All I want for Christmas is for everyone to stop talking about Brexit. Well, not really, I’d quite like a new coat. Plus, sometimes it’s a blessing not having to dig around too much for a briefing topic.
There’s only one thing on Theresa May’s wish list today: to agree a Brexit deal and pass it swiftly through parliament without a hitch.
And there seems to be momentum – at least towards the first point. She is set to address her cabinet later today. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday fuelled rumours of a new plan by claiming that the Prime Minister would show her cabinet the parameters of an agreement. Mrs May rebuked the claims, assuring her cabinet that she would not to be cornered into a deal.
But she seems optimistic. Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last night, May agreed that negotiations were “immensely difficult” but contended that they were “now in the endgame”. It seems that both sides are inching toward a deal, with progress on EU fishing access over the weekend leaving talks on a more positive note.
The reality is, they are still stuck on the Irish backstop, which would allow for an exit mechanism from the “temporary” customs union. Mrs May is keeping quiet about any compromises she may have made on the matter, as pressure grows on both sides to reach a deal that can be signed off at a special summit at the end of November. Without some form of agreement today, talks will slip to mid-December, edging us precariously toward a no-deal Brexit.
Prominent Brexiteers, including Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom, are expected to caution the Prime Minister: as they see it walking away from negotiations may be preferable to locking the UK into an agreement that would undermine future trade deals.
Meanwhile, some European diplomats remain sceptical about progress despite working on a deal until 2.45am on Monday morning, and what’s more, increasingly prominent figures – including former transport minister Jo Johnson – are now calling for another referendum.
And all this stress before Theresa May has even broached the hypothetical agreement with parliament: progress could "count for nothing" if she fails to win domestic support. Maybe now’s the time to start wishing for a very modern Christmas miracle...
The wildfires still ravaging parts of California have killed at least 42 people. The remains were found in and around the town of Paradise, which was “largely incinerated”. At least 228 people are missing and 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as the fires continue to rage. The fires are the deadliest on record and are a result of a combination of climate change, low humidity, dry ground and high winds.
A leading women’s rights campaigner was promised peerage if she had sex with a senior member of the House of Lords. Jasvinder Sanghera spoke to The Times after Lord Lester of Hernhill was warned that he faced suspension in light of the revelations, alleged to have taken place more than a decade ago. She urged other victims of parliamentary sexual misconduct to come forward.
Irish authorities are investigating UFO sightings by at least three commercial pilots last week. British Airways and Virgin pilots reported seeing high-speed bright lights that they originally presumed to be military exercises, despite confirmation of no military presence in the area at the time. One pilot said that the object was not on a collision course with her aircraft and she was left “wondering” what it could be.
American writer and Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee has died aged 95. His wife Joan died last year, also aged 95, but he is survived by his daughter, JC Lee.
Business & Economy
Apple shares sank by five per cent yesterday, following a profit warning from some of the tech giant’s suppliers, wiping $40 billion off market value. Lumentum, a US manufacturer of facial recognition software and Apple supplier, announced that a major customer had reduced shipments, downgrading its sales and profits outlook. Apple was one of the biggest fallers on the Dow, which ended the day down 2.3%. Shares in most sectors tumbled, led by technology stocks – Amazon shares lost over four per cent and Facebook fell 2.3%.
Amazon is set to announce its decision to split its HQ2 offices between Washington DC and New York City. The decision will conclude a 14-month search and promises to bring more than $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs to the cities over the next 20 years. Cities across the US offered financial incentives and infrastructure investment pledges, but the pragmatism of placing the offices in coastal cities where Amazon already has a presence won out. (£)
The number of female chief executives in the FTSE 350 has fallen to 12, compared with 15 last year, according to the Hampton-Alexander review. Additionally, there are 72 companies in the FTSE 350 that “remain absolutely male dominated with only one woman on their board”. The group was established to ensure than 33 per cent of company boards were made up by women by 2020. In a statement they said: “a sharper focus is needed to understand what is happening in the appointment process for these really top jobs”.
The Royal Bank of Scotland paid contractors £400 a day to stuff envelopes, according to the Press Association. The bank, still partly owned by the government, paid individuals £330 per day plus VAT to carry out tasks related to distributing PPI letters to customers. Those working on the project blamed mismanagement and disorganisation for the waste of resources. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE ended 0.7% lower yesterday, at 7,053, with Burberry down more than four per cent, in spite of a sharp fall in the pound against the dollar early on in the day.
An increase in fuel prices did little to bolster energy stocks, as Saudi Arabia announced that oil demand had softened enough to lower production. Brent oil was up one per cent for the day, settling around $70.91.
In the US, the Nasdaq ended down 2.1%, with pressure mounting as Apple shares lost 4.2% following weak outlooks from two of its suppliers. This added to worries about iPhone demand.
The outlook wasn’t much better for European markets. The Dax in Germany ended down more than 1.5% and the French market was nearly one per cent lower.
The pound had rebounded early on Monday, as speculation swirled around Michel Barnier’s indication that some parts of the Brexit deal were ready. In the hours since, however, Theresa May’s spokesperson has downplayed the prospect of a deal, causing a drop in the pound.
It settled around 0.98% lower against the dollar at $1.28 – a 17-month high for the US currency, unsettling the equity market. It was also down against the euro at €1.14, despite uncertainty over a Rome-Brussels budgetary clash.
McCarthy & Stone
Orchard Funding Group
Adept Technology Group
Codemasters Group Holdings
Land Securities Group
Picton Property Income Ltd
Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust Ltd
CableVision Holdings S.A. GDS
Charter Court Financial Services Group
A&J Mucklow Group
Genesis Emerging Markets Fund Ltd Ptg NPV
A&J Mucklow Group
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(09:00) ZEW Survey (EU) - Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) - Current Situation
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) - Economic Sentiment
Columns of Note
The resignation of Jo Johnson should stand as a forewarning for Theresa May: if a Brexit deal is agreed upon this weekend, it will almost definitely be rejected by Parliament. Writing in the Spectator, Robert Peston argues that we could be heading for a constitutional crisis unless British MPs “spit on the fruits of their toil”, seizing their power and uniting in their opposition to May’s Brexit – which, he supposes, they will. But what is the alternative? (£)
Rebecca Mead comments on the successes – and associated dangers – of podcasts in The New Yorker. While they may provide a much-needed outlet for relaxation and personal reflection in a hectic world, the intimacy that they demand has the power to be manipulative. Stories emit a “common wisdom” personal to you, a belief system and discourse that can be unwittingly incorporated into the lives of listeners. (£)
Did you know?
Scientists believe that the first person to live to be 150 years old has already been born.