European and international stories making headlines this morning:
Amazon reaches French tax agreement
Amazon has settled its long running tax dispute with the French government. The discord was over sales to French customers from Amazon’s Luxembourg-based subsidiary (thus, Paris said, sidestepping French taxes).
The French government had been seeking around €200m from the e-commerce firm, but of this week’s deal the Reuters news agency reported that: “Neither Amazon nor the French authorities would say what the settlement was worth.” The AFP news service said: “According to the company, Amazon has created a subsidiary in France since then so that French revenue is taxed in France. So the Luxembourg issue shouldn’t come up again.”
Last year Carlyle Group, an investment firm, and Google had prevailed in French courts in somewhat similar cases.
The virtual currency bitcoin slumped by 15% on Monday, closing at $6,838.65 on on the Luxembourg-based exchange Bitstamp. It had hit more than $20,000 in December. Several UK and US banks have recently banned customers from purchasing the cryptocurrency, and regulators in countries including India and South Korea have suggested that they will introduce strict rules on virtual money. Reuters quoted Miles Eakers, chief market analyst at Centtrip, as saying: “We envisage this decline will continue, setting the next technical level at $5,000 a coin.” Bitcoin continued its slide on Tuesday morning.
Customs union disunion
Britain will face “unavoidable” trade barriers if it leaves the European customs union, said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. He was quoted by Deutsche Welle following talks in Brussels with David Davis, the UK’s Brexit minister. Davis reiterated London’s position that Britain wanted a unique customs arrangement that was “frictionless as possible”, while letting the UK seek trade deals with other countries or trade blocs.
Water shortage in Cape Town
Cape Town’s public water system may run dry as soon as April, as Pacific Standard reported. Leaders have variously blamed climate change-linked drought and mis-management of the utility. If the taps run dry, residents will be forced to queue at public water distribution points.