the slowdown in the first quarter is the start of a sustained period of sluggish growth and with inflation still expected to rise, this increases the squeeze on consumers spending power and firm’s profit margins, which pushes growth even lower. (Source – BBC)

Trump claims a major conflict is possible with North Korea. Trump’s warning came on Thursday this week in an attempt to restrain Pyongyang from carrying out major new weapon tests. Ideally, Trump wants to settle the matter through diplomacy. Rex Tillerson the Secretary of State said that the US would be prepared to enter into direct talks with the regime of Kim Jong-un, but that it would have to prepare to negotiate getting rid of all of its nuclear weapons. The head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harris told the Senate that the stand off with North Korea was the worst he had seen, and that there is a chance of major conflict with North Korea. Trump suggested a breakthrough in Chinese readiness to help apply pressure on Kim and insisted that the Chinese are “trying very hard.” The Chinese had warned Pyongyang (an increasingly unruly client in recent years) that it would impose punitive measures if North Korea carried out provocative tests. However, the Chinese refused to confirm or deny these US claims of a new pressure. The US said that the North Korean regime viewed its nuclear weapons and missile programmes as a guarantee of survival, and that the Trump administration sought to change that mindset. (Source – The Guardian)

Should social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter be fined if they fail to protect children online? The head of NSPCC Peter Wanless is calling on the next government to regulate internet publishers in the same way as traditional media and introduce film-style age ratings for websites. In a letter to The Times he said that companies should face penalties from a new watchdog if they failed to do enough. This comes after a survey for the charity found that four out of five children believed that websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter must do more to safeguard them from harmful content. Online safety is one of the biggest risks facing children and young people today, and the government needs to tackle this head on, stated a spokesperson from Google. Karen Bardley the Culture Secretary announced an internet safety strategy. Companies included Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Twitter were summoned to Whitehall last week and told they must work closely with each other and the government. (Source – The Times)

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