14 November 2018

Stuart Taylor

14 November 2018

Good morning,

There was a story doing the rounds last night that White House staff have built two blocks of ‘policy time’ into Donald Trump’s daily schedule in an effort to get the president to focus on issues. 

This made me ponder whether, if she could have her time again, Theresa May would adopt a similar strategy in her negotiations with the EU and discussions with cabinet colleagues, such has been the frenzied conclusion to striking an exit deal after more than two years of talks besieged by setbacks and delays.

With the ink barely dry on the document – which reportedly runs to more than 400 pages – and ongoing talks, the prime minister has had to get on immediately with the challenging task of convincing her senior ministers to join her in backing the deal. She spoke to several of them one-by-one last night and a copy of the draft deal was set up in a secure reading room in the Cabinet Office to allow them to pore over the details, which are believed to reveal a two-year transition until 2021 and a proposal for Northern Ireland to remain more closely aligned to EU regulations in some areas than the rest of the UK. There are also plans for an all-UK customs union "backstop" in the event that the Irish border issue cannot be resolved, a matter that has been of huge contention.

Reports suggest that the PM has secured the backing of several key members of her team, notably Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid. However, Leave-backing ministers Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom all appear to have reservations about the proposed text, and are under intense pressure from the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs to resign their positions.

The DUP, Labour Party, SNP and Liberal Democrats haven’t even waited for the small matter of reading the text before expressing their scepticism about the plan, giving the PM a headache in her efforts to navigate the deal successfully through parliament. 

This tense prelude leads us nicely to today’s historic showdown of the Cabinet, where we can expect fraught clashes and perhaps a resignation or two.

Who can she count on? Who is going to walk away? With her future on the line, 2pm is most certainly ‘crunch time’ for the prime minister.

News

Donald Trump is set to fire his deputy national security adviser after a dispute with the first lady, Melania Trump. In a rare intervention on personnel matters, Melania Trump said Mira Ricardel “no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House”. The move is expected to be part of a wider reshuffle that began with the departure of the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. (£)

A ceasefire has been reached between Israel and the Palestinians following the most serious exchanges of fire since a seven-week period in 2014. The deal, brokered by Egypt, comes after an escalation of clashes in Gaza since Sunday. (£)

The statewide death toll in California’s wildfires has reached 50 as authorities reported six more fatalities in the Camp Fire in the north of the state. State fire services have said they have managed to contain 30% of the fire, sprawling over 125,000 acres, but do not expect to contain it fully until the end of this month.

Business & Economy

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that wages have grown at their fastest pace in a decade and the number of people in work hit another record high in the three months to September. Wages have outgrown inflation for eight months and were 3.2% higher than the same period last year, the most since the end of 2008. (£)

The airline Flybe has said it was "in discussions with a number of strategic operators about a potential sale of the company" as it seeks to address its “current challenges” in the airline industry. The announcement comes a matter of weeks after it issued a profit warning and its shares have fallen by almost 75% since September. 

Susanna Dinnage, a senior executive at US TV network Discovery, has been named as the next chief executive of the English Premier League. Dinnage is the fourth person and first female to lead the organisation and will replace Richard Scudamore in the new year. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 closed flat yesterday as gains were wiped out following a soaring of the pound on reports that the cabinet was set to sign off on a Brexit deal. The blue-chip index ended the day on 7,054 points, having crossed the 7,100 mark earlier in the session, while sterling surged 1.4% against the dollar to trade at $1.303.

Flat is not a word you could use to describe the trajectory of Vodafone shares, however. The telecoms giant climbed to the top of the FTSE 100 after investors expressed relief that the mobile phone operator did not cut its dividend. Shares were up 7.79% as chief executive Nick Read promised further cuts to costs in order to make the company more profitable. Read, who took over from Vittorio Colao last month, also issued a new goal to cut net operating expenses by at least €1.2bn over the next three years.

Taylor Wimpey had a less fruitful time yesterday. Shares were down 3% to 158p after a middling second-half trading update, enough to make the housebuilder the worst performer on the FTSE 100 index.

Finals
AB Dynamics
Avon Rubber
Grainger

Interims
British Land Company
Flybe Group
Renold
Speedy Hire
SSE
Workspace Group 

AGMs
Aura Energy Limited NPV (DI)
Diurnal Group
Hays
Henderson EuroTrust
JPMorgan Global Convertibles Income Fund Ltd
Jupiter UK Growth Investment Trust
Smiths Group
Thinksmart Limited (DI)

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Price Index
(09:30) Producer Price Index
(09:30) Retail Price Index

Int. Economic Announcements 
(07:00) GDP (Preliminary) (GER)
(10:00) GDP (Preliminary) (EU)
(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

Peter Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner and UK business secretary, expresses a paradox within the Brexit deal whereby the only way Britain can secure continuity of frictionless trade is by complying with the very EU rules people voted to leave behind. He says that this paradox has caused us to reach an “existential fork in the road” and the decision on the way ahead is too big for one parliament and must be referred to the electorate. (£)

Also in the Financial Times, Roula Khalaf says that with every passing day, Mohammed bin Salman looks more likely to survive the Khashoggi scandal. Khalaf says the Saudis have crafted a narrative that paints the prince as a “divinely inspired reformer who should be protected against international conspiracies”. (£)

Did you know?

Saunas have become entwined in the national culture of Finland. There are an estimated two million saunas in the country, for a population of 5.3 million, meaning that there are enough for everyone to use one at the same time. The president has an official sauna, as does the prime minister and its parliament has a sauna chamber where MPs can debate.

TODAY

House of Commons
Oral questions 
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office

Prime Minister's Question Time

Debate on the Address
An Humble Address relating to the Prince of Wales' 70th birthday

House of Lords
Motion for Humble Address
HRH The Prince of Wales' 70th Birthday - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park 

Oral questions
Developing a national plan for stroke - Baroness Wheeler

Scottish Parliament
Portfolio questions
Rural Economy 

Scottish Labour Party Debate: Social Care

Scottish Labour Party Debate: Transport

TOMORROW

House of Commons
Oral questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
 
Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom

House of Lords
Oral questions
General Practitioner contract negotiations for 2019-20 - Lord Kennedy of Southwark
 
Impact of work-related stress on productivity - Lord Haskel
 
Whether police forces have established effective priorities for fighting crime - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
 
Ability of police forces in England and Wales to tackle knife and other serious and violent crime in addition to funding provided by the Early Intervention Youth Fund - Lord Bach

Scottish Parliament
General Questions

First Minister's Questions

Scottish Government Debate: Physical Activity, Diet and Healthy Weight