1 May 2019

Javier Maquieira

1 May 2019

Good morning,

Ever since the sultan of Brunei announced new legislation making homosexual sex punishable by stoning to death in December last year, the international community has joined together to actively condemn the laws as both cruel and inhumane.
 
Interestingly, the global response to Brunei’s sharia based penal code, which also punishes adultery and abortion, has been more consistent than that elicited by the anti-gay purges in the Russian republic of Chechnya or the death penalty for homosexual sex in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
 
After the penal code came into force a month ago, Members of the European Parliament urged the Bruneian authorities to repeal it immediately and called on the EU to consider adopting asset freezes and visa bans against the country. But in response to that, the Southeast Asian kingdom only wrote a letter to the European Parliament asking for respect regarding the country’s mission to preserve traditional values.
 
In the corporate and financial world, J.P. Morgan and other Wall Street banks have also taken a stance against the new laws. They are banning employees from staying at hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei, including London’s Dorchester and Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel. However, the sultanate is unlikely to change anything due to these bans, which will probably have a bigger impact on local hotel employees than on the Bruneian economy.
 
Meanwhile in recent weeks, energy giant Royal Dutch Shell has been facing pressure from a group of big-name investors that wants the company to use their Brunei joint venture to push for LGBTQI rights in the small country. It might just work, as this venture, which accounts for 90% of Brunei’s oil and gas revenue and represents over half of the nation’s GDP, may be significant for the Anglo-Dutch behemoth, but certainly not business-defining.
 
Shell has been recognised as a top employer for LGBT people and this only adds to pressure on the company to act. It also begs new questions about corporate diversity policies abroad, as some influence groups push to hold global players accountable.  
 
In the meantime, love continues to be a crime in 70 United Nations member states.

News

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for more protests after he had announced in a video yesterday that he was in the “final phase” of ending President Nicolás Maduro’s rule. In the recording, Guaidó appeared alongside soldiers and another opposition leader, Leopoldo López, near Caracas airbase and appealed to Venezuelans to go out into the streets. Even though the military has backed Mr Maduro so far, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly has received support from the United States and most of Latin American heads of state. In response to the video, the Venezuelan government said it was putting down a coup attempt and that the armed forces continued to stand with Maduro. As clashes between supporters of both sides continue in the capital, Guaidó is seeking the backing of the army.
 
Prime Minister Theresa May threatened to abandon talks with the Labour party if a Brexit deal is not reached by next week. She pressured the main opposition party to set a deadline for ending negotiations if necessary. In case Labour agreed not to reject the withdrawal agreement bill, it would then be put to the House of Commons. Although the tone was improved after both sides welcomed Monday’s talks as serious and constructive, they are still divided over Labour’s demands for a customs union.
 
Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum throne yesterday following the abdication of his father Akihito. He officially became emperor of Japan at the stroke of midnight local time on the first day of the new imperial era of Reiwa (“beautiful harmony”). In his first address as emperor, the 59-year-old, Oxford-educated sovereign promised to show the same devotion to the Japanese people as his father while crowds gathered to celebrate.

Business & Economy

Jaguar Land Rover announced its decision to build the next generation of the Land Rover Defender in its Slovakia plant, moving the project away from the UK. According to the carmaker, the shift was not related to Brexit uncertainty, but because the vehicle will share many of the same elements with the Discovery model, which is already made at the new £1bn plant outside of Nitra in Slovakia. The new model is expected to go on sale in 2020 after its presentation at the Frankfurt motor Show later this year (£).
 
Apple executives said they are confident things are improving as iPhone sales began to stabilise in China and accessories continued to outperform. This comes after the tech giant beat Wall Street estimates on both revenue and profit last night and its rival Samsung had reported its worst profit drop in two years. Apple’s share price went up more than five percent in after-hours trading.
 
Free-to-use ATMs are disappearing at an accelerating rate in the UK with more than one thousand cash machines now charging fees of at least 95p per withdrawal. The consumer group Which? Prompted the government to name a regulator to make sure consumers are not denied access to cash, which, they say, could prevent them from buying local goods as the UK becomes a “no-cash” society.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks were down on Tuesday with a weakened mining sector and a stronger pound following reports that the Brexit talks between the government and the Labour party had improved in tone. By close of trading, the FTSE 100 was down 0.3% at 7,418.22 points, alongside an increase of 0.7% in the price of sterling against the US dollar at $1.3 and 0.5% on the euro at €1.16.
 
Miners were weaker in general, with Rio (down 0.96%), BHP (down 1.13%), and Anglo American (down 1.55%) all lower following Chinese manufacturing figures, which revealed a softer start to Q2. On the other hand, BP (up 1.18%) rose after reporting positive first-quarter profits, cash flows, and a higher output.
 
On the upside, the main gainer was Asia-focused lender Standard Chartered (up 4.57%) as it jumped 10% in adjusted pre-tax profits and unveiled a $1 billion share repurchase programme. Rentokil Initial (up 0.78%) was also in the green after the Competition and Market Authority said it might accept its proposed remedies over the company’s acquisition of Mitie Pest Control.
 
In the US, the Nasdaq went down as shares of Google-parent Alphabet dropped and Apple fell ahead of its results. The Silicon Valley Group said yesterday it was confident about a recovery in iPhone sales following the company’s shock profit warning earlier this year. The S&P 500, on the other hand, achieved a new high with a 0.10% increase.

Columns of Note

Writing in The TelegraphRichard Johnson warns Jeremy Corbyn about backing a second referendum if he wants to become Prime Minister after the collapse of the Conservatives in the polls. Although the leader of the Labour party may face a leadership challenge if he does not support a second vote on Brexit, Johnson emphasises the influence of voters in marginal constituencies on election outcomes, which, in the case of Labour seats, represent a clear dominance of Leave voters. Johnson says that many in the Labour party would sacrifice a Labour government to remain in the European Union (£).

IThe GuardianGaby Hinsliff welcomes the University of Cambridge’s decision to start an inquiry into its links to the slave trade, which will likely reveal the institution’s financial profit from it in the past and may prompt reparations after investigation. Hinsliff concludes that the University’s initiative shouldn’t be viewed as a way of imposing modern values on a period of time where they didn’t exist, but reflecting and getting a better grasp of the relation between the slave trade and British national life.

Did you know?

The part of the human brain responsible for making "rational decisions" doesn’t fully mature until we’re about 25 years old.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY
 
House of Commons
 
Oral questions
International Development (including Topical Questions)
 
Prime Minister’s Question Time
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Police Officer Training (Autism Awareness) - Ann Clwyd
 
Opposition Day Debate
Subject to be announced
 
Adjournment
Children’s funeral fund - Carolyn Harris
 
House of Lords
 
Oral questions
Decision of the Lord Mayor’s Show 2019 to decline an application to participate by the presentative office of the government of Taiwan - Baroness Barker
 
What proportion of the additional money allocated to the NHS budget over each of the next five years will be ring-fenced for the development of mental health services - Lord Bradley
 
Introduction of Sharia law in Brunei - Lord Harries of Pentregarth
 
Reported increase in food bank usage in 2018/19 and the 73 per cent increase since 2013/14. - Lord Bassam of Brighton
 
Orders and regulations
Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Swiss Confederation - motion to regret - Lord Whitty
 
Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 (Naming and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2019 - motion to take note - Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
 
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018 - motion to take note - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
 
Burma (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019; Venezuela (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019; Iran (Sanctions) (Human Rights) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019; Republic of Guinea-Bissau (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
 
Short debate
Governance, operations and performance of the Student Loans Company - Lord Mendelsohn
 
Scottish Parliament
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Portfolio Questions
The Presiding Officer has decided to group the following questions together: Education and Skills Questions 1 and 8
 
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Education
 
Business Motions
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Decision Time
 
Members' Business — S5M-15976 Fulton MacGregor: Give Them Time
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons
 
Oral questions
Transport (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
 
General debate
World Immunisation Week
 
Adjournment
Case for building a new town in Essex - Sir David Amess
 
House of Lords
 
Oral questions
National system recording the number of, the treatment received by, and the dates of treatments for, new amputees attending limb fitting centres in England - Lord McColl of Dulwich
 
When Ministers will next meet Ministers from the Scottish Government, and what will be discussed at that meeting - Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
 
Impact of rural crime on farming communities - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
 
Debate
Government's legal responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as detailed in the Climate Change Act 2008 and the implications for global security and stability and for the world economy of continuing climatic changes - Lord Rooker
 
'Tackling antimicrobial resistance 2019 to 2024: the UK's 5-year national action plan' - Lord Lansley
 
Scottish Parliament
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
General Questions
 
First Minister’s Questions
 
Members' Business — S5M-16380 Iain Gray: 25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Ministerial Statement: The Scottish Government’s Response to the Sturrock Review
 
Portfolio Questions
 
Stage 3 Proceedings: Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Business Motions
 
Decision Time