Today is the day. After the referendum in June 2016, the triggering of Article 50 in March, an ill-advised General Election only a few months later, hours of debate and miles of column inches, we are expecting later the first formal agreement on the Brexit negotiations.
The leaders of the European nations, who together make up the Council of Europe, will formally agree to move Brexit on to the next phase where discussions on transition arrangements will begin. The move comes after months of wrangling and debate over the Irish border and EU citizens' rights.
Theresa May, in Brussels with her fellow EU leaders at the moment, will breathe a heavy sigh of relief but, as we all know, it hasn't been easy. She has faced hostility at home and abroad, and only this week her government lost an important Brexit vote in the Commons.
But the UK's embattled leader got some respite last night. At the infamous European Council dinner last night, Mrs May was applauded after her speech on Brexit. A polite gesture perhaps, rather than any rapturous chorus of agreement, I would imagine. But applause itself is certainly a long way from the early EU summits of May's premiership where it was widely reported that May was shunned and ostracized on the sidelines.
However, the respite won't last long. The prime minister must fly back to the UK later and face the same old demons that hampered her this week.
It has been widely reported that following the defeat on Wednesday evening, May will drop her government's superficial amendment confirming the time and date we will leave the European Union. The fact that it is already enshrined in law through the Article 50 process doesn't matter, the move was designed to show the government was in control of the Brexit process.
Removing it at this late stage shows the complete opposite, but needs must for a prime minister whose time in office has been characterised by such problems.
A senior judge has called for an inquiry at the "very highest level" of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police, after it was discovered that, in a bid to save costs, not all evidence in a rape case was passed to defence lawyers. The trial of Liam Allan collapsed after it was discovered the police failed to release evidence proving his innocence.
Derek Mackay delivered the Scottish Budget at Holyrood yesterday and introduced new income tax bands north of the border. In the plans proposed, the Scottish tax system will now have five bands, with low earners paying less and high earners paying more than in the rest of the UK. Mackay believes that, under the new system, 55% of taxpayers will be better off and 45% of the highest earners will contribute more.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chief of the defence staff and the UK's most senior military officer, has warned of a new threat posed by Russia to undersea cables. He warned of an "immediately and potentially catastrophic" hit to the global economy if the subsea cables were cut or damaged by the Russians, and urged Nato to prioritise protecting the lines of communication.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
Walt Disney is set to strengthen its position as the world's largest entertainment company by buying the majority of its rival 21st Century Fox for a figure estimated to be close to £50 billion. The deal is expected to face intense scrutiny from regulators and includes Fox's interest in Sky, the European broadcaster.
Following an investigation from the Financial Times, it has been discovered that four UK companies have altered the gender pay gap figures they have submitted to the government. Hugo Boss has altered its pay gap figures on three separate occasions, after initially reporting there was no gap between male and female pay in the company.
The chief operating officer of Airbus, Fabrice Brégier, has left the business after losing out in a power struggle to become the new chief executive. The current CEO, Tom Enders, formally announced he would leave the business in April 2019, leading the board to start formal succession plans. Brégier left the manufacturer after he was told he would not be on the shortlist for the role.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed down 0.65% following a disappointing day on the markets. Financial stocks weighed heavily on the downward trend, with Standard Chartered falling 1.9% to 759.4p. The biggest loser of the day was Standard Life Aberdeen, which ended the day down 3.27% to 413.5p.
At the other end of the markets, UK broadcasters were boosted by the news from America that Disney had agreed to buy Fox for £49 billion, with BT rising 2.3% to finish at 274.2p.
On the FTSE 250, the index closed down 0.27%. Capita brought down the market overall, after announcing that market conditions remained difficult. This announcement sent shares tumbling 12.5% to add to the slow decline of the stock throughout the year.
Financial stocks also slipped on the FTSE 250 today, with Provident Financial sliding 3.5% to 811p.
International Economic Announcements
(06:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU)
(14:15) Capacity Utilisation (US)
(14:15) Industrial Production (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Philip Stephens, writing in the Financial Times, tackles the common Chinese perception that Europe is in irreversible decline. He argues that geopolitics is a long game, and despite the EU having been in disarray, it is now on the mend. With confidence in itself, it could set the terms of any relationship against Chinese "hubris".
John Harris, writing in The Guardian, looks at the issue of library closures. He calculates that 478 libraries have closed in England, Wales and Scotland since 2010, and as they close their doors they also close the door on social mobility.
DID YOU KNOW?
In late 2008, the world's longest power cable was switched on. The cable stretches 580 km from Feda in Norway across the North Sea to Eemshaven in the Netherlands. This extremely powerful cable has the capacity to transmit 6 billion kWh a year.
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