It feels like the last time we heard from Vladimir Putin, he was fervently assuring us that two conspicuous Russian clock-enthusiasts visiting Salisbury had absolutely nothing to do with the Novichok attack.
But Vlad is back. After spending some time watching quietly from the sidelines as his global peers collectively implode with Brexit blunders and trade war trauma, the Russian leader has returned with a stark warning for Donald Trump.
The latest bombshell – potentially quite literally – came from his annual state of the nation address.
He started by criticising Washington’s alleged plans to deploy intermediate-range missiles to the European continent following the US withdrawal from a bilateral trade agreement banning the weapons. The move would put the missiles within a 10-minute flight of Moscow. And considering Trump’s over-zealous finger would be on the button, Putin is right to be perturbed.
But his response was a touch on the extreme side: “Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons that can be used not only against those territories posing a direct threat to us, but also against those territories where the decision-making centres are,” alluding of course to the United States.
Basically, the Kremlin would deploy weapons capable of hitting US targets before any ballistic missile could possibly reach Russia, according to Putin. To make this dream a reality, they’re actively developing new hypersonic weapons and a nuclear-powered underwater drone.
The comments are a marked escalation in rhetoric, particularly considering Putin promised only a “symmetrical” response to Trump’s move to suspend US participation in the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty earlier this month.
But while the world’s great muscle men continue their missile measuring competition, in Britain women are rising to the top.
The RAF has appointed its first female three-star officer, the most senior woman to have served in the armed forces. Engineer Sue Gray has been promoted to air marshal and will become director general of the Defence Safety Authority, which investigates military accidents.
To my mind, this seems much more like true military progress than a decades-old arms race and a squabble over where to put ballistic missiles.
Who run the world? Girls (soon, hopefully).
Labour and the Conservatives are bracing themselves for more resignations in the coming days. Members of the new Independent Group expect more MPs to join them, as discontent brews over the direction of Britain’s two big parties. The news comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for defecting MPs to “resign and put themselves up for election”.
The drone attack that brought Gatwick airport to a standstill before Christmas is believed to have been an “inside job”, according to Whitehall sources. Police suspect a current or former employee to be behind the incident which grounded aircraft over three days and affected 140,000 passengers. (£)
At least 70 people have died in a fire in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. The blaze engulfed apartment buildings which also housed chemical warehouses, trapping dozens of people as highly combustible chemicals erupted in flames. The fire was eventually brought under control after 12 hours.
Business & Economy
According to the housing, communities and local government committee, city centres are in danger of becoming ghost towns due to changing shopping habits. MPs called on the government to set out a level playing field for high street retailers by raising taxes for online giants such as Amazon. MPs also called for lower business rates and more regeneration in town centres.
Uber will cut food delivery fees to compete with competitors Deliveroo and Just Eat. The company’s food delivery arm Uber Eats will cap the fees it charges to restaurants at 30 per cent of the value of an order and roll out a “marketplace” in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands to capture restaurants that want to be listed but make their own deliveries. (£)
Analysts have warned that Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe is fighting for his job. The competition and markets authority warned yesterday that Sainsbury’s proposed merger with Asda could force the supermarket to sell hundreds of stores in order to address concerns about higher prices and less choice for shoppers. Sainsbury’s shares plunged 18.6%, wiping £1.2 billion off its value.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed up yesterday following positive mining results and Lloyds Bank earnings results. It ended 0.7% higher, led by Scottish energy, engineering and technical services firm Wood, which rose 5.8% after Bank of America analysts gave its stock a “buy” rating.
The FTSE 250 ended 0.7% ahead with Acacia Mining topping the winners following reports the firm has settled its tax dispute with the Tanzanian government.
US-China trade talks continue to progress in Washington and US benchmarks were flat in anticipation of news from the meeting. Wall Street stocks eventually closed slightly higher after Federal Reserve minutes further signalled the US central bank's cautious approach to monetary policy. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.2%, while the Nasdaq edged up 0.1%.
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.14% at $1.30 against the dollar. Against the euro it was down 0.06% at €1.15.
BAE Systems, Barclays, Georgia Capital, Centrica, Kaz Minerals, Macfarlane Group, Morgan Sindall Group, Hellenic Telecom Industries SA ADS, Playtech, Rathbone Brothers, Relx plc, RPS Group, Serco Group, TBC Bank Group, Telecom Egypt SAE GDS (Regs), Vitec Group
Hellenic Telecom Industries SA ADS
Arbuthnot Banking Group
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Public Sector Net Borrowing
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Philadelphia Fed Index (US)
(15:00) Existing Home Sales (US)
Columns of Note
If you’re in the market for a pick-me-up, the BBC has a heart-warming story this week. A customer’s letter of appreciation to the seller of a VHS machine went viral on social media prompting a stream of stories about acts of kindness. The elderly gentleman was so grateful that he was able to watch old videos of his family that he felt the need to reach out with an old-fashioned letter.
James Forsyth comments in The Spectator that Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship leaves him deeply uneasy. Forsyth believes that because Begum grew up here and was educated here, she is British. Saying that she is not allows us, in his view, to “ignore the fact that this girl who went to a British school was radicalised”, removing the blame from our society and letting us dodge the difficult questions we so desperately need to address. (£)
Did you know?
The words “stewardesses” and “tesseradecades” are typed with only the left hand on a standard QWERTY keyboard.
House of Commons
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions)
Church Commissioners, the House of Commons Commission, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission
Business Questions to the Leader of the House of Commons - Andrea Leadsom
Potential Future Free Trade Agreements - Australia, New Zealand, US & Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
Northern Ireland backstop and conditional interpretative declaration - Sir Edward Leigh
House of Lords
Recommendations in the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments report 'Transparency and Accountability in Subordinate Legislation' - Lord Lexden
Implementing the recommendations of the Government report 'GP Partnership Review: Final Report - Baroness Thornton
Recent changes to access to free school meals following the delay to the roll out of Universal Credit - Lord Bassam of Brighton
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill - Committee stage (day 2) - Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford
First Minister's Questions
Members' Business: Delivering Sustainable and Renewable Transportation for Scotland - Jamie Greene MSP
Stage 3 Proceedings: Budget (Scotland) (No.3) Bill
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
No business scheduled.
No business scheduled.