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Crunch time for the UK as Brexit talks resume, Uber wins London license appeal

Yahoo Finance's Oscar Williams-Grut covers the latest headlines from abroad.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: EU and UK officials begin the final round of negotiations in Brexit trade talks today. Both sides looking to find a resolution ahead of that self-imposed October 15 deadline. Let's bring in Oscar Williams-Grut, who has been tracking all the developments for us from London. And Oscar, we're talking about these talks that have been delayed for months now. But it sounds like there's some reason for optimism this time around.

OSCAR WILLIAMS-GRUT: That's right, Akiko. The mood seems to have lightened over the last week or so in these negotiations that you'll recall, almost collapsed at the start of last month, when UK threatened to break part of the withdrawal agreement. But reports in the weekend press here in Britain over the last few days suggest that both sides are actually now ready to make compromises on some key issues, such as state aid and fisheries that should potentially unlock the deadlock that we've seen over the last few months.

As a result, we've seen the pound trading up as much as 1% against both the euro and the dollar today. However, the early signs are that as we have had for weeks and months now, actually, the devil is in the detail. Michael Gove, the UK minister in charge of implementing Brexit, traveled to Brussels today to hold talks with his counterparts. And afterwards, the mood music was much the same as we've seen in recent months. Downing Street said there were still significant gaps between the two sides. And the EU said that both sides remain far apart.

So while the sort of back channel briefings in the papers suggest things have improved, the official statements remain pretty terse. As a result, we've seen the pound trading off its intraday highs in recent hours. As you said though, time is running out if we are to see any progress. Boris Johnson has imposed this deadline of October 15, and EU officials have also suggested that next month is the final moment to strike any deal, given that it will have to pass through the EU parliament before the December 31 deadline. So really, we are approaching a very crunch moment in these negotiations.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, pretty tight timeline there. Oscar, let's talk about another development out of the UK this morning. We've got Uber taking a victory lap of sorts in London. A judge overturning a ban on the ride hailing app, granting the company an 18-month license. We are seeing shares up 5% on this news. But we're just talking 18 months, right? What happens then?

OSCAR WILLIAMS-GRUT: Well, it is a extension, but it is a big victory for Uber, because they've been fighting this for three years now. The battle they are fighting is with Transport for London, which is the regulator here in the UK capital for all transport. And back in 2017, they declined to renew Uber's license, saying that they were no longer a fit and proper person.

Now since then, Uber's has been trying to convince TFL that they should be allowed a full license. They have continued to operate here in London unimpeded on temporary extensions. But they've had to keep, keep going back to renew them. And as recently as November 2019, TFL declined yet another attempt to try and get a lengthy extension. Today's ruling is an appeal against that November decision. And the judge said that actually, Uber has made a lot of progress since a lot of the concerns were first raised by TFL.

Some of the concerns include sort of driver spoofing. So unlicensed drivers using other people's accounts to use Uber and pick up passengers. That raised concerns for safety, of course. But the judge in the case said that those and other issues have been addressed adequately. He said despite their historical failings, I find them now to be fit and proper. And said that Uber were, in fact, taking action that seemed to be maybe above and beyond what other operators are doing.

Even though it's only 18 months, it does suggest that Uber now have some firm footing, a legal grounding to make their case when going back to TFL for further extensions. It should be said that Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said today that TFL was absolutely right to reject the application back in 2019. And said that TFL will continue to closely monitor Uber and will not hesitate to take swift action should they fail to meet the strict standards to protect passengers. So they're still clearly on the watch list, but a great day for Uber nonetheless.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, they'll take their victories where they can take them. Oscar Williams-Grut, thanks so much for that.