Before a parliament assembled in New Delhi at midnight on August 15 1947, the first prime minister of an independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, announced:
‘At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.’
Under the current administration of Narenda Modi, who led the country’s 70th anniversary celebrations this week, Indians may feel once again that the soul of their nation has found a voice on the global stage. The no-nonsense Hindu nationalist continues to ride the populist surge which brought him into power over the world’s fastest-growing major economy in 2014, cutting red tape to liberalise the economy, and positioning his country as a pin-up for the sort of deals the British government wants to strike on leaving the EU.
Yet in his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Modi issued a set of pledges that by 2022, the ‘new India’ should be free from poverty, corruption, terrorism, communalism and the indignities of caste. Indeed, the country is home to one third of the world’s poor, where fully one fifth of Indian men, and one third of women cannot read. That such a call to arms is needed says a great deal about the distance still to travel, and with a view to the future, Indians may ponder what sort of voice the ‘new India’ has found on the global stage.
Such a ‘new voice’ remains elusive for post-Brexit Britain, however, as the government’s first policy paper on the customs union was criticised as ‘confused’ by UK and EU leaders yesterday. The government proposes to seek an interim deal for an undetermined period of time in which Britain would ‘mirror’ existing EU customs before seeking a deal ‘as frictionless as possible’. As an apparent defeat for the Brexiteer wing of the government, headed by Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade, the paper was equivocal on Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals as part of any future arrangement, seeming to prioritise access to the European market instead.
In 1947, a Guardian editorial on independence read: ‘The wheel has come full circle and the British who went to India to trade are now once more in India only as traders.’ Seventy years later, the prospect of losing even that epithet for the British could be more real than ever.
Following yesterday’s publication of the government’s first Brexit policy paper on the customs union, the UK government has followed with its second on the Northern Irish border, insisting there must be ‘no return to the hard borders of the past’. The British government hopes the EU will agree upfront on the need for no ‘physical infrastructure’ such as new border posts. The paper also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to maintain the Common Travel Area, which allows 30,000 people a day to travel unhindered between the islands of Britain and Ireland.
President Trump has doubled-down on his response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, saying ‘there is blame on both sides’. Mr Trump refused to condemn the role of right-wing extremists, claiming the ‘alt-left’ bears some responsibility for the violence at the march, which saw a woman killed and several injured after a car ploughed into demonstrators. Hundreds of white nationalists converged in Virginia over the weekend to protest plans to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the US civil war.
James Chapman, a former aide to Brexit secretary, David Davis, who plans to set up a new centrist political party, has launched a fresh online tirade of 250 tweets in which he says Boris Johnson ‘should be jailed’ for his role in last year’s Leave campaign. A former political editor with the Brexit-backing Daily Mail, Chapman also claimed Davis was ‘work shy’ and had once behaved inappropriately towards Shadow Home secretary, Dianne Abbott.
Daniel Craig has let slip the worst-kept secret in the film world – that he is set to resume his role as James Bond for the series next instalment. The actor made the announcement in the United States on Stephen’s Colbert’s The Late Show on Tuesday night, saying he wanted ‘to go out on a high note.’
Business & Economy
Rail passengers face the biggest rise in fares for five years as an increase of 3.6pc from January is announced. The average commuter will pay £2,888 for a season ticket next year, £694 more than in 2010, analysis showed, as London commuters will be hardest hit. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has been been urged to reform the way fares are calculated away from inflation, given current wage growth is only 2pc.
Royal Bank of Scotland is planning to cut 40 per cent of its London IT staff, meaning up to 650 jobs could go by 2020. The announcement follows a series of high-profile technology failures in the past few years, including a meltdown in 2014 which left millions of its customers without access to its accounts, for which the bank was fined £56 million. The cuts are part of a major review of operations which aims to save £2bn for the bank by 2020.
Air Berlin has filed for insolvency as Etihad, its main shareholder, has stopped further financial support. The German government announced a bridging loan of €150 million, allowing the beleaguered aircraft carrier to keep its fleet running for the next three months. The Irish carrier, Ryanair, has criticised the move as an ‘obvious conspiracy playing out in Germany’, paving the way for Lufthansa in a future takeover.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to 7383.85 as geopolitical tensions cooled amid holiday-thinned trading yesterday, and gains driven by consumer staples and broker upgrades were boosted by reduced inflation pressures. The Bank had expected inflation to peak at 3pc in October, but July’s announcement of only 2.6pc, as against a predicted 2.7pc increase, has eased fears.
Newly-merged Standard Life Aberdeen was the FTSE’s biggest gainer at 3.7pc after a double upgrade from Barclays to overweight from underweight. Meanwhile, the clothing store Next was down 3.4pc as it was downgraded by Berenberg to ‘sell’, citing its large number of retail outlets as a dampener on its ability to invest.
The pound is down 0.02pc against the dollar at $1.2866 and tumbled to a 10-month low against the euro on Tuesday, finishing down 0.03pc at €1.0961, where Moran Stanley has predicted parity for much of 2018.
Admiral Group, Balfour Beatty, BGEO Group, CLS Holdings, Foresight Solar Fund Limited, Hochschild Mining, Lookers
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UK Economic Announcements
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International Economic Announcements
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(12.00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
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(13.30) Housing Starts (US)
Columns of Note
In a controversial piece in The Times, Daniel Finkelstein has criticised Google’s recent decision to fire one of its engineers following inflammatory comments over the relationship between sex and aptitude in the workplace. Whilst damning the employee’s belief that general genetic differences between men and women may have an impact on the latter group’s skill in technology and leadership, he argues a proper debate is needed on the relationship between basic nature and social outcomes as a solution to problems such as discrimination.
Did you know?
Dueling is legal is Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.
House of Commons
In recess until 5th September
House of Lords
In recess until 5th September
In recess until 5th September