That’s it. It’s no more ‘Mrs nice May’.
Following a night of high drama in which 12 Conservative MPs defeated the government in allowing a ‘meaningful vote’ in parliament on the terms of the UK’s final EU withdrawal agreement, No 10 has signalled that its patience with the internal squabbles of the Tory party has worn thin.
Stephen Hammond, a Tory MP rebel and former confidante of the May wing of the party, was almost immediately sacked from his position as a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party following the government’s defeat. Indicating that hostilities among the Tories are alive and well, Hammond took to Twitter to say that he was, ‘Very disappointed… Tonight I put my country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote.’
And perhaps the prime minister should be ticked off - make no mistake about it; last night marked a serious (or perhaps just the first) defeat for the government on the eve of Theresa May’s arrival in Brussels for the next round of Brexit talks. If nothing else, the prime minister casts an ever smaller shadow over her EU counterparts. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, celebrated the vote as ‘taking back control’ for pro-Europe MPs in Westminster.
But all this talk of a ‘meaningful vote’ makes you wonder – just how ‘meaningful’ can it really be? By the time the vote comes around before ‘Brexit day’, the Tory rebels won’t be choosing between an array of bespoke deals. Whether they like it or not, they will be choosing between May’s deal or no deal at all. In those circumstances, it is hard to see those MPs choosing to cart the government, and the country’s economy, into the unknown - or indeed, the hands of Mr Corbyn - for the sake of parliamentary sovereignty.
Recently emboldened by her agreement of Britain’s long-awaited divorce deal from the EU, Hammond’s dismissal could be read as a sign of a growing assertiveness from the PM. But don’t mistake such actions for confidence – backed into a corner, the threatened prey must lash out or admit defeat.
The new state-of-the-art US embassy ‘fortress’ has been unveiled in London, including the first moat to be built in England since the 19th century. Costing more than $1 billion, the 12-floor cube-shaped building is the most expensive embassy built yet, and includes triple-glazed and blast-proof glass walls, and a Faraday cage, designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping. President Trump is expected to inaugurate the facility, during a potential visit in the spring.
The number of unconditional offers made to school-leavers jumped by 40% last year, as universities competed to fill places for courses charging £9,250-a-year tuition fees. An annual report from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (Ucas) has suggested the declining number of 18-year-olds had created a buyers’ market, and also demotivated pupils in England and Wales studying for A levels.
In his first public speech in the UK since leaving office, David Cameron criticised Donald Trump’s attacks on the media for undermining western democracy and helping Russia’s attempts to spark anti-western sentiment. The former prime minister said the president’s ‘fake news’ agenda was a dangerous form of foreign policy, deflecting attention from real abuses and facilitating a form of corruption in western governments.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
The US Federal Reserve yesterday lifted its economic growth forecast as it raised the federal funds rate range to 1.5% – its third rise this year. Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Fed who is to step down in January 2018, suggested that President Trump’s proposed tax cuts would provide ‘some modest lift’ for the US economy, and also expected a further three interest rate rises next year to achieve a long term rate of 2.8 per cent by 2019.
Britain is to be the first recipient of a Russia-sanctioned emergency gas cargo following fears of a winter supply crisis and gas prices nearing a five-year high. Alongside a gas explosion in Austria and difficulties in Norwegian supply, around 40% of the UK’s domestic gas supply has been halted until the new year following the shutdown of Ineos’ Forties pipeline in the North Sea. This has raised the price of gas delivered to the UK to more than $10 per million British thermal units, far higher than usual, forcing the UK government to take the unusual move of importing a liquid natural gas cargo from the £20 billion Yamal project on Russia’s northern coastline.
The number of people in work in the UK fell in the three months to October, suggesting Britain’s jobs boom could be grinding to a halt. According to figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 56,000 fewer people in work compared to the previous quarter. Growth in average earnings picked up slightly, at 2.3% higher than last year’s estimates.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE flat-lined yesterday, closing down 0.05% at 7496.51 as rising shares in the banking sector were offset by oil majors pulling back following a slip in crude oil prices.
Brent crude closed down another 1.0% to finish at $62.68 a barrel, with oil giant Centrica among yesterday’s biggest losers as a result, shedding 3.66%. On the other end of the scale, Barclays was up 1.66% as it benefitted from news that wage growth in the UK has closed some of the gap with yesterday’s inflation figures of 3.1%. Easing pressure on households ahead of Christmas, pay growth including bonuses climbed to 2.5% while unemployment figures also brought good news, remaining steady at 4.3% for a 42-year low.
The pound responded in kind, finishing up 0.34% on the dollar at $1.34 and 0.1% on the euro at £1.14.
Finsbury Growth & Income Trust
Berkeley Group Holdings (The)
John Laing Group
Associated British Foods
AXA Property Trust Limited
Quadrise Fuels International
River and Mercantile Group
Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd
UK Economic Announcements
(09.30) Balance of Trade
(09.30) Industrial Production
(09.30) Manufacturing Production
International Economic Announcements
(07.00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07.00) Current Account (GER)
(13.30) Non-Farm Payrolls (US)
(13.30) Unemployment Rate (US)
(14.00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Following yesterday’s vote on allowing a ‘meaningful vote’ on any deal before the UK departs the EU, David Allen Green writes in the FT that two positive ‘accidents’ are starting to emerge from Brexit. Green comments that the negotiation process has forced the British public and political class to finally interrogate the mechanics behind constitutional change and educate themselves to inform decision-making – a feature lacking in the 2016 referendum debate.
Writing in City A.M., Rachel Cunliffe suggests Labour’s proposals to relocate central banking institutions away from the City of London are thinly-veiled attempts to undermine the power of finance in the UK. Suggesting that no other world-leading nation can boast hosting its political capital, financial centre, and cultural heart all in the same city, Cunliffe argues that Labour’s intention to relocate the Bank of England to Birmingham is mere gesture politics and won’t effectively tackle more systemic regional inequality.
DID YOU KNOW?
If, after another rerun of Home Alone this Christmas, you’re looking for the Jimmy Cagney-like gangster movie Angels with Filthy Souls that Kevin McAllister channels for his inspiration, don’t bother. It’s not real. Nor is its sequel, Angels With Even Filthier Souls, which is featured in Home Alone 2 and was also made for the film.
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
Future of South Tyneside Hospital – Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck
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
Report by the Children’s Commissioner for England 'On measuring the number of vulnerable children in England' - Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
Addressing the root causes of poverty and disadvantage in the UK - Lord Bird
Report of the Bach Commission 'The Right to Justice' - Lord Bach
First Minister’s Questions
S5M-09362 – Kate Forbes: Bank Branch Closures in Scotland
Scottish Government’s Draft Spending and Tax Plans for 2018-19
Scottish Government Debate
A Fairer Sotland – Delivering Race Equality
Final Stage Proceedings
Writers to the Signet Dependants’ Annuity Fund Amendment (Scotland) Bill
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Baroness Hamwee
Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
Local Government Elections (Referendum) Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Lord Balfe
No business scheduled