19 July 2018

Daisy Penman

19 July 2018

Good morning, 

For the second time this week, a White House spokesperson has been forced to clarify President Trump’s comments on Russian election meddling, prompting a cross-party plan to freeze the Commander in Chief out by empowering intelligence chiefs to trigger sanctions  against a foreign nation found to have interfered in US elections.

 This is but the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Trump administration, following the widely condemned press conference between the president and Vladimir Putin, during which he seemed to throw his support behind the Russian leader. When the lights cut out as he later attempted to retrace his steps by explaining that he “misspoke”, you wondered if his (and our) week could get any worse. .

 Increasingly, the day-to-day running of this administration resembles a script from a world Trump is more accustomed to - reality TV. We have an eclectic cast of attention-seeking characters,  trying their best to take control as things fall apart around them. The American people – and the rest of the world – are the audience; watching slack-jawed as the protagonist struggles to create any semblance of order amongst the mounting chaos.

It’s tempting to reduce it all to that as we watch from the comfort of a different country, poking fun at the zany plot lines and flicking to another channel when things become a bit too far-fetched to believe. 

 But spare a thought for those who are part of the action and can’t switch off – the lawyers at the border fighting to reunite families, the targets of hate crimes fuelled by the President’s comments.  You have to assume that finding humour amidst the trauma won’t come as easily to them.

News 

Reports this morning indicate that police have identified the suspected perpetrators of the novichok attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. It is believed that several people were involved and a source close to the investigators said they are “sure” the suspects were Russian.

The new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, will meet with the EU’s chief negotiator for the first time today, facing  questions about the UK’s current negotiating position amid the turmoil in No. 10 and the will of the government to work with the EU towards the final exit deal. While Raab is in Brussels, Theresa May will be making her first visit to the Irish border since the referendum. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has said recently that his government is preparing contingency plans for the “unlikely event of a no-deal hard Brexit.”

A victory in court for Sir Cliff Richard yesterday means criminal suspects will be able to block the media from reporting their arrests, legal experts say. Sir Cliff had taken the BBC to court following its coverage of a raid on his home in 2014, which he claimed had invaded his privacy and ruined his reputation, despite it not leading to an arrest. The court awarded Richard initial damages of £210,000, but the BBC is expected to appeal the decision.

Turkey is expanding its terror laws as the country emerges from a two-year state of emergency, empowering the police and cracking down on dissent. Following the failed coup of 2016, the government imposed emergency rule, which has been renewed seven times since and restricts public gatherings as well as allowing the government to rule without consulting parliament. Under new legislation being considered, suspects can be detained by police for up to 12 days without charge, district governors will be able to restrict public areas on security grounds, and demonstrations will be banned on a broader range of pretexts than currently exists.

Business & Economy 

Google was charged a record fine of £3.8 billion yesterday after the European Commission ruled that Google’s contracts with handset makers breached competition law. At present, handset makers are not charged to build their devices with Google’s Android platform, but they iyare obliged to place Google’s search bar at the centre of the home screen and display Google Play and Chrome prominently. Google says that this ruling may result in charges for handset makers using its technology, which may drive up the price of smartphones and tablets.

Sir Paul Tucker, former deputy governor of the Bank of England, has called for the Financial Conduct Authority to reform or be stripped of its independence. Tucker also questioned the power of Ofcom, the media regulator, and the “implausible” unanimity of the Bank’s financial policy committee, which oversees commercial lenders. Tucker also said the FCA does not have a clear remit, gives one individual too much power and sets its own budget - all attributes which make it a flawed system. His comments came as he was promoting his new book, which criticises the power given to technocrats and the lack of proper political oversight. 

Gaucho, the Argentine restaurant group, is preparing to file for administration,putting 1,500 jobs at risk. The chain had been in talks with potential buyers, including former Pizza Express backer Hugh Osmond and several investment companies, but on Wednesday it filed a notice of intent to appoint Deloitte as administrator, which buys the company 10 days’ protection from creditors.

Markets 

What happened yesterday?

Most indices finished the day on a positive note, with the FTSE 100 up 0.65% at 7,676.28 and the Dow Jones was also up 0.32% at 12,199.29. The pound was down against the Euro by 0.05%.

The dollar continued to rise as upbeat comments by Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell provided further reassurance on the prospects for the US economy, underpinning expectations for further US interest rate rises. 

Russia is no longer one of the biggest holders of US Treasuries, after selling its holdings following international criticism of the country. The sale of $14 billion long-term Treasuries in May means Russia’s holdings have fallen from almost $100 billion in March to $14.9 billion at the end of May. The sale came as the US imposed sanctions against Moscow in April and the investigation into Russian meddling in US elections is still ongoing.

The sterling sank to its lowest level against the dollar in 10 months after UK inflation readings for June fell short of expectations, staying at 2.4%. Wages remain above inflation and growth stands at 2.7%.

Finals
Sports Direct International
Versarien

Interims
Breedon Group
moneysupermarket.com Group
Nichols
Unilever

Trading Announcements
Anglo American
AO World
Babcock International Group
Big Yellow Group
DotDigital Group
Euromoney Institutional Investor
Hilton Food Group
Mothercare
SSE

AGMs
AO World
Babcock International Group
Braveheart Investment Group
Big Yellow Group
Caledonia Investments
Edinburgh Inv Trust
Halma
Mothercare
Personal Assets Trust
Royal Mail
SSE

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Retail Sales

Int. Economic Announcements
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Philadelphia Fed Index (US)

Columns of Note 

In The Times, David Aaronovitch argues against stunting our scientific growth through fear of eugenics. He references the new report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, entitled “Genome Editing and Human Reproduction: social and ethical issues”, which recommends a debate on the ethics of gene-editing . Aaronovitch compares fears of government-led genome editing in the past to fears now of individual desires to create the “perfect” child, and points out that genome editing could open up possibilities of reducing rates of hereditary diseases.

In The Guardian, Martin Kettle takes an in-depth look at the fallout in the government surrounding Brexit, analysing the key votes in recent days and the true meaning behind Boris Johnson’s resignation statement to MPs. Kettle agrees with Ian Blackford’s claim that Theresa May is “in office but not in power”, describing the prime minister as a prisoner trapped by her party’s divisions, unable to command the Commons, and is at odds with the EU.

Did you know?

New Zealand is believed to be the first country to adopt a time zone. In 1868, the then-British colony officially adopted a standard time to be observed throughout the colony. It was based on the longitude 172°30’ East of Greenwich, or 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of GMT.

Parliamentary highlights 

TODAY

House of Commons
Oral questions
Exiting the European Union (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom

House of Lords
Oral questions
Appoint an Ambassador on Freedom of Religion or Belief - Baroness Berridge
 
Ensuring people offering their properties for short-term or holiday lets have a legal right to do so - Baroness Gardner of Parkes
 
Granting powers to Transport for the North to manage all Northern railway infrastructure - Lord Scriven
 
Britain’s place in the annual ranking of global broadband speed and the impact of low broadband speeds - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
 
Debate
Value to the United Kingdom of higher education as an export - Lord Norton of Louth
 
Impact of referendums on parliamentary democracy in the UK - Lord Higgins

Scottish Parliament
Recess until 5th September

TOMORROW

House of Commons

No business scheduled

House of Lords

Legislation