14 March

Stuart Taylor

14 March

Following months of bitter fallout after last year’s vote, yesterday saw the latest dramatic development in the story come to fruition.

But the news that Boaty McBoatface will embark on her virgin mission in April was soon forgotten as Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to formally seek permission from Westminster to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Holding the floor in her official residence, Bute House, the First Minister asked her audience to consider what kind of country Scotland should be following Brexit negotiations. Outlining the contrast which is likely to govern the campaign narrative between now and the proposed referendum date in late 2018 or early 2019, Sturgeon said the choice for voters would be whether to “follow the UK to a hard Brexit — or to become an independent country, able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.”

Downing Street hit back later in the afternoon, with Theresa May accusing the first minister of “tunnel vision” on her plans to break away from the UK.

Scotland’s place in Europe is likely to be a more prominent theme to the campaign than in 2014 so it is useful to gauge the temperature from the rest of the continent on the prospect of Scotland’s return to the EU as an independent country. El Mundo, one of Spain’s most popular papers, was quick to report that the European Commission have warned that the doctrine announced by former President Barroso in 2014 means re-entry would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” remains in force, as Spain remains acutely conscious of taming the Catalonia separatist movement within its own borders.

Closer to home, business leaders have begun to react to the prospect of another referendum. Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor at the Federation of Small Businesses, said a recent survey of smaller firms showed “very little appetite” for another referendum. However, Wood Group chief executive Robin Watson said another vote would have “no bearing” on their proposed takeover of rival engineer Amec Foster Wheeler.

With the Greens already signalling their support, the approval Sturgeon needs before she is able to seek the permission of Westminster to hold a referendum will sail through the Scottish Parliament next week. However, with recent polls still showing slight favour towards remaining in the union, convincing the electorate will once again prove to be Sturgeon’s most titanic challenge.

 

NEWS

The House of Lords has backed down over the issues of EU residency rights and a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal to pass the Brexit bill, paving the way for Theresa May to trigger Article 50 so the UK can begin negotiations to leave the EU.

France and Spain last year failed to meet Nato’s defence spending targetdespite an overall rise among European Nato states for the first time in seven years. Jens Stoltenberg, the head of Nato, said yesterday that more needed to be done to ensure that the burden of defence spending was shared equally after only five of the 28 member states of Nato met the 2 per cent target. (£)

14 million people would lose insurance coverage in 2018 under the new Republican healthcare plan, according to a report by a nonpartisan group of budget analysts and economists. The Congressional Budget Office went on to say this figure could rise to 24 million by 2026.

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Shares in Japanese giant Toshiba fell by more than 7% after the firm asked to postpone reporting its earnings for a second time. This follows a 712.5bn yen (£5bn) writedown due to some US nuclear assets being worth far less than estimated last month, leading to some analysts speculating that the company’s future is at risk.

The UK economy has received another forecast upgrade as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) becomes the latest to predict growth will be faster than previously expected this year. The BCC has announced that the economy will expand by 1.4 per cent this year, 0.3 per cent faster than the predicted three months ago.

American microchip maker, Intel, is to buy an Israeli maker of self-driving car technology for $15.3 billion in a record deal for the emerging autonomous vehicle industry. Intel and Jerusalem-based Mobileye will work together to develop advanced self-driving vehicle systems for car manufacturers.

 

MARKETS

The FTSE250 closed at a record yesterday thanks to a flurry of takeover activity.

Energy services group Amec Foster Wheeler seen their shares rise by more than 12% following the announcement that the company had agreed to be bought by rival Wood Group. Bovis Homes rose almost 10% after it said that they were the subject of two takeover approaches.

These announcements helped propel the index to close at a record 19,029, almost 0.4% higher.

On the currency market, Sterling fell below $1.22 immediately after Nicola Sturgeon said she would seek authority from the UK government to hold another independence referendum. However, this trend was reversed after the First Minister said the vote should not happen until after autumn 2018. This meant it rose 0.6 percent against the dollar to $1.2227.

Finals

Advanced Medical Solutions Group, Antofagasta, Applegreen, Bango, Brady, Burford Capital, Crossrider, French Connection Group, Gresham Technologies, The Gym Group, InterQuest Group, Midwich Group, Prudential, Stadium Group, SIG, STM Group, Surgical Innovations Group, TP ICAP, Zotefoams

Interims

Blancco Technology Group, Close Brothers Group, Eagle Eye Solutions Group, Calibrate Technologies, Pantheon Resources

AGMs

Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE GDR (Reg S), LPA Group

Int. Economic Announcements

(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)

(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)

(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)

 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Janan Ganesh looks ahead to the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum in today’s Financial Times. With a bigger appeal to centre-right voters, more attentive to the difficult questions around currency and finance, and less indulgent in the sport of politics, Ganesh argues that Nicola Sturgeon is better equipped to win the vote than her predecessor. For May to win, Ganesh argues, she needs to complete Britain’s removal from the EU and then frame any subsequent vote for independence as a bigger risk than ever. In other words, “Project Fear then, all over again.” (£)

In today’s Guardian, Matthew d’Ancona believes that the row over raising national insurance for the self-employed will torment the Conservatives long after the rage over Brexit fades. He says the proposal is an indication that the party is unable to adjust to a revolution in the way we work, where digital platforms as employers are on the rise.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

The European Union was founded in 1957 as the European Economic Community. It then became the EC (European Community) and in 1993 the EU (European Union).

 

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral Questions

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, including Topical Questions

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Diplomatic Service (United Kingdom Wines and Sparkling Wines) — Nusrat Ghani

Consideration of Lords amendments

Debate

Conclusion of the Budget debate

Adjournment

Fuel poverty — Paul Scully

House of Lords

Oral questions

Automotive industries and continued access to the EU single market — Baroness Quin

The case for introducing national identity cards in the UK — Lord Campbell-Savours

Estimate of the final cost and timetable for completing the electrification of the Great Western Main Line — Baroness Randerson

Legislation

Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill — Committee stage — Committee of the Whole House — Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist

Debate

The economy in the light of the Budget Statement — Baroness Neville-Rolfe

Short debate

Undertakings made in ‘Our Commitments to you for end of life care: The Government Response to the Review of Choice in End of Life Care’ — Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Scottish Parliament

Topical Questions

Scottish Government Debate: Inclusive Tourism, Promoting Accessible Tourism and Changing Lives Through the Visitor Economy

Cross-party Selection Panel Motion: Appointment of the new Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions

Northern Ireland

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Network Rail (Scotland) Bill — Drew Hendry

Legislation

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill — Jeremy Hunt

National Citizen Service Bill [HL] — Mr Rob Wilson

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Guidance to students from other EU member states wishing to study at UK universities on the costs of their studies and eligibility to access student loans

- Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Improving accessibility for disabled people to public premises

- Baroness Deech

Statutory guidance to ensure that social media sites address online abuse

- Baroness Nye

Legislation

Neighbourhood Planning Bill — 3rd reading — Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

Higher Education and Research Bill — Report stage (day 4) — Viscount Younger of Leckie

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions

Health and Sport

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee Debate: Reports on the Implications of the European Union Referendum on Scotland