Ding-ding, welcome back for round two of ‘stuff we should know more about’, an occasional series.
While yesterday’s look at the Indian election wasn’t quite the barrel of laughs some of us (*cough* my sister) wanted to read, I’m afraid this morning’s briefing errs on the serious side again. Sadly, life can’t all be Brexit banter and Game of Thrones analogies - as much as we might want it to be.
Today I’m going to run through just two of the many horrendous wars currently raging but that we barely hear about. And no, there aren’t any dragons involved.
Libya has been embroiled in a bitter conflict since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. But tensions have escalated again, and the country is now on the brink of a full civil war.
There are two rival, armed political factions. The first is led by Khalifa Haftar, a warlord from the east of the country and leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army. Three months ago, he launched a series of military offensives from his stronghold, including a seize of an oilfield in the south. An assault on the capital, Tripoli, is now under way.
The second are pro-government forces, based in Tripoli, with the backing of the UN. The head of the government has accused Haftar of staging a coup which, he said, will be met with “nothing but strength and firmness”. This is not good news for the Libyan public caught in the middle.
And the UK is not without fault. Not only did we play a part in the calamitous initial intervention, but now our commercial interests are fuelling the fire. The UK foreign office found that Haftar’s most important ally is the UAE – one of Britain’s closest allies in the Gulf.
If you’re thinking that sounds quite familiar, you’re right. It brings to mind the dreadful unrest currently unfolding in Yemen. Just yesterday the court of appeal heard that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are contributing to the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
An estimated 24 million Yemenis are in desperate need of aid. Some 60,000 people have already been killed and the population is now exposed to cholera.
There is “overwhelming evidence” of human rights violations by both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels. And the UK has allegedly sold £4.7 billion worth of arms – including aircraft, drones and missiles – to Saudi Arabia since bombing began in 2015.
There’s clearly more to life than Brexit, much of it good, some of it awful. We need more of it to be further up the news agenda and perhaps a longer than anticipated Brexit delay would achieve that, at least marginally.
I’m not sure if that’s hopeful or depressing at this point. Don’t worry, one of my colleagues will be here tomorrow morning to lighten the mood. I give you my word.
Theresa May will plead for a Brexit extension at an emergency summit in Brussels today. The prime minister wants to postpone the date the UK leaves the EU beyond this Friday and until 30 June. But the EU is expected to offer a longer, more flexible extension at the request of council president Donald Tusk, although it will come with conditions attached.
Benjamin Netanyahu is set to become Israel’s longest serving prime minister, despite a close-fought election that appeared to end in a dead heat. With more than 90% of votes counted, Israel’s current leader was tied with rival Benny Gantz, but Netanyahu is in a stronger position to form a government with right wing and religious factions. (£)
US president Donald Trump has lashed out at a judge for blocking his policy to send asylum seekers back to Mexico to await court hearings in their cases. His policy would effectively have returned migrants while they sought a legal right to stay in the US. The president is set to appeal the decision.
Business & Economy
Microsoft has been working with a Chinese military-run university on artificial intelligence research which could be used for surveillance and censorship. Three papers written in conjunction with China’s National University of Defense Technology raise red flags as the government currently uses similar technologies to build surveillance systems and detain minorities. (£)
Debenhams fell into administration yesterday and the retailer is now in the hands of its lenders. But potential buyer Mike Ashley has called for the administration to be reversed, accusing the board of stealing from shareholders, lying to him and obstructing his rescue efforts. Ashley is estimated to have lost £150 million in building a stake in Debenhams, which has now been wiped out. (£)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that a no-deal Brexit will tip the UK and the EU into recession. A disorderly exit would see the UK’s gross domestic product shrink by 3.5% within three years, according to the IMF’s twice-yearly statement. The report also warned that Europe’s GDP will decrease by 0.5% by 2021.
What happened yesterday?
It was another weak day for global stocks, as a stark list of potential risks put a dampener on trade. The IMF cut its forecast for growth and the growing prospect of a disorderly Brexit put a more cautious spin on things.
Wall Street’s S&P 500 fell 0.7%, as investors become weary ahead of the first-quarter earnings season for banks, which starts later this week.
European indices were also feeling the pinch: the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 was down 0.3% overall after Donald Trump floated plans for tariffs on EU products. Airbus lost just over two per cent after the president announced he was considering tariffs on civilian aircraft. Engine maker Rolls-Royce also fell 1.1% at the news.
London’s FTSE 100 was doing marginally better, down just 0.3%. The pound was down 0.2% against the dollar at $1.30 and 0.3% against the euro at €1.55.
Central Asia Metals
Frenkel Topping Group
Ra International Group
McCarthy & Stone
Canadian General Investments Ltd.
Maven Income & Growth 3 VCT
VR Education Holdings
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Gross Domestic Product
(09:30) Index of Services
(09:30) Industrial Production
(09:30) Manufacturing Production
Int. Economic Announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Columns of Note
Writing in The Atlantic, Emily Schultheis asks: what will happen to remembrance when those who lived through the Holocaust have all gone? The far-right populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) have cast doubt on whether the Holocaust even happened, and anti-Semitism is growing in Europe. Thus, the German foreign minister wrote in January: “our culture of remembrance is crumbling.”
Katherine Griffiths examines the plight of the insurance sector in today’s Times. We often hear of the impact of Brexit on car manufacturers, bankers and supermarkets, but the insurance industry provides 300,000 jobs and is facing challenges too – from losing passporting rights to trade across Europe to uncertainty about customer data rules. Lloyd’s of London, for example, should be “vigilant about its place on the world stage” as it tackles cultural reforms. It could, after all, be a national treasure. (£)
House of Commons
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – Louse Haigh
Draft Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2019 – David Mundell
50th Anniversary of the Continuous at Sea Deterrent
Revitalisation of the high street in Lowestoft – Peter Aldous
House of Lords
Tackling plastic pollution – Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
Reviewing the access to legal redress and humanitarian protection of children whose parents have been deprived of British citizenship – Baroness Berridge
Ensuring the attraction of the UK as a place to establish and scale businesses based on artificial intelligence, FinTech and distributed ledger technology – Lord Holmes of Richmond
Why newly issued passports do not have the words “European Union” printed on them – Baroness Ludord
Offensive Weapons Bill – Consideration of Commons Amendments – Baroness Williams of Trafford
On recess until 21 April 2019.
House of Commons
Digital, culture, media and sport (including Topical Questions)
Business questions to the leader of the house – Andrea Leadsom
General debate on the definition of Islamophobia – Wes Streeting, Anna Soubry
Introduction of the 2019 Loan Charge (resumed debate) – Ross Thomson, Sir Edward Davey, Ruth Cadbury, Dr David Drew, Anna Turley, Caroline Lucas
Police complaints, accountability and the case of Nicholas Churton – Ian C. Lucas
House of Lords
Purchasing Managers’ Index figure of 55.1 for the UK and the company performance in Germany – Lord Borwick
Encouraging local authorities to improve the provision of public conveniences to address health issues faced by taxi drivers – Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldirst
Great British Spring Clean and encouraging all Year 6 primary school children to assist in litter picking – Lord Robathan
Orders and regulations
Air quality (taxis and private hire vehicles database) (England and Wales) Regulations 2019 – Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Trade in Torture etc. Goods (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Baroness Manzoor
Draft national policy statement for water resources infrastructure 2018 – Lord Gardiner of Kimble