The European Banking Federation (EBF) said the number of bank branches in the EU had been reduced to 189,000 at the end of 2016, a 4.6 per cent fall on the previous year. Staff numbers fell to about 2.8 million – the lowest level in 20 years. The EBF also found there were 6,596 lenders across the bloc at the end of 2016, down 6 per cent on 2015. There were 8,525 in 2008. The report said Germany held 25 per cent of all EU banks. Bank branches have become vulnerable in the wake of rock bottom interest rates, which decreases profits made through loans and investments.
Speaking in London after discussions with foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Theresa May, Mr Tillerson said the US would be its “steadfast ally”. At a joint press conference with Mr Johnson, he said: “We continue to welcome the opportunity to work closely with our counterparts in the United Kingdom. “While Brexit does present unique challenges to the British people, please know that you have a steadfast ally in the United States. “We will stand by our allies as Brexit continues to take shape and we look forward to continuing this long relationship.”
The tube service has been partially suspended in west London after reports of an explosion at Parsons Green underground station. A Transport for London spokeswoman said the District line had been suspended between Earls Court and Wimbledon due to a security alert. The Metropolitan and British Transport police forces, including armed officers, were at the scene, along with the London ambulance service, though none was immediately able to provide further details on what had happened. One witness said there were injuries at the station after a “stampede” of passengers.
Labour is examining its legal options to challenge the government’s decision to raise the student tuition fees cap, after ministers refused to allow a parliamentary vote. The Conservatives did not allow government time for a debate and binding vote amid fears MPs would have blocked the proposed increase in fees from £9,000 to £9,250 a year. Labour passed a non-binding motion against the measure on Wednesday with the support of other opposition parties including Theresa May’s political partners in the Democratic Unionist party. However, the government has no legal obligation to take the motion into account and the time limit for stopping the changes has already passed.
North Korea has fired another test missile over Japan, leading to global condemnation amid already high tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear warhead tests. The missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido, where thousands were awoken by air-raid sirens for the second time in just three weeks, and landed some 1,240 miles off the cape of Erimo just before 7am local time (10pm Thursday GMT). The rocket, believed to be a intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 2,300 miles, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is 2,100 miles from North Korea.
Well-off parts of the country are facing the construction of tens of thousands of new homes under a controversial Government plan to tackle the housing crisis. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid last night told councils they have to increase housebuilding by up to 40 per cent over the next decade. It came as ministers said the country needed 266,000 homes a year over the next decade – a huge increase on previous estimates of 200,000. Mr Javid said many communities would have to accept a number ‘well beyond’ what councils had previously agreed to meet the shortage. But the move triggered immediate warnings that huge swathes of the country’s precious green belt land will be bulldozed.