Lift a newspaper this morning and you are likely to find on the front Theresa May, on her own and dressed head to toe in black, sheltering from the elements under an umbrella.
This image, taken as the prime minister walked to church in her constituency yesterday, is an apposite metaphor for the working week ahead for May with the consensus being that she faces her toughest one in office to date (noting that we may have written that once or twice before in this briefing on a Monday).
Mrs May will today make a last-ditch effort to convince wavering backbench MPs to back her Brexit deal before Tuesday's historic parliamentary vote. She will hold a series of private meetings in the hope that she can shift the consensus of opinion on a plan that, for a while now, has seemed destined to fail.
The outlook for success looks bleak. So far, sceptical MPs haven’t heeded the PM’s warning that voting down her deal could lead to a general election – or possibly no Brexit at all – and, instead, are turning the tables on May by exerting pressure on her to delay the vote and go back to Brussels to secure more concessions from the EU. The sticking point continues to be inclusion of the backstop, with Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the DUP, the SNP and dozens of Conservative MPs saying they cannot support the deal as it stands.
Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, told Andrew Marr yesterday that the idea of postponing was a non-starter and the vote would be going ahead, but the government has until moments before the vote is due to pull the plug.
However, the European Court of Justice has said that Article 50 — the mechanism by which a country gives notice of its intention to leave the EU — can be unilaterally revoked as long as they undergo a democratic procedure to ratify it, such as another referendum, a parliamentary process or a general election. That news may tempt some MPs – who might otherwise have thought her deal the best of the options available – to vote against May’s plan tomorrow.
And it never rains but it pours for May and her troubled premiership, with The Times reporting this morning that party rebels are inching closer to the 48 letters needed to trigger a leadership contest.
Boris Johnson appeared on television sporting a smart new haircut, a trim that had political commentators rushing to Twitter to suggest it was the clearest indication yet that he is gearing up for another pitch at the top job, while recently resigned cabinet ministers Esther McVey and Dominic Raab also refused to rule out their leadership ambitions.
As we build up to one of the most important parliamentary votes in a generation, the black clouds continue to circle forebodingly above Downing Street.
A 26 year-old man has appeared in a court in New Zealand, charged with the murder of British backpacker, Grace Millane. The 22 year-old, who was on a gap year, went missing in Auckland on December 1. (£)
French president Emmanuel Macron will today meet with trade unions and employers' organisations as he seeks to find a resolution to weeks of unrest in Paris and other cities. Macron will also deliver a televised address in which he is expected to announce measures in response, after the country has experienced four weekends of violent protests against fuel tax rises, living costs and other issues.
Donald Trump is again looking for a new chief of staff after it was announced over the weekend that John Kelly was to leave the position at the end of the year. The US president will announce a replacement in the coming days as he prepares for the conclusion of the Russia investigation led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. (£)
Business & Economy
There was more bad news for the UK high street after figures by Springboard, the retail insights company, showed that shopper visits to the high street had declined by 4.2% this month compared with last year. The research comes after a 3.2% drop in footfall for November, with Black Friday driving more purchases online. One in every three pounds of non-food purchases on the day was made on the internet. (£)
UK government ministers are set to announce a new £1bn bailout for Crossrailas fears mount that the start date for the flagship London project will be pushed back even further. Former Labour MP Nick Raynsford is also expected to be appointed as Crossrail’s deputy chairman. (£)
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has been charged with financial misconduct by Japanese prosecutors who accuse him of under-reporting his pay package over a five-year period. Brazil-born Mr Ghosn, aged 64, has also been re-arrested on more allegations of understating his pay, charges that are expected to keep him in detention until 30 December.
The week ahead
A rather quiet week by usual standards this week. SoftBank will today price its domestic telecoms unit’s initial public offering, with the company also expected to announce the sale of additional shares in an over allotment because of solid retail investor demand.
On Wednesday, Michael Cohen, US president Donald Trump’s former attorney, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court for tax fraud. Also, Derek Mackay, the Scottish Government’s finance secretary, is to deliver his draft budget, including any changes to income tax in Scotland. Taxpayers in the rest of the UK already know what to expect after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced his proposals for income tax in the UK budget at the end of October.
Finally, on Thursday, EU leaders are to hold a two-day meeting where there will be the “first substantial exchange of views” on the EU budget to cover 2021-2027, which is due to be agreed next year.
Hollywood Bowl Group
Scottish Inv Trust
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Balance of Trade
(09:30) Gross Domestic Product
(09:30) Index of Services
(09:30) Industrial Production
(09:30) Manufacturing Production
Columns of Note
Kevin Pringle gives his take on The Sunday Times poll that showed a majority of people in Scotland believe independence would be better for the country than Brexit. Pringle says that the poll, which shows 59% of respondents prefer the prospect of independence to a no-deal Brexit, proves that underlying attitudes are beginning to favour the “yes” side of the argument. (£)
In the FT, Gavyn Davies looks ahead to what’s in store for the US Federal Reserve in 2019. Davies says policymakers are in an increasingly dovish mood, but have not become totally wedded to that position. He concludes by saying that increasing tightness in the labour market, leading to more wage inflation and rate hikes, is the largest downside risk to global markets next year. (£)
Did you know?
Horses can remember the facial expressions they see on human faces and respond differently if you smiled or frowned when they last saw you.
House of Commons
Housing, Communities and Local Government (including Topical Questions)
Section 13 (1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Day 4)
House of Lords
International Human Rights Day and the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief's new publication: 'Commentary on the state of freedom of religion or belief' - Baroness Berridge
Release of political prisoners held without charge in South Sudan - Lord Curry of Kirkharle
Future of nuclear power in the UK following the collapse of the NuGen Consortium - Viscount Hanworth
Computers provided under the Disabled Student's Allowance - Lord Addington
The negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’ (day 3) - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ - motion to regret (day 3) - Baroness Smith of Basildon
No business scheduled
House of Commons
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Cannabis (Legalisation and Regulation) - Norman Lamb
Conclusion of Debate on Section 13 (1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Day 5)
House of Lords
Work carried out within the NHS to improve access to specialist services in areas which are remote from main hospitals - Lord Beith
Securing continued co-operation on international development programmes and funding in partnership with the EU - Lord Bruce of Bennachie
Improving the energy performance of buildings as a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and achieving the UK’s climate change obligations - Lord Stunell
Improving the resilience of UK mobile networks following the outage of O2’s services - Lord Lucas
Scottish Government Debate: Sea Fisheries and End of Year Negotiations