Western nations are collectively sighing in relief this morning as it was announced that Interpol has elected South Korean Kim Jong-yang as its president. Mr Kim was chosen by Interpol’s 194 member states at an annual congress meeting in Dubai.
Last night it seemed that a Russian official was poised to lead the international policing organisation and fears escalated that Russia would use the role as a tool by which to target critics of President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
On Saturday The Times revealed Alexander Prokopchuk, a former KGB agent and veteran of Russia’s interior ministry, as the front-runner, mobilising activists and politicians the world over in a desperate scramble to prevent his appointment.
Not only is his personal history somewhat eyebrow raising, but Russia’s hands are far from clean when it comes to international diplomacy. Russian officials have long been criticised by the west for targeting political opponents with the agency’s “red notice” system of international arrest warrants and Interpol’s decision this morning will be seen as a blow to the Kremlin.
Britain publicly opposed the Russian candidate – instead endorsing Kim Jong-yang – and threatened to walk away in the event of a Russian “fox in the henhouse”.
Yesterday, Tom Tugendhat and Yvette Cooper, chairs of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee and home affairs committee respectively, wrote an impassioned open letter to the government in which they called the potential appointment of Mr Prokopchuk the “latest nail in Interpol’s coffin”, arguing that Britain should seriously reconsider its international law enforcement and “develop a new transnational organisation”.
Although we seemed to have dodged a bullet for now, concerns over the weak structure of Interpol and its lack of protection against manipulation and abuse at the hands of Russia still stand. Can the UK trust an agency that was on the brink of putting “the assassin in charge of the murder investigation”?
The Interpol election follows the disappearance of former president Meng Hongwei, who is currently being investigated by China’s anti-corruption authorities. (No, this is not the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster...)
Theresa May will meet with EU officials later today in an effort to finalise a Brexit deal in time for Sunday’s summit of European leaders. The EU has missed the deadline to complete its text on future relations with the UK, as some member states expressed concerns over access to the EU single market, fisheries policy and the status of Gibraltar. While the prime minister seems to have survived the threat of a vote of no confidence, she still faces intense negotiations and the task of passing the agreement through parliament.
President Donald Trump said yesterday that he would maintain the US alliance with Saudi Arabia, even though the crown prince “could very well” have been behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump argued that it would be “foolish” to impose more sanctions despite doubts over state involvement in the case. (£)
At least 50 people have been killed and 80 more injured in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. Top clerics were meeting in Kabul to mark the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday when the explosion occurred. The attack was not immediately claimed, although both Taliban and a local IS affiliate have targeted religious scholars in the region in the past.
Business & Economy
There were big losses on Wall Street last night as this year’s gains were all wiped away following a sharp fall in the oil price, which prompted investors to dump energy companies. Technology stocks also suffered another day of heavy selling. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average fell into the red for the year and all 30 Dow companies closed down. (£)
Renault has appointed a temporary deputy chief executive following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn amid allegations that he made personal use of company money and under-reported earnings. Thierry Bolloré, Renault’s chief operating officer, will take over the role on an interim basis. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported yesterday that Mr Gohsn was planning a merger between Renault and Nissan despite opposition from the Japanese car manufacturer.
Following months of campaigning from former Toys R Us employees, KKR and Bain Capital have agreed to pay workers who lost their jobs $20 million. The hardship fund announced on Tuesday is short of the $75 million required to cover payments that workers claim they were promised when the company was liquidated in March. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended 0.8% lower as global growth slowed and the tech sell off continued in the US. Brexit uncertainties added to the 90-point drop, edging the index closer to lows seen during October’s slump. Investors dumped financial stocks: RBS slipped by 3.3% and Standard Chartered was down 3.2%.
Meanwhile, there was “absolute carnage” on world markets according to Connor Campbell from Spreadex. The Dow Jones was down almost 550 points as US technology stocks fell sharply for a second consecutive day, wiping out Nasdaq’s gains for 2018 and putting combined losses of the big five “Faang” stocks to more than $1 trillion.
The price of oil also struggled, dropping more than four per cent to $64.10 a barrel – a marked fall from highs of more than $80 in October. The fall is attributed to concerns about rising global supplies.
On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.34% against the dollar at $1.28. It was up slightly against the euro, rising 0.14% to €1.12.
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Syncona Limited NPV
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UIL Limited (DI)
UK Economic Announcements
(09.30) Public Sector Net Borrowing
International Economic Announcements
(12.00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13.30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(15.00) Existing Home Sales (US)
(15.00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)
(15.30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Columns of Note
James O’Malley discusses China’s dystopian future in The Spectator this week. The personal credit system now in use, which flags everyday misdemeanours such as failing to pay for a train ticket, jay-walking and even having a barking dog, is indicative of tightening state control. Likewise, good behaviour is rewarded in a similar way to a credit score. Buying your children clothes and academic supplies earns you points; buying video games takes them away. (£)
In yesterday’s Financial Times Big Read, Mehul Srivastava examines how Israel’s tech industry is cashing in on a large pool of engineers and entrepreneurs trained for an elite military unit where they “fine-tuned computer algorithms to digest millions of surveillance photos”. Israel has cultivated a rich computer vision sector by making use of this niche skillset, which is applicable to a broad range of civilian industries, such as agriculture, medicine, sports and self-driving cars.
Did you know?
Perfume is as bad for your health as car exhaust.
House of Commons
International Development (including Topical Questions)
Prime Minister's Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Marriage and Civil Partnership (Consent) - Fabian Hamilton
Fisheries Bill - 2nd reading
Fisheries Bill - Mel Stride
Potential effect of a VAT reduction on the tourism industry - Mr Alistair Carmichael
House of Lords
Sustainability of funding for women’s refugees. - Baroness Donaghy
Discussions with the Chambers of Commerce and Confederation of British Industry representatives about the economic effects of Brexit - Baroness Quin
Talks with the government of Saudi Arabia on human rights in that country - Lord Hoyle
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [HL] - Report stage (day 1) - Lord O'Shaughnessy
Orders and regulations
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (Fire and Rescue Authority) Order 2018 – motion to regret - Baroness Pinnock
Draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Commencement No. 18) Order 2018 – motion to approve - Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Commencement No. 18) Order 2018 – motion to regret - Lord Thomas of Gresford
Justice and the Law Officers
Stage 3 Proceedings: Scottish Crown Estate Bill
Crime (Overseas Productions Orders) Bill
Offensive Weapons Bill
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness – Clare Adamson
House of Commons
Oral questions: Transport (including Topical Questions)
Business Statement: Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Andrea Leadsom
General debate: Armed Forces Covenant
Adjournment: Psychological support after cancer treatment – Mark Tami
House of Lords
How much of the NHS mental health budget goes towards intervention to address domestic and sexual violence and abuse – Baroness Thornton
Enabling humanist marriage ceremonies – Lord Harrison
Reforming the Inquiries Act 2005 to make special provision for the conduct of inquiries into child sexual abuse – Lord Campbell-Savours
Progress made across government departments in integrating the Universal Sustainable Developments Goals into domestic policy in preparation for the UK’s Voluntary National Review presentation at the United Nations in September 2019 – Baroness Suttie
Granting asylum on the grounds of religious persecution in the light of the case of Asia Bibi – Baroness Berridge
Numbers of children displaced from their homes internationally, and the actions undertaken by the Government, the EU and the United Nations to support them – Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
First Minister’s questions
Members’ Business: Arthritis Research UK Survey on Access to Work – Rachael Hamilton
Ministerial Statement: Energy Efficient Scotland
Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Scotland’s Economic Performance and Economic Data