21 March 2019

Scott Reid

21 March 2019

Good morning,

With Westminster having endured another day of Brexit-related implosion, perhaps the most judicious reading of the situation I came across yesterday was a tweet lamenting that we had wasted the word "omnishambles" on a budget that sought to raise VAT on cornish pasties, when all this was yet to come.
Having written to the EU earlier in the day seeking a short extension of our exit date to June 30, the prime minister was met with fury in Westminster as opposition MPs lodged an emergency debate to reprimand her decision. Markedly more resigned in tone, meanwhile, was European Council president Donald Tusk who accepted May’s demands on the condition the Withdrawal Agreement is passed. And so, with the battle lines drawn for a third meaningful vote some time next week, the prime minister addressed the nation from Downing Street last night, positioning herself as on the side of the people, against a frustrating parliament.
That move may have backfired badly. Buttressed by last-minute support from the EU, May is hoping to frame the looming vote as one between her deal or no-deal. But pitching parliament against the people was a risky strategy, and one that has already enraged many of the MPs she will need onside if her deal is to pass.
So if, as looks likely, the PM does lose with her last throw of the dice, does a no-deal exit beckon? Not necessarily. Tusk may have been silent on the prospect of a longer extension yesterday, but that doesn’t mean the EU27 couldn’t meet for another emergency summit to approve one before next Thursday. How exactly we might get there in just under a week, however, is foggy at best.
Good job, then, that we haven’t spent exactly 1000 days since the referendum bickering in order to make up our minds in time. Cornish pasty, anyone?


New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced a ban on all semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following a shooting six days ago. Ardern said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, offering gun owners the opportunity to “sell” their arms to the government at an estimated cost of $100 million to $200 million. Ardern has also encouraged New Zealanders not to use the name of the gunman in symbolic protest and to deny him the oxygen of publicity.
The largest grouping in the European Parliament has suspended the party of Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban over his government’s defiance of EU policies, including inciting anti-immigrant sentiment. The suspension from the centre-right European People’s Party will exclude Orban from meetings with other European heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, and from making nominations to European bodies.
Britain is one of only three countries to become “happier” in the last three years according to an annual United Nations index measuring wellbeing. Factors including strong generosity towards charitable causes, a robust welfare and social support system, and low corruption saw Britain ranked 15th, up from 19th in 2016. Finland was ranked as the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark and Norway. South Sudan received the lowest score. (£)

Business & Economy

The European Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for blocking rival online search advertisers under anti-trust laws. The case accuses Google of abusing its market dominance by restricting third-party rivals from displaying search ads between 2006 and 2016. Last year, the EU competition authority hit Google with a record €4.34bn fine for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals.
The US Federal Reserve does not expect to raise interest rates on the dollar for the rest of 2019. Following a two-day meeting in Washington DC, the Fed’s monetary policy committee voted unanimously to keep the US interest rate range between 2.25% and 2.5%. It attributed its caution to slower anticipated economic growth.
Toyota will begin building its new Suzuki car model in Derbyshire from 2020, the car manufacturer has announced. Although the move will not lead to further jobs or investment, Toyota said it confirmed the company’s commitment to the UK automotive sector. (£)


What happened yesterday?

Theresa May’s intention to seek a short delay to the UK’s exit from the EU sent the pound into a spin on Wednesday, but was unable to stem losses on the London market. By close of play, the FTSE 100 was down 0.45% at 7,291.01 points, with sterling down by 0.66% against the US dollar at $1.32 and by 0.64% on the euro at €1.16.
In the background were new ONS figures showing the consumer price index including housing costs remain at 1.8% in February – unchanged from the previous month. Although the index charted modest rises for food, alcohol and tobacco, analysts were relatively cool on the news, believing it to reinforce the Bank of England’s current monetary policy trajectory.
In corporate news, miners suffered amid worries about the US-China trade war and weaker copper and iron ore prices, with Rio Tinto (down 2.35%), Antofagasta (down 0.77%), Glencore (down 1.00%) and BHP (down 0.75%) all falling after gains earlier in the week.
They were joined at the bottom of the day’s losses list by homebuilders Persimmon (down 4.03%), Taylor Wimpey (down 3.41%), Berkeley (down 3.20%), and Barratt (down 3.03%) also falling on the weak pound. News from B&Q owner Kingfisher that it held its full-year dividend at 10.8p a share and that it was seeking a replacement for CEO Véronique Laury made for the day’s steepest losses, however, at -6.36%.
On the upside, Inmarsat shares on the FTSE 250 surged 13.13% after the satellite communications group confirmed that it was in talks with a consortium of private equity companies. Apax Partners, Warburg Pincus International, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board valued the company at $7.21 per share.

Cello Health
Cambridge Cognition Holdings
Integrated Diagnostics Holdings
Loopup Group
Portmeirion Group      
Ted Baker        
Venture Life Group
Kier Group
Spitfire Oil Ltd (DI)

Trading Announcements         
Mitie Group
Chemring Group
LPA Group
Spitfire Oil Ltd (DI)
UK Economic Announcements
(09.30) Retail Sales
(12.00) BoE Interest Rate Decision
Intl. Economic Announcements
(12:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(12:30) Philadelphia Fed Index (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

Columns of Note

Jeremy Warner writes in The Telegraph that the imminent prospect of a cashless society could prove to be the undoing of the big banks. Whilst the UK is moving rapidly towards going cashless, Warner notes that the number of banknotes in circulation has roughly doubled since 2005. He suggests this shows greater consumer confidence in ‘state’ versus ‘bank’ finance in the age of zero per cent interest rates, calling on banks to boost customer incentives to keep cash in reserve. (£)
In The Times, Iain Martin suggests we can no longer rely on parliament seeing sense to disallow a no-deal Brexit at the last minute. Both the prime minister and the EU raised the stakes yesterday by pitching the decision as being between May’s deal and no-deal, which Martin argues fails to take account of a parliament constitutionally hamstrung to take any meaningful decision one way or another. (£)

Did you know?

Tommy Tucker was a celebrity male Eastern grey squirrel who toured 1940s America, used to entertain children and sell war bonds. His tail made wearing trousers difficult so he wore dresses instead.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
Transport (including Topical Questions)
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
Backbench Business
General Debate on Services for People with Autism - Dame Cheryl Gillan
General Debate on NICE Appraisal Processes for Treatments for Rare Diseases - Liz Twist, Mary Glindon
Valproate pregnancy prevention programme - Cat Smith
House of Lords
Oral questions
International mechanisms to identify and prosecute suspected war criminals - Lord Hylton
Extending fiscal and legal protection to close family members who live together long-term in jointly owned property - Lord Lexden
Expanding access to yoga and its associated health benefits particularly in the NHS - Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
The New Home Standard and measures to ensure accessible and adaptable standards are met - Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Orders and regulations
Scottish Parliament
General Questions
First Minister’s Questions
Members’ Business
Men’s Sheds – Christine Grahame
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Questions
Portfolio Questions
Health and Sport
Scottish Government Debate
Land Reform in Scotland – Delivering for Now and the Future
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
No business scheduled
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled