11 December 2018

Katie Stanton

11 December 2018

Good morning,

If you, like me, are expending a significant amount of energy trying to figure out what on earth our prime minister is thinking at the moment, then stop. It turns out it is a mind-boggling exercise in futility and we’re wasting our time - illustrated quite perfectly by Hugo Rifkind’s twitter thread analogising Brexit as a cheese submarine.

Theresa May called off the meaningful vote on her deal yesterday in a move that had been rumoured for days (considering it was either that or crushing defeat). Andrew Neil captured it nicely on Twitter: “The big vote has been postponed. Who wudda thunk that? Bar just about everybody.” Well, not quite everybody: Michael Gove was “dispatched to television and radio studios hours before” May’s U-turn to insist that there would be no delay to the vote. Ministers were left “baffled” – and they’re not the only ones.

The speaker John Bercow called May’s about-turn “discourteous” and said that she should seek the opinions of MPs on her decision. So, for a while it looked like the Commons was potentially gearing up to vote on a vote concerning our ability to vote ourselves out of a customs union that we voted to leave. But, having taken procedural advice, Bercow said the government was within its rights to “unilaterally” revoke the meaningful vote.

So, Mrs May will now head back to Brussels to address the “widespread and deep concern” over the Irish backstop, which aims to avoid the need for a hard border in Ireland but would potentially leave the UK perpetually tied to the EU. The prime minister is seeking assurances from EU leaders that the UK will not be “held indefinitely in the backstop”, but she has not committed to reopening the binding withdrawal agreement. The prime minister has until the 21 January at the latest to renegotiate, before which she has promised to hold a vote.

This begs the question: can she secure big enough changes to convince the “100-plus Conservative MPs” currently opposed to the deal to vote her way? It doesn’t look particularly positive from where I’m standing.

According to The Financial Times, few MPs expressed confidence in her ability to extract meaningful concessions from the EU. Many don’t really understand what is going on and it is felt that May is simply “kicking the can down the road”. In addition, European Council president Donald Tusk insisted that the EU would not renegotiate, but would discuss how to help “facilitate UK ratification.”

So I don’t know about you, but I’m confused. Happily, it seems I am in the company of pretty much all of Westminster – including, most probably, Mrs May herself.

News

In response to violent protests, France’s President Emmanuel Macron has promised a minimum wage rise and tax concessions. The country has seen four weeks of violent protests against fuel tax rises. Macron condemned the violence in a televised interview, but noted that the people’s anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate”. The minimum wage will increase by €100 per month from 2019.

The UK has been overtaken by Russia as the world’s second biggest arms producer after the US, a report has shown. Although sales by British defence companies rose 2.3% last year to $35.7 billion, they fell behind their Russian counterparts, whose sales increased by 8.5% to $37.7 billion. Russian manufacturers benefitted from the ability to “showcase” their weapons in Syria, according to research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In comparison, US arms sales totalled $179.6 billion. (£)

A couple in their seventies who are believed to be British have been detained in Portugal after a “large amount of cocaine” was found on a cruise ship returning from the Caribbean. The Policia Judiciaria in Portugal said the foreign nationals were detained in Lisbon after information was received from the UK National Crime Agency. “In the cabin that was occupied by the suspects, four suitcases” were found containing a large amount of cocaine.

Business & Economy

Barclays customers are now able to “switch off” certain types of spending on their debit cards. It is the first High Street bank to offer the feature, which aims to help vulnerable customers, such as problem gamblers or those in serious debt. Account holders can now block their own spending in a number of categories, including supermarkets, restaurants, pubs and petrol stations.

KPMG has disclosed that seven of its UK partners left the firm as a result of inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment and bullying, over the past four years. KPMG’s head of people, Anna Purchas, Said the firm’s anti-harassment policy “strictly prohibits harassment, victimisation and bullying of all types.” The disclosure comes after rival accounting firm Deloitte said it had fired 20 partners over the same timeframe for inappropriate behaviour. (£)

London’s Crossrail will receive a bailout worth up to £2.2 billion amid warnings that it could be delayed for two years. Trains were due to start running this morning, but the project now faces crisis due to problems with signalling systems and delays in the completion of stations. The project had already been pushed back a year to 2019, but yesterday it was announced that it would almost certainly face further delays, pushing completion well into 2020.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

It was a rough day for the FTSE 100 yesterday as the status of Britain’s exit from the EU became increasingly uncertain. It closed down 56 points at 0.83%.

Likewise, the pound fell sharply as the Prime Minister was speaking in the afternoon and continued the downward trend following the announcement by the speaker that he would prefer MPs to vote on whether the vote should be pulled. It settled down 1.33% at $1.26 – a 20-month low for the currency. It was also down against the euro at €1.11.

Global markets declined too as uncertainty grew surrounding the US-China trade deal. Apple suffered a steep drop initially that saw shares lose more the 3 per cent following news that a Chinese court had imposed a ban on sales of certain iPhone models. The stocks recovered slightly throughout the day, helping the S&P 500 to rally in the afternoon after suffering a decline in the morning that saw it drop to its lowest point since early April. 

Finals

Driver Group

MedicX Fund Ltd.

Oxford Biodynamics

RWS Holdings

Zytronic

 

Interims

Ashtead Group

Carpetright

ECO Animal Health Group

Shearwater Group

 

Q2 Results

Ashtead Group

 

AGMs

John Lewis of Hungerford

Lok’n Store Group

Mind Gym

Reabold Resources

Shore Capital Group Ltd.

 

GMs

RM2 International S.A. (DI)

 

UK Economic Announcments

(09:30) Claimant Count Rate

 

Int. Economic Announcements

(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment

(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation

(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment

(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)

 

Columns of note

David Shimer notes in The New Yorker this week that smaller nations bear the brunt of Russian interference. He examines the case of Montenegro, where an alleged Russian coup d’etat and assassination plot on the night of the 2016 election was thwarted hours before tragedy. Montenegro is a member of the Nato alliance and is seeking accession to the European Union; it is claimed that Putin wants to install a pro-Russia government. Djukanovic, Montenegro’s president, lamented that smaller countries are “being used as a kind of currency between the great powers” to further their political interests, but vows that the country is ready to defend itself again if necessary.

Jonathan Miller writes in The Spectator “Let them buy Teslas!” He is, of course, talking about President Macron and his remarkable ability to unite 70 per cent of France against him by making diesel unaffordable for swathes of the rural population. Macron insists that his new taxes are just part of a great energy transformation. But while his intentions may be genuine, his attempts to save the planet have left the capital up in smoke. Perhaps, Miller argues, hysterical Brexit Britain should take a look across the channel and consider ourselves lucky – “at least Regent Street was not looted twice in a fortnight”. (£)

Did you know?

Our kidneys contain 140 miles of tubes and filter our entire body’s blood supply every five minutes.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons
Oral questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Cannabis (Legalisation and Regulation) - Norman Lamb
 
Debate
Conclusion of Debate on Section 13 (1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Day 5)

House of Lords
Oral questions
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 Parliament
Topical Questions

Scottish Government Debate: Sea Fisheries and End of Year Negotiations

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions: Northern Ireland

Prime Minister’s Question Times

Ten Minute Rule Motion: International Trade and Development Agency – James Cleverly

Programme Motion: Ivory Bill – Programme (No. 3) – Michael Gove

Consideration of Lord’s amendments: Ivory Bill

General debate: Fuel Poverty

Adjournment: Development of the artificial pancreas for people with type 1 diabetes – Mr George Howarth

House of Lords

Oral questions

Providing serviced plots for self- and custom-built homes in order to meet social and other housing needs – Lord Naseby

Recent trade deal to supply 50,000 lambs killed without stunning to Saudi Arabia – Lord Trees

People’s Vote on Brexit – Lord Dykes

Legislation

Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill – Third reading – Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen

Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill – Third reading – Baroness Pidding

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill – Committee stage – Lord Best

Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill – Committee stage – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Debate

Report from the Science and Technology Committee “Off-site manufacture for construction: Building for change” – Lord Patel

Celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts, and the contribution made by the Academy to the artistic and cultural life of the country – Lord Cormack

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio questions

Ministerial Statement: Protecting Scotland’s Interests: Response to the outcome of the meaningful vote in Westminster

Ministerial Statement: Scottish Government’s draft spending and tax plans for 2019-20

Members’ Business: Remembering the Korean War