The other day a colleague showed me a Twitter account that had the sole purpose of informing its many followers whether one particular rugby team had won their game that weekend. I was unfamiliar with the team but a quick scroll down the timeline – which posts a simple yes or no answer after every match - revealed consistently poor form, which I think we can safely assume is the point of the ironic account.
It prompted me to imagine how the political equivalent – an account tracking Theresa May’s parliamentary record on Brexit – might look. The prime minister saw her Brexit deal defeated once again last night, this time by 149 votes, as 75 MPs from her own party joined Labour and the opposition parties to reject her plan. It was the second time she has brought the proposal to the Commons, having seen an almost identical (in content if not appearance) plan defeated by 230 votes back in January. The smaller margin of defeat will be of little consolation to a prime minister who is now the reluctant owner of both the worst and third-worst defeats in parliamentary voting history.
It was another treacherous day for the PM. She lost her voice, then the vote, and now has all but lost her control over where we go from here, with MPs voting today on whether to stop the country crashing out of the EU without a deal and tomorrow on a possible extension to Article 50. In a sign that May’s authority has all but eroded, she has granted her party colleagues a free vote for tonight. It means MPs can vote without reprisal from the party, a highly unusual move on such a flagship government policy. May is expected to back the motion to stop a no-deal Brexit, doing little to endear herself to the Tory Brexiteers already furious with her handling of the process thus far.
Just 16 days from the date we are due to leave the EU and we are no closer to knowing the outcome. This morning’s editorial in the Financial Times has advocated returning the issue to the British people in another referendum, with the electorate given a straight choice between May’s deal and remaining in the EU, a proposal that will certainly not be universally popular. The paper rejects another general election on the basis that it would almost certainly fail to produce as clear a result as another referendum on Europe.
Business leaders have also called on parliament to “end the circus”. Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director-general has said that last night’s events “must be the last day of failed politics”. With parliament itself under increasing scrutiny for its performance in serving the country over recent months, who would bet on that desire being fulfilled?
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has said it will not suspend Boeing 737 Max aircraft despite mounting pressure from senators and workers' unions. A number of countries have already banned the aircraft from their airspace following the crash in Ethiopia, but the FAA has said that a review has been carried out and showed "no systemic performance issues".
The government has announced that the large majority of imports into the UK would not attract a tariff in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and will not introduce any new checks or controls, or require customs declarations for any goods moving from across the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland. (£)
In an address to the people of Venezuela, President Maduro has accused the US of launching an “electromagnetic attack” on the nation’s power grid that has left the country in darkness for six days. Maduro called on pro-government gangs yesterday to take to the streets and begin “the resistance” towards America. (£)
Business & Economy
No new tax or spending changes are expected today when Philip Hammond delivers the spring statement. However, the chancellor is likely to use his speech to argue that leaving the EU without a deal would damage growth and shatter the public finances. A downgrade in the OBR’s growth figures compared with the estimates made in October is also likely.
Nissan has said it will stop production of two of its Infiniti cars at Sunderland in what is another blow to the city. Around 250 staff could be affected by the move which comes after Nissan’s recent decision to build its new X-Trail model in Japan, instead of Sunderland.
Royal Dutch Shell is preparing for a fundamental shift towards lower-carbon energy sources as it aims to become the largest electricity company by the 2030s. Speaking at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Maarten Wetselaar, Shell’s director of gas and new energies, said the goal was achievable if the company met its goal in cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. (£)
What happened yesterday?
A volatile session for the pound saw London stocks end the day’s trading higher on Tuesday as Theresa May battled to save her Brexit deal in the Commons. The city’s blue-chip index, the FTSE 100, closed up 20.53 points, or 0.3%, at 7,151.15. The more UK-focused FTSE 250 also ended up 0.3% at 19,143.96.
Broker rating action saw Intertek and Antofagasta finish among the worst performers in the FTSE 100, down 1.5% and 1.3% respectively, while medical technology company Smith & Nephew rose 1.2% after it agreed to the $660m acquisition of the US's Osiris Therapeutics Inc. Other notable risers on the day were housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, up 3.95p at 181.95p, and Wood, which closed 11.4p up at 562.6p.
The pound was trading at $1.325 US dollars in the morning, before slumping to $1.308 by the market close, a fall of 1%. Against the euro, sterling was down 1% at €1.158.
On the FTSE 250, Domino’s shares closed up slightly despite a 22% fall in pre-tax profits and an escalating row with its franchisees. Shares in pizza delivery company were up 1.6p at 234.7p.
In US stocks, it was a terrible day for Boeing after a slew of countries banned the use of its 737 MAX 8 fleet after Sunday's deadly crash in Ethiopia. Shares in the company closed 6.15% down, weighing heavily on the Dow Jones.
Advanced Medical Solutions Group
EKF Diagnostics Holdings
Gem Diamonds Ltd. (DI)
Marshall Motor Holdings
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets
SafeCharge International Group Limited (DI)
Standard Life Aberdeen
Transgloble Energy Corporation NPV (DI)
Int. Economic Announcements
(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)
(11:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(12:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(12:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(14:00) Construction Spending (US)
(14:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Columns of note
Writing in The Guardian, Rafael Behr says that Theresa May’s Brexit succumbed to what he calls “the ultimate adversary” and that is reality. Behr says the reason there has been a failure to reach a deal is because there has been an “almost perfect mismatch” between the prime minister’s character and the skills she has needed to reach agreement with the EU.
Courtney Weaver asks if a proudly uncool presidential candidate can make it all the way to the White House. She speaks of John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor from Colorado, and his message to voters that he has the necessary experience to take on Donald Trump. Writing in the Financial Times, Weaver says this “peculiar sales pitch” is in stark contrast to the other candidates from the party, who have gone to great lengths to prove their trendy credentials. (£)
Did you know?
Five art categories – painting, literature, music, sculpture, and architecture – were introduced in the 1912 Olympics as the “Pentathlon of the Muses,” and remained official events until 1948. You could also get an Olympic medal for pursuits such as town planning and poetry.
House of Commons
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the cabinet office (including topical questions)
Prime Minister’s Questions
Ministerial statement: spring statement by the chancellor of the exchequer – Philip Hammond
House of Lords
Implementing the government strategy “Maritime 2050: navigating the future” – Lord Mountevans
Building a fairer Commonwealth – Lord Chidgey
Minimum size and composition of UK aircraft carrier task force deployed to the Pacific – Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Schools offering pupils advice on what first aid to deliver and communicating clearly with emergency services when someone has been stabbed – Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Transport, infrastructure and connectivity
Justice and the law officers
Scottish government debate: year of young people 2018: a celebration, a chance, a change
House of Commons
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
House of Lords
Levels of council tax in England announced for 2019–20 - Lord Greaves
Completion of the fair funding review to set new baseline funding allocations for local authorities on the basis of relative needs and resources - Baroness Thornhill
Standards and certifications for the algorithms used in decision-taking by public authorities and agencies - Lord Clement-Jones
First Minister's Questions
Ministerial Statement: Update on the Impact of Brexit on the Scottish Further and Higher Education Sectors
Scottish Government Debate: Building on Scotland’s Strengths in Technology and Engineering to Become Europe’s Leading Space Nation