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Business briefing: France defies Trump and votes to tax digital giants

FRANCE yesterday defied Donald Trump and went ahead with a tax on digital giants despite the threat of reprisal tariffs.

The legislation, dubbed the GAFA tax — which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — was passed by a show of hands in the senate upper house after previously being passed by the national assembly lower chamber.

It aims to plug a gap that has seen some internet heavyweights, which provide services to French customers, paying next to nothing in tax while making vast profits. They will now have to pay three per cent tax on total annual revenues.

The move, backed by president Emmanuel Macron (pictured), drew an angry response from Mr Trump even before the legislation was passed, with the US president ordering an investigation ‘unprecedented in the history of French-US relations’. US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: ‘The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax unfairly targets American companies.’

But French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said ‘threats’ were not the way to resolve disputes, adding: ‘France is a sovereign state and it alone decides on its taxation mechanisms and it will continue to do so.’

Last month, G20 chiefs agreed there was an urgent need to find a global system to tax internet giants like Google and Facebook but clashed over how to do it. Washington has been pushing for an agreement that would mean Silicon Valley tech giants paying less tax in the US and more in other countries.

M&S clothes chief McDonald quits suddenly after a ‘troubled year’

THE head of clothing and home at Marks & Spencer has suddenly quit.

Jill McDonald’s ‘immediate departure’ after less than two years means the day-to-day running of the division will be taken over by M&S chief executive Steve Rowe. It was the post he held prior to taking the top job.

Former Halfords and McDonald’s UK boss Ms McDonald (pictured) has struggled to turn around the almost continuous decline of M&S’s clothing division.

Holly Loves… Presenter launches fifth collection

At the company’s annual shareholder meeting earlier this week, Mr Rowe told investors it had been a ‘troubled year’ for her division. A jeans promotion in February failed when customers did not buy enough stock.

He said the problem meant M&S had ‘the worst availability in casual clothes I have ever seen in my life’.

Yesterday, he said: ‘Jill was brought in to establish a strong platform for the transformation of the clothing and home business. She has achieved that, and leaves with my thanks and good wishes for the future.

‘The business now needs to move on at pace to address long-standing issues in our clothing and home supply chain around availability and flow of product. Given the importance of this task to M&S, I will be overseeing this programme directly.’

Ms McDonald’s departure comes as This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby’s fifth Holly Loves collection goes on sale on July 18.

Summer of strikes looms at Gatwick

HOLIDAYMAKERS could face a summer of delays at Gatwick airport if workers vote for strike action over pay.

The Unite union is balloting more than 100 ICTS workers, employed to scan luggage for dangerous items, who are paid £8.50 an hour. A second group — maintenance staff employed by outsourcing giant ISS, who earn £8.49 an hour — are also considering industrial action.

Ballot papers will be sent out today and, if approved, strikes could begin next month.

‘It is time to end poverty pay at Gatwick airport,’ said Unite’s Jamie Major.

BUSINESS BITES

■ RECKITT BENCKISER will pay up to £1.1billion to resolve an investigation in the US into how its former subsidiary Indivior marketed a new version of opioid drug, Suboxone. The company denies wrongdoing.

■ THE pleasure of a pay rise wears off after just three months for most workers, a study reveals. The extra cash gets swallowed up by debts and maintaining their lifestyles, a Charter Savings Bank poll reveals.

■ BOSSES at life insurance giant ReAssure yesterday pulled a £3.3billion stock market listing due to lack of interest. Parent company Swiss Re said the 280p to 330p share valuation was too high.

■ THE boss and co-founder of Norwegian Air Shuttle has stepped down after 17 years in charge of the airline. Bjorn Kjos, 72, turned it from a domestic airline with four planes into a global business flying 162 aircraft.

■ MORRISONS has unveiled plans for a £2million apprentice fund to help train the next generation of farmers. The scheme will teach young people agricultural skills and provide mentors to help understand the retail sector.