19 March 2019

Scott Reid

19 March 2019

Good morning,

Far be it from me to chunter from a sedentary position, but I can’t be the only one to notice the irony of a UK government hellbent on ‘taking back control’ for the British parliament, only for its efforts to be blown up by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Yesterday, John Bercow ruled against the government’s ability  to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement for a third Meaningful Vote unless it was substantially different. Perhaps more ominously for the government is that the principle Bercow chose for his case dates back to 1604 – one year before Guy Fawkes literally tried to blow up Parliament.
Quoting at length from the 24th edition of Erskine May – the parliamentary rule book – Bercow said that ‘a motion or an amendment which is the same in substance as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session’. In short, if the government thought that it could quickly pass its Brexit deal ahead of an EU summit on Thursday in order to extract a shorter extension to article 50, it ain’t gonna’ happen.
In somewhat predictable fashion, Westminster has descended into cries of “constitutional crisis!” The latest rumour this morning is that a stand-off might emerge later in the day, seeing the government lodge the vote anyway, and daring the Speaker to rule it out of order. Others have called for the nuclear option, pointing out that if the government has the votes for “MV3”, couldn’t it simply summon a corresponding majority to overrule the Speaker?
The complexities of the British parliamentary procedure continue to astound. Yet far from ceasing to function, I reckon that Britain’s famously uncodified constitution is simply working overtime, making up the slack for what is instead actually a political crisis.
In the unfolding drama, Bercow’s interventions have become the stuff of legend (or perhaps horror, depending on your take). Of the former, some friends in Germany – sharing in no small dose of schadenfreude, I gather – tell me that they’ve designed a drinking game in which you forfeit every time the Speaker shouts “ORDUUUUHHHHH!”
And with news like yesterday - let alone the fact that Brexit is supposed to be just nine days away and a deal remains to be agreed - I don’t think it’ll be too long before onlookers in the UK take to drink either.


Dutch police have arrested a 37-year old Turkish man after a tram shooting left three people dead and five more injured in the city of Utrecht yesterday. Goken Tanis was detained in the aftermath of the shooting as the main suspect. Whilst police have not discounted terror as a motive, they also said yesterday that a break-up or family row were being considered as alternatives.
President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique has said that up to 1,000 people may have died in the wake of Cyclone Idai. The storm made landfall near the port city of Beira on Thursday with winds of up to 106 mph, but aid teams only reached the city on Sunday. Whilst the official death toll in Mozambique currently stands at 84, and is at least 180 in South Africa, the numbers are expected to increase.
Singapore, Paris and Hong Kong have been jointly ranked as the world’s most expensive city according to the latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey published the Economist Intelligence Unit (EiU). The first three-way convergence in the survey’s history has been attributed to globalisation and a similarity of tastes and shopping patterns. London was the highest-ranked UK city in the survey at 22nd, whilst Caracas, Venezuela, was the least expensive.

Business & Economy

Sky News reports that the building contractor Kier will today appoint Andrew Davies, former leader of Carillion, as its new chief executive. According to city sources, Davies’ appointment was ratified in a board meeting yesterday ahead of Kier’s interim results on Wednesday. Davies previously led Wates Group, also working at BAE Systems before his appointment to Carillion in October 2017.
Sainsbury’s will commit to cutting product prices in order to secure regulatory backing for its proposed merger with Asda. According to people briefed on the process reported by the Financial Times, Sainsbury-Asda will also recalculate the anticipated consumer harm of the deal and the number of store disposals which analysts expect to be between 100 and 150 nationwide. (£)
The US government has warned that the UK’s approach to building 5G mobile infrastructure – including its relationship with Huawei - could put British national security at risk. Speaking to the FT yesterday, senior US officials said that because it depends on updateable software, the UK’s current testing models for 5G security would be surpassed when the frequency is rolled out to the mass market. The move is seen as evidence of growing US pressure on its allies to abandon links with the Chinese telecoms company. (£)


What happened yesterday?

Stocks on the London market made a late-in-the-day jump following Speaker John Bercow’s ruling to bar the government from bringing an unchanged Withdrawal Agreement back to the Commons for a vote this week. Whilst this was helped by a strong performance in the mining sector, the main boost to the FTSE 100 – which finished up 0.98% at 7299.19 points – was a weaker pound; down 0.55% against the US dollar at $1.32 and by 0.53% on the euro at €1.17.
Adding to the government’s woes was housing data from Rightmove, which showed annual house prices in the UK down 0.8% in March, contrasting a 0.2% increase in February. London was the main drag on the UK-wide market, with prices in the capital down 1.1%. Housebuilders suffered on the news alongside the weaker pound, with Persimmon (down 0.44%), Berkeley (down 0.88%), Taylor Wimpey (down 0.22%) and Bovis Homes (down 1.57%) all down.
Copper price gains boosted miners to top the day’s gainers, meanwhile, with Rio Tinto (up 2.79%), BHP (up 2.90%), Anglo American (up 2.07%), Antofagasta (up 1.73%) and Glencore (up 1.75%) all finishing in the black.
Among smaller caps, shares in shoe retailer Footasylum surged 74% as it agreed to be bought by larger rival JD Sports Fashion for 82.5p per share in cash, around half the price at which it floated in late 2017.

Judges Scientific          
JPJ Group        
Kape Technologies      
Learning Technologies Group  
Mortgage Advice Bureau (Holdings)      
Mears Group
NAHL Group
Ocean Outdoor Limited NPV (DI)          
Taptica International (DI)
Team17 Group
Tribal Group
wood plc
SCS Group
Trading Announcements         
Ocado Group

BB Healthcare Trust (Red)
Blue Prism Group
Sureserve Group
Chenavari Toro Income Fund Limited NPV
UK Economic Announcements
(08.30) Halifax House Price Index
UK Economic Announcements
(09.30) Claimant Count Rate
(09.30) Retail Sales
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) - Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) - Current Situation
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) - Economic Sentiment
(12:30) Building Permits (US)
(12:30) Housing Starts (US)
(14:00) Factory Orders (US)

Columns of Note

Juliet Samuel comments in The Telegraph that the proposed mega-merger of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank is a disaster waiting to happen. Whilst consolidation may on the surface offer the solution to a saturated European banking market, Samuel suggests that the deal instead betrays short-termist thinking by the banks’ chiefs; a tie-up would allow DB a quick-fix to meet its equity-raising targets, whilst also satisfying German political need for a flagship bank brand. (£)

A year on from the last Italian general election, Roberto Saviano writes in the Guardian to highlight perceived threats to Italian democracy. Whilst approval ratings of the populist Lega-5 Star government remain ostensibly high, Saviano says concern is raised over rising terrorist incidents and the number of racist-motivated attacks. He notes an especially worrying change in the 5 Star coalition partner, which has ended its practice of airing “open-door” government meetings.

Did you know?

Bubble wrap was invented in 1957 by engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Fielding and Chavannes sealed two shower curtains together, creating a smattering of air bubbles, which they originally tried to sell as wallpaper.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Fracking (Seismic Activity) - Lee Rowley
Draft Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Steve Brine
Draft Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Steve Brine
Draft Novel Food (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Steve Brine
Select Committee Appointments
Local authority responsibilities under the Children's Act 1989 - Kate Osamor
House of Lords
Oral questions
Mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to help prevent foetal abnormalities - Lord Rooker
Decline in the insect population - Baroness Boycott
Improving transparency of costs and options for holiday accommodation - Baroness Doocey
Impact of proposed tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit on farming in the UK - Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill - Committee stage - Viscount Trenchard
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill - Third reading - Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford
Offensive Weapons Bill - Third reading - Baroness Williams of Trafford
Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) (No. 2) Bill - Committee stage and remaining stages - Lord Duncan of Springbank
Scottish Parliament
Stage 3 Proceedings
Damages (investment Returns and Periodical Payments) (Scotland) Bill
Committee Announcements
Members’ Business
Scottish Tourism Month 2019 – Stuart McMillan
House of Commons
Oral questions
International Development (including Topical Questions)
Prime Minister's Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (Eligibility) - Kirsty Blackman
Draft Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - Mr Damian Hinds
Draft Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention and Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) and (Levy Account: Basis of Distribution) Regulations 2019 - Rishi Sunak
Flags (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Karen Bradley
Exports from small businesses - Jack Brereton
House of Lords
Oral questions
Preventing destitution among newly recognised refugees - Baroness Lister of Burtersett
Meetings scheduled after 29 March 2019 between Ministers and representatives of the EU - Lord Beith
Initiatives the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has put in place to strengthen bilateral relations with individual EU member states after Brexit - Baroness Smith of Newnham
Changes to outsourcing of public services as a result of Interserve entering into administration - Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Trade Bill - Third reading - Baroness Fairhead
The economy in the light of the Spring Statement - Lord Young of Cookham
Scottish Parliament
Portfolio Questions

Scottish Labour Party Debate
Student Support
Free bus travel for Under-25s
Members’ Business
Prevalence of Crohn’s and Colitis in Scotland – Pauline McNeill