Fans of the Indiana Jones movie franchise will be familiar with the famous scene in the Temple of Doom when the heroic archaeologist evades capture by squeezing under a door rapidly descending on him. He makes his thrilling escape with seconds to spare, only to realise he has left his trademark fedora behind. He is able to rescue himself and his precious hat in the nick of time.
I was reminded of this theatrical scene yesterday following the news that Donald Tusk said the EU’s “hearts are still open” to “our British friends”, were they to stage a stunning, last-gasp reversal and halt Brexit, avoiding what one German MEP termed to be a “catastrophe of historical proportions”. The EU president’s sentiments were echoed by Jean-Claude Junker, who said he hoped the message "will be heard clearly in London".
The UK government and Jeremy Corbyn have since dismissed the idea of a re-run of the June 2016 vote. However, the development appears to highlight a contrasting mentality to the uncompromising stance adopted by Michel Barnier since he began his succession of negotiation talks with David Davis, and the clearest signal yet that there is a willingness to demonstrate that even at this eleventh hour, the door remains ajar to the possibility of a dramatic U-turn should Theresa May and her government wish to seize it.
Elsewhere, he has become as synonymous with the red Leave campaign bus as the aforementioned Jones is to his headwear, and Boris Johnson yesterday returned to - as Labour referenced it - "the scene of his previous crimes" by reigniting the hotly disputed issue over how much the UK sends the EU each week. The foreign secretary claimed that the £350m figure emblazoned on the side of the vehicle was a "gross underestimate" as it doesn’t take into account the country's rebate of £75m a week. His comments have attracted criticism from both the Conservatives and Labour, with Anna Soubry saying she was "surprised and disappointed" by her party colleague’s comments and Labour referring the "unacceptable" claim to the UK Statistics Authority.
Referendums, Article 50, the red Leave bus; the tiring work of debating the same arguments over and over again can, at times, just get too much for some in the House of Commons.
Donald Trump’s White House doctor has said that the US president is in excellent health and has shown no abnormal signs following a cognitive exam. Ronny Jackson said Trump had “incredible genes” during a White House briefing yesterday. The president underwent a three-hour medical examination last week, his first check-up since he became commander-in-chief.
Emmanuel Macron will tomorrow agree to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to the UK, meaning the historic artwork that depicts the Norman Conquest will be displayed outside of France for the first time in 950 years. Theresa May is expected to say that the loaning of the tapestry signals a lasting relationship between the two countries beyond Brexit. (£)
Switzerland could be set to hold a referendum on a constitutional change that would see the country scrap its agreement with the EU on the free movement of people and make domestic politicians solely responsible for immigration policy. The ultra-conservative Swiss People’s party (SVP) on Tuesday have 18 months to collect the 100,000 signatures they need to hold a vote, before the parliament and government consider it, perhaps alongside counter proposals. (£)
Business & Economy
The impact from the dramatic collapse of Carillion has started to ripple through to thousands of the firm’s suppliers, as subcontractors who are owed money from the construction company have begun laying off workers in the face of escalating pressure from their banks. Andrew Adonis, the former Labour transport minister, has likened the threat to the sector as a near replica of the banking crisis.
The pension fund trustees overseeing a £1 billion deficit in the retirement schemes of GKN have warned that any potential bidders for the engineering company must come up with plans to mend the funding deficit first. The move by the trustees to put themselves at the centre of any takeover deal comes after a £7 billion takeover approach by Melrose was rejected. (£)
Google has opened its third office in China, despite its signature search engine remaining blocked in the country. The new office in Shenzhen was opened to no fanfare and is reported to be an example that the technology giant continues to grow its hardware and ad businesses in the country. The company’s search engine has been blocked since 2010. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed down 0.3% yesterday. However, despite closing down 13.21 points at 7,755.93, it still remains very close to a record high.
On the more UK-focused FTSE 250, an expansion of 90 new stores in 2017 has helped Greggs deliver a 7.4% boost in total sales over the last year, the 17th consecutive quarter of sales growth. This helped shares in the bakery chain close 2.4% higher.
On the strong growth figures, Nicholas Hyett at Hargreaves Lansdown commented that "an ardent Greggs fan who invested £1,000 when the group first listed on the market back in 1984 would today have enough money to binge on around 276,244 of Greggs’ famous sausage rolls. A very healthy return.”
The Dow Jones topped 26,000 for the first time today thanks to upbeat results from UnitedHealth and Citigroup, though it later gave back some of its gains as a pullback in oil prices weighed on energy stocks. German and French markets were also in the black yesterday.
City of London Investment Group
Secure Trust Bank
International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(14:15) Capacity Utilisation (US)
(14:15) Industrial Production (US)
Columns of Note
Writing in The Spectator, James Forsyth says that Donald Tusk’s comments, allied by Jean-Claude Junker’s support, should worry the UK government. Forsyth says that while the prospect of stopping Brexit remains on the table, “there’s very little incentive for them [EU] to think creatively about the future relationship”. (£)
Daniel Finkelstein tackles Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy in today’s Times. He believes that the Labour leader’s views are “often distorted and mistaken” but has consistently held these beliefs for over four decades and is unlikely to change his opinion if he becomes prime minister. He concludes by saying that the Conservatives must take this world view seriously if they are to tackle it effectively. (£)
Did you know?
For more than two centuries, Baghdad in Iraq was home to the House of Wisdom, an academy of knowledge that attracted brains from far and wide. From mathematics and astronomy to zoology, the academy was a major centre of research, thought and debate in Muslim Civilisation. One of the greatest libraries in history, it was destroyed in the Mongol invasion, when the thousands of books and manuscripts were thrown in the River Tigris whose brown colour turned black for days as a result of the washing away of the ink used.
House of Commons
International Development – including Topical Questions
Prime Minister’s Question Time
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – remaining stages (Day 2)
House of Lords
Warning from the US Federal Aviation Administration that British aviation manufacturers may have to pay the US to export their products after Brexit - Lord Chidgey
Providing support for migrants and refugees in hotspots in the Greek islands over the winter - Baroness Massey of Darwen
Trade talks from April 2019 with countries having existing trade agreements registered with the EU - Lord Dykes
Portfolio Questions: Education and Skills
Scottish Labour Party Debate: Public Services
House of Commons
Transport - including Topical Questions
Debate on a motion on treatment of SMEs by RBS Global Restructuring Group - Clive Lewis
House of Lords
Avoiding limitations on UK sovereignty in negotiating trade agreements with other states after the UK leaves the EU - Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Effect of the foreign policy of the USA on inter-state relationships around the world, particularly in light of the UK’s changing relationships with EU countries - Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
First Minister's Questions
Scottish Government Debate: Building a Connected Scotland: Tackling Social Isolation and Loneliness Together