19 December


19 December

Good Morning,

“American is coming back, and American is coming back strong.”
Such was President Trump’s message to the world as he delivered a new National Security Strategy yesterday, eschewing his predecessor’s action on climate change for much bolder talk on the use of nuclear weapons in preventing ‘non-nuclear strategic attacks’. The latter represents a new category of defence, signalling a step-change in the Nuclear Posture Review expected in the next few weeks. The president also confirmed his intention to continue the push for denuclearization in North Korea.
For onlookers, this might have been just another iteration of ‘America First’, allowing Trump to rail against the enemy abroad and give himself a hearty pat on the back on how well he was getting on with the job. He promised to fortify borders, rip up unfair trade agreements, and rebuild America’s military might through what the president (incorrectly) described as a record in defence spending - $700 billion for 2018.
There was, however, a coolly calculated edge to the president’s rhetoric. The speech was a deliberate attempt to evoke the angriest days of the Cold War era, which Trump made no qualms in painting as the golden era of American prosperity. ‘After being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned”, the president said; ‘We recognise that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivalled power is the most certain means of defence”. Striking a Reagan-like figure may not have been the result, but it was certainly the intention.
After a testing few weeks, Trump sorely needed this return to home turf. As usual though, confusion reigned. The strategy directly contradicts the defence authorization act from the Pentagon the president signed into law just this week, calling climate change a “direct threat to the national security of the United States”.
Is this a fresh gaffe by the president or just renewed conflict between the institutions of Washington DC? Either way, it looks like pretty familiar territory to me.


South Africa’s ruling African National Congress yesterday elected businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa, as its candidate to take on scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma paving the way for a tough anti-corruption push in the African nation.  Although Zuma is due to remain president of South Africa until elections in 2019, Ramaphosa has already begun campaign manoeuvres, signalling a programme of market-friendly economic policy and a move away from the mine nationalisations and white land grabs favoured by Zuma.
US military personnel opened fire after a British man drove the checkpoint of the American airbase, RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk yesterday. The incident, which has not been linked to terrorism, led to a temporary lockdown with the 44-year old suspect now taken into local policy custody. The base is home to 3,000 US military staff, as well as 350 US civilians and 650 Ministry of Defense employees and contractors, and was last year the site of a planned IS attack.
At least three people have been killed and more than 100 left injured after an Amtrak train derailed onto a motorway in the US state of Washington. The train was making its inaugural trip on a new line roughly 40 miles south of Seattle, travelling at a speed of 81mph – 2mph above its scheduled top speed. Officials reported that an object strike on the rail may be the cause of the derailment.
Two guests are reported to have died in a fire at Loch Lomond’s Cameron House Hotel, which has left three others in hospital. More than 200 guests were evacuated from the luxury hotel resort when the alarm was raised at about 06.40 on Monday morning. Police said the hotel, on the banks of Loch Lomond north of  Balloch, Stirlingshire, had been extensively damaged in the main part of the 300 year old mansion, which was refurbished by new US owners KSL Capital Partners less than a year ago.

Business & Economy

The global economy is set to grow at its fastest rate since 2011, while the UK is predicted to fall behind the curve, according to PWC. The accountancy firm said the world’s GDP will grow by almost 4 per cent in 2018 in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), bolstered by growth in the US, Eurozone and Asia. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are likely to be the main drivers of Eurozone growth targets of 2.5 per cent, while Britain will lag on just 1.4 per cent.
The toy retailer, Toys R Us, faces the loss of all its 3200 jobs in the UK after the state-backed Pension Protection Fund (PPF) refused to support its insolvency programme. The warning comes after Toys R Us failed to satisfy the PPR’s demands for a £9m investment into its pension fund, which will also involve the closure of at least 26 loss-making stores, and cutting up to 800 jobs.
KPMG has cut its partner salary by 10 per cent to £519,000 as poor results showed the accountancy firm’s profits drop by a fifth. Buffeted by its recent involvement in the Gupta scandal and its involvements in the UK audit of HBOS a decade ago, KPMG has also seen its competitive edge decline against the other ‘big four’ accountancy firms, PWC, Deloitte and EY, which also saw increased profits and revenues in their latest trading updates.


What happened yesterday?

Saved by a surge in trading in the last hour of yesterday’s trading, the FTSE 100 sat at 7537.01, up 0.62% by close of business.
Housebuilders were among the day’s biggest risers, with Barrett Developments and Persimmon up 1.9% each. Among the day’s losers were spread betting stocks after the European Securities and Market Authorities proposed curbs to the industry’s marketing and distribution practices late on Friday. IG Group finished down 9.28%, as did CMC Markets (-12.52%) and Plus500 (-10.81%).
The pound finished up 0.53% on the dollar at $1.33 breaking a two-week losing streak as traders sold the currency ahead of a controversial vote in the US Congress over a the president’s proposed tax overhaul. Sterling also squeeked into positivity territory with the euro, up 0.12% to close at €1.14.

Kromek Group
Trading Announcements
Pjsc Magni.s Share Price (MMK)
Blancco Technology Group
DotDigital Group
GBGI Limited
Northern Venture Trust
URU Metals Ltd. (DI)

Region REIT Limited
International Economic Announcements
(08:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(08:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(08:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(12:30) Building Permits (US)
(12:30) Housing Starts (US)
(13:30) Current Account (US)


Columns of Note

As Brexit Britain considers which industries it might lead in future, Matt Ridley suggests in The Times we might look closer at electronic cigarettes – or ‘vaping’ – where Britain is already the world’s greatest consumer and manufacturer. Ridley comments that regulation should not get in the way of the practice’s economic and health benefits, providing a model for other industries.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Janet Daley comments that democracy – or at least discussion of it – has been the real beneficiary in the UK during the highs-and-lows of 2017. Unlike revolutionary republics such as France and America, Britain’s traditionally empirical and pragmatic political discourse has been forced to reckon with its underlying (if abstract) concepts and values.

Did you know?

According to the Royal Statistical Society, the international statistic of the year is 69. Among other things, this is the average number of Americans killed in lawnmower accidents each year, compared with the two killed by immigrant Islamic terrorists. 21 are killed by ‘armed toddlers’, and 11,737 by other Americans.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
Health (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) - Sir Henry Bellingham
Finance (No.2) Bill - Committee Stage (Day 2) - Committee of the whole House
Motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism
Motion to approve European documents relating to the Schengen information system
Roadchef Employees Benefit Trust - Neil Gray
House of Lords
Report of the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House - Lord Burns
Oral Questions
Reviewing Government policy on capping domestic energy prices - Lord Naseby
Reviewing vaping regulations - Viscount Ridley
Supporting women to use the legal system to challenge sexual harassment in the workplace - Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
Addressing increasing homelessness and demand for temporary accommodation - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
Report of the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House - continued - Lord Burns
Scottish Parliament
Urgent Question
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the impact of shutting down the Forties pipeline running through Aberdeenshire – Mike Rumbles
Topical Questions
Scottish Government Debate
Celebrating our Future – Scotland’s Year of Young People
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Members’ Business
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Tackling Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Rhoda Grant
House of Commons
Oral questions
Northern Ireland
Prime Minister's Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Immigration Detention of Victims of Torture and Other Vulnerable People (Safeguards) - Joan Ryan
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 8) - Committee of the whole House - Mr David Davis
Government policy on local authority housing - Dr David Drew
House of Lords
Oral questions
Government response to the Parliamentary Advisory Group report on Carbon Capture and Storage - Lord Oxburgh
Situation in Syria - Baroness Cox
Advice from the Attorney General on the revocability of Article 50(2) and the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU - Lord Thomas of Gresford
Report from the EU Committee Brexit 'justice for families, individuals and businesses?' - Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
Report from the Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 - Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
Report from the Science and Technology Committee 'Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?' - The Earl of Selborne
Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions
Finance and the Constitution
Economy, Jobs and Fair Work
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Members’ Business
Heads Up for Harriers Project and the Role of Species Champions – Mairi Gougeon