A train company in Japan yesterday delivered a sincere apology to passengers and assured that staff had been given additional training to ensure it doesn’t happen again when a train left twenty seconds early.
This rigorous punctuality is certainly not something that has so far filtered into the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union and, as the turn of the year approaches, the position from the Government continues to be one of confusion and uncertainty.
Brexit Secretary David Davis attempted to give some clarity to their plans last night during a speech at an economic conference in Berlin, saying that the ambition is to achieve a deal that "allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services” and for the economic ties to strengthen once the UK leaves the EU bloc.
However, while Davis was keen to talk about what a future trading relationship will look like, progress remains stalled on the three key issues of citizens' rights, Northern Ireland and the cost of the “divorce bill” that must be resolved before the next phase of talks can begin.
There may be some movement later today when Theresa May meets with Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council in Gothenburg, and it will be hoped that the two leaders will be able to thrash out more detail on each of these. However, the Prime Minister cannot expect to get a free ride, with Tusk prepared to warn her that this second phase – originally expected to begin in October - will be delayed further next month if it is deemed that insufficient progress has been made.
As we approach the five-month anniversary since the talks began, it is going to require one side blinking first on their demands before this critical dialogue can get back on track.
Zimbabwe ‘President’ Robert Mugabe is reportedly refusing to step down immediately, as calls for him to resign intensifies. The 93-year old is currently under house arrest following a military takeover sparked by a power struggle over who would succeed the long-serving leader.
Sajid Javid has said there needs to be a shift in opinion among older people around the supply of new homes, as he warned that more affordable housing was needed in the UK to prevent creating “a rootless generation”. The Communities Secretary said that housebuilding in England was at a ten-year high, but more was needed in order to increase the number of young people who could afford to buy a house. (£)
US Senators have said that Jared Kushner failed to disclose emails he received about WikiLeaks and "a Russian backdoor overture" last year. Kushner, a senior White House aide and son-in-law to Donald Trump, failed initially to disclose the documents last month as part of an ongoing investigation into Russia's alleged election meddling.
Business & Economy
Norway’s $1 trillion fund has revealed its intention to dump its entire holding in oil and gas companies in a $37 billion sell-off, a move that was welcomed by campaign groups but put downward pressure on share prices. By reducing exposure to companies including BP and Royal Dutch Shell, it is hoped that the sovereign wealth fund will be shielded from a permanent drop in the price of crude oil. (£)
America’s largest cable operator and a US telecoms company have separately approached 21st Century Fox about potential combinations with the media company, a week after it emerged that Fox had held similar talks with Walt Disney. The FT reports that the interest by Comcast and Verizon, following Disney’s last week, shows some willingness by Rupert Murdoch to break-up sections of his media empire.
The US Senate has voted in favour of a controversial overhaul of the US tax code that slashes corporate rates. The bill cleared the House 227-205, without Democratic support. Donald Trump called the measure a "big, beautiful Christmas present" for families.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed up 14.33 points yesterday at 7,386.94, with the engineering firm, GKN, making the headlines.
The company’s shares dropped by 4.8% after its soon-to-be chief executive decided to leave the firm. Kevin Cummings had been due to take over the role on 1 January, but GKN said it felt the next stage of its development was "best delivered under alternative leadership".
Elsewhere, shares in Royal Mail fluctuated over the course of the day, closing 1.7% higher. The company warned that its performance in the second half of the year, which takes account of the vital Christmas trading period, could be affected by the "industrial relations environment" as issues over workers' pay and pensions continue to loom large.
On the currency markets, the pound saw a boost of 0.18% against the dollar to $1.3196 and was 0.36% higher against the euro at €1.1211.
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International Economic Announcements
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Columns of Note
Mark Wallace, Executive Editor of ConservativeHome, writes that The Telegraph’s “Brexit mutineers” headline poses a strategic problem for Theresa May’s party. Wallace said the headline backfired given that the 14 accused MPs saw it as a badge of honour, and lessons must be learnt to ensure that similar attacks on supposed allies are prevented.
The FT’s US news editor visits Kentucky to ask if the country will resolve its deep-seated distrust of its news media. In the age of fake news, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson investigates the fall in trust and what it will take for journalists to regain the confidence of the American people. (£)
Did you know?
The very first instance of a newspaper being commissioned was by Julius Caesar in 59BC, and it was a daily list of announcements that was carved into metal or stone and displayed publicly
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