As the Daily Briefing waves goodbye to another year, what can be said about the past 12 months? The tumult of 2016 certainly hasn’t led to a more serene 2017.
The Brexit process continues to dominate the political limelight as it stumbles on to the next stage of proceedings. Back in March, we witnessed the historic vote that paved the way for Theresa May to trigger article 50 and begin the formal process for terminating our 42-year membership of the European Union. With the deadline for leaving inching ever nearer, the pressure will be on for the two negotiating sides to thrash out a new way of working together by next autumn.
For the prime minister, it has been quite a rollercoaster in Downing Street. She may well be wishing that she hadn’t bothered going on that walking holiday in Wales before Easter, as it set the ball rolling for an election that would see her lose her parliamentary majority, as well as any goodwill she may have ever had from Brenda from Bristol. Ever since then, she has watched as her authority has crumbled around her - in some cases quite literally - having to contend with the persistent cough and disintegrating slogan at her party conference, and numerous high-profile resignations and sackings from her cabinet. But contend with it she has, making her a true Monty Pyton ‘Black Knight’ for sheer resilience.
Across the pond, Donald Trump hasn’t had his problems to seek, either. Since he was sworn in at the best/worst attended inauguration in history – depending on what you read – he has found his attempts to supposedly “drain the swamp” rather clogged, coming up against obstructions from his own party, the media and a whole sport in the case of the NFL. The president will be hoping that this week’s tax cuts will be the first in a streak of success as November’s midterms joins North Korea at the forefront of his agenda.
It has been a rather better year for the currency Bitcoin, a term likely only known to a small minority this time last year. Indeed, you would be forgiven for thinking that its full name was “Bitcoin soars”, given the trajectory of its success. Elsewhere, how the Bank of England – fresh from increasing interest rates for the first time in a decade - navigates the economic volatility that could come with the latter stages of the Brexit process will be interesting viewing. There’s also a new person at the helm of the US Federal Reserve to watch out for, though it remains to be seen if Jerome Powell will deviate radically from the policies of the departing Janet Yellen.
2017 was particularly striking for its powerful expressive symbolism. The worker bee, so long an emblem for Manchester, became a symbol of strength and unity against terrorism after the attack in the city in May, while many view the Grenfell Tower disaster as a towering reminder of the dangers of neglect.
Elsewhere in the world, nearly six decades of Castro leadership in Cuba is expected to come to an end next year; while in Russia, Vladimir Putin will be going for a fourth term as president. There’s also another World Cup in the summer, or so we in Scotland have been told.
However 2018 unfolds, we will attempt to make sense of it all in our briefing every morning. Until then, a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year from everyone at Charlotte Street Partners.
Pro-independence parties in Catalonia achieved an absolute majority in yesterday’s elections. The result is an historic election victory for the parties, and delivers a blow to Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, after he ordered the vote following Catalonia’s attempts to declare independence in October. Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) recorded its worst ever result in Catalonia. On the other hand, the Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain a semi-autonomous part of Spain, is the biggest single party. Whatever happens now, the election result is likely to further increase tensions between Madrid and Barcelona.
The United Nations has overwhelmingly voted to condemn the decision by President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A resolution calling for Trump to rescind the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was carried by 128 votes to 9, with the UK voting for the motion. Thirty-five countries abstained, including Canada and Australia. (£)
Business & Economy
The British arm of Toys R Us has secured around 2,700 jobs after it reached a last-minute agreement with the pensions lifeboat scheme. The struggling retailer has agreed to pay £9.8 million in two instalments into its pension scheme, allowing it to progress its restructuring plan.
Royal Dutch Shell has acquired First Utility, in a move that appears to show a willingness to take on Britain’s Big Six energy suppliers. By acquiring the Big Six’s biggest challenger, Europe’s largest oil company will now supply gas and electricity to about 825,000 UK homes. (£)
What happened yesterday?
It was a record high for the FTSE 100 yesterday, closing 1% higher, or 78.8 points, to 7,603.98.
The surge was led by Mediclinic International, which saw its shares increase by 7.2% to 629p. It wasn’t such a good day for cruise operator Carnival, as news of a fall in operating profit led to a drop of 1.7% in share price.
The FTSE 250 also closed ahead, up 0.36% or 72.4 points to 20,422.73. At close of trading, the pound was down 0.2% against the dollar at $1.33500, with Damian Green’s resignation on Wednesday believed to have contributed to the drop. Sterling was also down 0.11% on the euro at €1.12530.
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Columns of Note
Under Theresa May's premiership, Remain voters were given little reason to get with the Brexit programme. That is the view of Alex Massie in The Spectator, as he review’s Tim Shipman’s latest book, Fall Out. (£)
Anne-Sylvaine Chassany today contributes En Marche for the Financial Times’ A Year in a Word series. The word is used for the name of the centrist party established by Emmanuel Macron in April 2016 (which can be translated as ‘Onward’ in English), and Chassany says that voters of the party are now unsure where their president is leading them, arguing that they feel “directionless, purposeless and bitter by the top-down approach of their leader”. (£)
Did you know?
US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world's presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.
The House of Commons
In recess. The House will next sit on Monday 08 January 2018.
House of Lords
In recess. The House will next sit on Monday 08 January 2018.
No business scheduled. Parliament will next sit on Monday 08 January 2018.