Hollywood’s biggest stars were out in force last night as the European Premiere of the new Star Wars film took place in London.
In a place not so far, far away, another red carpet is being rolled out. France is currently in the process of a nationwide rebrand of its anti-capitalist reputation - sentiment that can be traced back as far as the French Revolution - as it attempts to woo businesses to Paris in anticipation of Brexit.
Spearheaded by the free market loving President Emmanuel Macron, a raft of legislation and reforms are being fast-tracked as France tries to earn a headstart against other European cities to become the natural home for businesses thinking about relocating operations.
The first target in their sight is their own banks. The slashing of tax and labour laws will not only make it easier to hire and fire, but finally remove the barrier that has so far forced them to locate workers across the English Channel in London.
The ultimate aim is to attract as many as 10,000 jobs from London by 2019. And with recent research highlighting that almost a third of banks, brokers and asset managers could be considering plans to move staff or open up new offices on the Continent, the appetite appears to be there to match this scale of courtship. Indeed, in November, Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, praised the city’s “positive energy” and the political leadership’s commitment to economic reform in a strong hint that the bank would relocate some of its operations there.
Further measures currently underway include the construction of English-speaking courts, a new international school designed to cater for the children of foreign executives, and the La Défense business district has enjoyed a boom in new construction projects.
As the UK and EU thrash out the shape of a future trade relationship it will be fascinating to see how other potential relocation cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg react. As for France, questions will be asked about how much further will they go to attract business in a country that as recently as 2012 had a president elected on a promise that he was “the enemy of finance”.
Doug Jones has become the first Democrat in 25 years to win a US Senate seat for Alabama. It follows a bitter campaign against controversial Republican Roy Moore. The result is a serious blow to President Donald Trump, who backed Moore, and narrows the Republican majority in the Senate to 51-49.
The president of the European Commission has been caught up in a new criminal investigation into claims that “tampered” evidence misled an inquiry into phone-tapping. A judge has opened a criminal inquiry into whether officials working for Jean-Claude Juncker were responsible for an incomplete transcript of a covertly recorded conversation while he was prime minister of Luxembourg more than a decade ago. (£)
The government is facing the threat of a defeat by rebel backbenchers when MPs vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill later today. The revolt is being led by the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, with the rebels calling for a legal guarantee that MPs should get a vote on any final Brexit deal before it is finalised.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
A $60 billion deal between Walt Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox entertainment group could be announced as early as tomorrow. Negotiations were progressing quickly last night for a deal in which Disney would take control of a sizeable part of 21st Century Fox, with James Murdoch tipped to take a senior executive role at Disney. (£)
Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, has called for the EU to offer a “tailor-made” Brexit trade deal to the UK. However, while Gentiloni has said the deal should be bespoke and not based on the precedent of previous trade deals, it is up to the UK to make the first move. (£)
A Times panel of experts has agreed that the Bank of England should leave interest rates unchanged this month following November’s historic increase. The official committee makes its decision this evening and publishes the vote on Thursday, where it is expected to vote for no change.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed yesterday at 7500.41, an increase of 0.6% or 46.9 points. The index rose in response to a rise in the oil price and a pound that continues to retreat despite inflation rising to its highest in six years at 3.1%.
The price of Brent crude hit a two and a half year high of $65.83 a barrel before dropping back to $64.66, representing a fall of 0.1% on the day.
The big winner yesterday was credit reporting firm Experian, who saw its stock rise to £16.04, up 2.5%.
It wasn’t such a good day for Morrison Supermarkets, down 4.47% to trade at 211.5p following news that it lost further market share in the 12 weeks to 3 December
The more UK-focused FTSE 250 ended the day marginally ahead, up 0.04% to 20073.02.
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UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Claimant Count Rate
International Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Writing in The Guardian, Chuka Umunna risks contradicting his party’s leadership by calling for Britain to stay in the single market after Brexit. He says a no-deal scenario would inflict pain on working people and says “now is the time to lead the debate, commit to staying in the single market and customs union permanently, and to working with our sister parties across Europe for further radical change”. Jeremy Corbyn’s position is for a transition period of up to four years inside the single market and the customs union after Brexit.
Despite the many setbacks of the past six months of her premiership, there is now an opportunity for Theresa May to stamp her authority on the cabinet. This is the view of Daniel Finkelstein in The Times, who says the difficulty for Brexiteers to dislodge her from post is a strength for May and it should give her scope to reshuffle her cabinet with more ease than she might imagine. (£)
DID YOU KNOW?
According to martial arts actor Jet Li, when he was a child, he was asked by Richard Nixon to be his personal bodyguard. Li replied, “I don’t want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!”
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Wales
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Legislation: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 7) - Committee of the whole House - Mr David Davis
House of Lords
Non-Commonwealth member countries attending the 2018 Commonwealth Summit in London - Lord Chidgey
Progress towards establishing a single national standard for household recycling - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Number and percentage of students who will pay back their student loans in full - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Legislation: Data Protection Bill [HL] - Report stage (day 2) - Lord Ashton of Hyde
Finance and the Constitution
Economy, Jobs and Fair Work
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Finance
House of Commons
Exiting the European Union (including Topical Questions)
Business questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
Equality of pension provision for women - Grahame Morris
Hormone pregnancy tests - Sir Mike Penning
House of Lords
Impact of measures announced in the Budget on the north east of England - Lord Beith
Revelations contained in the Paradise Papers - Lord Anderson of Swansea
Transferring of responsibilities relating to Disabled Students’ Allowances for some students to higher education providers - Lord Addington
First Minister's Questions
Members' Business - Kate Forbes: Bank Branch Closures in Scotland
Ministerial Statement: Scottish Government’s Draft Spending and Tax Plans for 2018-19