Just David Davis’ luck.
Right at the moment the Brexit secretary can celebrate arguably his biggest victory to date in securing a transition deal for the UK once it leaves the EU (£), a pesky Channel 4 documentary about electoral interference at Cambridge Analytica comes along to hog the day’s headlines.
But then again, is the government’s deal as “breakthrough” as the hype would have us believe?
Sure, there were some wins for the government. Under the agreement announced yesterday by Davis and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, business will be reassured that Britain will remain subject to the rules of the single market for a 21-month period after it formally leaves on March 29, 2019. But, crucially, the UK will also be able to negotiate its own independent trade deals during that time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the deal represents a fudge of proportions to match the rest of the government’s sizeable sweetie tin. EU citizens moving to Britain during the transition will receive full residency rights as they do now, whilst no agreement was reached on the Northern Irish border, presumably kicking the can further down the road on what is still the government’s biggest headache in negotiations. This could spell disaster for keeping the DUP on side, as hidden in the draft treaty was an agreement that Northern Ireland will remain subject to the rules of the single market and customs union should no further solution be found.
In Scotland, Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives called foul on the government’s decision to back down on its insistence that the UK would take back full control of its territorial fishing waters after Brexit. Under the deal, the common fisheries policy will instead continue to apply during the transition, which several Scottish Tory MPs have already threatened to vote down. Presumably the government had bigger fish to fry on the day.
The deal will now be put to European leaders as they meet for a Council summit later this week, meaning Davis’ chance to celebrate could be short-lived. This is a last-chance saloon deal after all; under the current timetable, Britain and the EU need to have all negotiation strands agreed by October – including at least the basis of the future relationship – if the parliaments are able to ratify the deal in time.
A Channel 4 documentary about Cambridge Analytica has revealed further evidence of data abuse and electoral interference, with a warrant now sought for a legal investigation. Filming suggested the data analysis firm, which worked for the Leave campaign during the EU referendum, would offer bribes to smear opponents, working secretly through front companies and subcontractors. Alexander Nix, chief executive at Cambridge Analytica, was also filmed boasting about using “beautiful Ukrainian girls” to entrap the political opponents of clients. The revelations stem from an Observer article which reported a whistleblower’s claims that the firm had obtained the Facebook data of 50 million users without their consent.
President Trump has suggested US lawmakers should enforce the death penalty as part of new plans to tackle opipoid addiction in the US. Speaking in New Hampshire, the president pointed to a 28% increase in overdose-related deaths in the US last year, saying: “This scourge of drug addiction in America will stop.” Under federal law, crimes trafficking more than 600g of heroin or making more than $20 million from drugs each year are eligible for the death penalty, and according to a 1970s Supreme Court ruling must also involve homicide. (£)
A self-driving Uber car has killed a women in Arizona in what is believed to be the first fatality involving an autonomously-driven vehicle. Uber said that the SUV involved in the crash was being tested in autonomous mode with a safety driver sitting behind the wheel. The taxi app firm has now suspended its fleet of self-driving cars, which it has been testing since 2016 in cities across the US and Canada.
Business & Economy
Shares at Facebook have fallen by $36.7 billion in US trading following revelations that data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica mined the personal data of 50 million users to create targeted political profiles during the 2016 US presidential election. The fall, equivalent to 8.8% of Facebook’s shares, also hit other large tech companies and was the largest drop the company had seen in four years. UK, US and EU lawmakers have now announced investigations into the firm, which was also employed by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (£)
The FTSE is likely to miss out on the listing of Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, following reports that the firm will opt for a domestic share sale. Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, is reported to be concerned at the legal difficulties of listing the firm internationally, while higher oil prices have also reduced the urgency to privatise since the idea was first floated two years ago. The deal is valued at more than £1 trillion, making it the largest flotation in market history. (£)
Oil & Gas UK has announced up to 16 developments will start in the North Sea this year as a result of £5 billion worth of investment in new capital projects. According to the industry group’s 2018 Business Outlook, North Sea oil production is expected to increase by 5% this year– 20% higher than five years ago – whilst unit operating costs have also halved since 2014 with companies expected to generate their highest post-tax cash flow in seven years. (£)
London stocks fell sharply as the pound rallied on the back of a draft Brexit deal, which showed evidence of smoother negotiations between the UK and EU than investors had expected. By close of trading, the FTSE 100 finished down 1.69% at 7042.93, as the pound rose 0.71% against the dollar to $1.40 and 0.28% against the euro to €1.14.
In company news, bookmakers William Hill (up 4.21%), Ladbrokes Coral (up 2.87%) and Paddy Power Betfair (up 0.24%) all rallied on news that the Gambling Commission had recommended that the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals be cut to a maximum of £30 for non-slot machines, and £2 for slot machines. The recommendations are significantly more generous than the £2 maximum stake both all machines previously suggested by the government.
Banking giant Barclays was the day’s big winner, however, jumping 3.58% after Sherborne announced it had purchased shares equivalent to 5% voting rights, making it Barclay’s fourth largest investor. Mining traders Glencore (down 4.22%) and Anglo American (down 4.2%) suffered the worst of the day’s losses, as iron ore was hit by heavy selling pressure against a backdrop of continuing tensions on the international trade and US political fronts.
Charter Court Financial Services Group
Caledonia Mining Corporation (DI)
DP Eurasia N.V. (DI)
Frutarom Industries Ltd GDR (Reg S)
The Gym Group
Mortgage Advice Bureau (Holdings)
TI Fluid Systems
Wood Group (John)
Blancco Technology Group
Ceres Power Holdings
Electronic Data Processing
Blue Prism Group
International Personal Finance
UK Economic Announcements
(09.30) Consumer Price Index
(09.30) Producer Price Index
(09.30) Retail Price Index
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07.00) Producer Price Index (GER)
Columns of note
John Thornhill comments in the FT that politicians must now act to reinforce consumer safety online in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal. According to Thornhill, a lax approach to internet safety has perpetuated the worst of the internet’s excesses – fake news, identity theft, and political polarization. Thornhill points to the German and EU experience of recent data protection legislation, suggesting governments make online publishers legally – and financially – responsible for the content they administer. (£)
Writing in The Times, Rachel Sylvester suggests Labour moderates may not be able to bide their time much longer within the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Russian poisonings in Salisbury. Commenting that moderate MPs had until now believed that their best hope to exert influence was from within the official opposition than as a separate grouping or party, Sylvester suggests several senior figures would now find it impossible to campaign for a man who they believed was a threat to national security. (£)
Did you know?
The word denim comes the French ‘de Nîmes’, or Nîmes, a French town where the fabric is said to have originated in the mid-19th century. Similarly, the word ‘jeans’ comes from the French word for Genoa, Italy (Gênes), where the first denim trousers were created, eventually rising to worldwide fame with the launch of the blue jean by Levi Strauss & Co in 1873.
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