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May wins support to renegotiate Brexit backstop – but EU says no

Theresa May has hailed a mandate given to her by MPs to renegotiate her Brexit deal, despite admitting it will not be easy in the face of the EU's repeated refusal to reopen talks. 

After her withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly rejected by the Commons earlier this month, she had been forced to return to MPs to set out her next steps. 

The Prime Minister enjoyed rare success in the House of Commons on Tuesday night, as a majority of MPs gave their support for her withdrawal agreement, but on the condition the controversial Northern Ireland backstop is replaced by alternative arrangements. 

However, a spokesperson for European Council president Donald Tusk said: The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation. 

‘Less heavy discounting’ in January sales

The retail sector has admitted the extent of January sale savings was not as deep this year for many popular goods, including clothing. 

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Nielsen Shop Price Index showed a 0.4% rise in overall store prices during the year to January compared to a rise of 0.3% in the 12 months to December. 

High levels of non-food discounting had been reported in January after a tough Christmas but the BRC said deflation - price falls - in the sector eased by 0.3% compared to 0.4% the previous month. 

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson, said: Promotions have become the norm in recent years, but it was never going to be possible to continue making seasonal price cuts deeper each year.  Consumers have little to fear in terms of inflation over the coming months, with many of the underlying pressures on prices easing. That is unless the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the 29th March. 

Insolvencies ‘highest for seven years’

The number of people in England and Wales going insolvent due to unmanageable debt hit a seven-year high in 2018, figures show. 

Personal insolvencies totalled 115,299, a 16.2% rise on 2017, the Insolvency Service said. 

The rise was driven by the use of Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), which hit a record level of 71,034 in 2018. 

IVAs are a way to avoid full-blown bankruptcy and the measure means an individual's main assets are protected. There has been concern among debt charities and others that people have been taking out IVAs who do not need them. 

Apple hints at lower iPhone prices

Apple boss Tim Cook has hinted the company could lower iPhone prices in an attempt to boost falling sales. 

Revenue from the iPhone, responsible for most of the firm's profits, fell 15% in its latest financial quarter. 

The slowdown had been expected after the tech giant warned investors earlier this month that revenue would be about $84bn, lower than expected. 

Hinting at repricing, Cook told the press: What we have done in January in some locations and [for] some products is essentially absorb part or all of the foreign currency move as compared to last year.