24 October 2018

Katie Stanton

24 October 2018

Good morning,

In an effort to drown out the incessant Brexit noise and stock market turmoil, join me in an international news roundup. I can’t promise that this will be an exercise in positivity.

According to the BBC, China is accelerating the building of detention camps for Muslims in its northern province of Xinjiang with up to forty being spotted from the air. They deny it, calling them “vocational schools”.

Saudi Arabia has a new tale to tell. The story is now that journalist Jamal Khashoggi didn’t die in a fistfight, but rather in a “rogue operation” in the embassy in Istanbul. With international pressure mounting, Donald Trump called the exercise the “worst cover-up ever” and vowed to ban those involved from the US.

Meanwhile, Saudi’s military campaign in Yemen is contributing to the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet in which an estimated 1.2 million children are suffering from cholera and the country is on the brink of famine.

The mood was understandably sour as those business leaders who hadn’t pulled out met for the “Davos in the desert” investment conference. The show went on regardless of high-profile boycotts from western business leaders, with discussions of investment deals worth more than $50 billion.

And it’s not surprising that Turkey’s President Erdogan – the moral authority that he is – has jumped on the bandwagon. After calling Jamal Khashoggi’s murder “savage” and pre-meditated and publicly discrediting the Saudi story, it seems Erdogan is eyeing up a potential vacancy as America’s golden child in the Middle East.

Elsewhere, rifts are narrowing. Well, not really. I’m actually referring to the world’s longest sea crossing, connecting Hong Kong with mainland China like a giant, possessive arm. An impressive feat of engineering, the bridge/tunnel links the cities of Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai providing important connections for trade and tourism. But it is not without controversy. It is estimated that at least 18 people died in its construction and it is widely seen as an effort by China to remind its more liberal neighbour who’s boss.

Meanwhile, President Trump and President Putin have scheduled a meeting to discuss the proposed US withdrawal from the INF nuclear arms treaty. Russia is suspected of flouting the rules in its production of“9M729, a cruise missile that threatens Nato allies”

Finally,Brazilians are eagerly awaiting the presidential elections this Sunday, where far-right candidate (and dictatorship fan-boy) Bolsonaro is expected to win a landslide. In the run-up to the elections, political tensions are running high, voters are polarised and political violence is rife.

So, all in all quite the depressing scene – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

News

A report by MPs warned yesterday that sexual harassment in the UK is “routine and relentless”. The government is failing to address the harassment so “deeply ingrained” in British culture that many women endure it every day. The chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller said: “it can make women and girls scared and stressed, avoid certain routes home at night or certain train carriages” and is normalised within our society. The Home Office has pledged £100 million in funding to combat sexual harassment at a local level, although the specificities of government plans remain unclear.  
 
According to leaked cabinet papers seen by The Times, MPs fear that Theresa May’s Brexit will leave the UK in an extended Brexit period. So far, there is no guarantee that the UK will be able to remove itself from the transition period, and the “rolling” arrangement could, in theory, last many years. The Prime Minister will face the music today, appearing voluntarily before the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, in the hopes of appearing confident and reassured. (£)
 
The equal pay strike has entered its second day, and Glasgow primary schools and nurseries face further closures. Eight thousand members of the GMB and Unison are protesting the “lack of progress” in steps to compensate for years of pay discrimination. Glasgow City Council retorted: the battle on equal pay is already won and settlement negotiations were announced in January.

Business & Economy

British plans to charter ships to bring food and medicines from the continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been drawn up, as Theresa May’s cabinet scrambles for contingencies. Customs controls in France could quickly lead to a backlog on the Calais border and complicated border controls at Dover are unlikely to be ready in time, forcing May to look for alternative routes into different British ports. (£)

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England,has called for “protections for workers”in an effort to ensure that technological changes do not bring about the same societal divides as the industrial revolution. Increasing rights and insuring that prominent trade unions are in place to allow for workers, as well as capital earners, to benefit from technological advances. (£)

Dyson announced yesterday that it would be building its new electric car in Singapore; an unusual decision given Sir James Dyson is a vocal Brexiteer and it is very expensive to do business there. The plans to build a two-storey manufacturing facility in Singapore will see Dyson launch its new electric cars in 2021. Sir James Dyson, founder of the company, has insisted that the choice has nothing to do with Brexit, citing instead that Singapore has vast talent pools and offers easier access to markets.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

It was a bad day for the European stock markets yesterday, with the FTSE 100 closing down 1.24% at 6,955.21 and Germany’s DAX closing 2.2% lower at 11,274.28. Experts have attributed the downturn to the “fractious geopolitical outlook”. There was heavy pressure on markets after Chinese equities reversed leading to mass sell-offs, the US saw disappointing earnings results and doubts over Italy’s budget soured sentiment.
 
American stocks rebounded from steep early losses and the Dow Jones index closed around 0.5% lower, as shares in McDonald’s rose 3% after the announcement that sales had increased more than expected. However, the machinery manufacturer Caterpillar failed to upgrade expectations for future profits, citing Trump’s increased metal prices as a contributing factor.
 
Big losers on the FTSE today were GVC Holdings, falling 6.29% to 878.7 after announcing strong results and the departure of their CFO last week.
 
Oil prices were under a lot of pressure and Brent saw a massive decline following increased global momentum over the death of Jamal Khashoggi, with investors concerned over possible sanctions for Saudi Arabia.
 
Meanwhile in currencies, the pound recovered against the dollar and the euro, climbing slightly to $1.29 and €1.13.

Finals

Image Scan Holdings

Interims

Stobart Group Ltd.

U And I Group

Trading Announcements

Antofagasta

Image Scan Holdings

Tatton Asset Management

AGMs

Beeks Financial Cloud Group

Dekeloil Public Ltd

Photo-Me International

Redde

GMs

IndigoVision Group

UK Economic Announcements

(09.30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures

International Economic Announcements

(09.00) M3 Money Supply (EU)

(12.00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(14.00) House Price Index (US)

(15.00) New Homes Sales (US)

(15.30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

Owen Matthews re-examines our intelligence sources in The Spectator this week: are Bellingcat, the independent group of Leicester-based internet researchers responsible for unearthing the true identity of the Skripal suspects, really who they say they are? Perhaps, Matthews poses, they are a “sophisticated front used by western intelligence agencies” in order to remove political motivation from any stories they may uncover. Or, perhaps, they really are just a small group of devoted “nerds” using freely available data to put together irrefutable intelligence. (£)

“My constituents backed Brexit. But I didn’t enter politics to make them poorer.” This is the headline of Phil Wilson’s piece in the Guardian, which examines what true representation looks like. After voting to remain, in the knowledge that constituents would likely be worse off, “it is surely wrong for MPs to engineer a position in which the choice is between a deal and no deal”, both of which you believe to be the wrong answer. Going against the grain and standing against his constituents, Wilson argues for another vote and declares himself a leader, not a follower.

Did you know?

A group of pandas is called an embarrassment.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY
House of Commons
Oral questions
Wales

Prime Minister's Question Time

Ten Minute Rule Motion
Housing Reform - Mr Richard Bacon

Motion
Business of the House

Legislation
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill - All Stages

Adjournment
Government approach to detrimental home insulation issues - Sir Mark Hendrick

House of Lords
Oral questions
Access to treatment in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services - Baroness Tyler of Enfield

Whether forecasts for the UK economy show a better outcome if the UK were to remain in the EU than if it were to leave - Lord Strasburger

Government plans to (1) promote freedom of religion or belief, and (2) mark International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day on 27 October - Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Protecting the impartiality of the civil service following recent political criticisms of the Brexit process - Lord Luce

Legislation
Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill - Third reading - Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

Ivory Bill - Report stage - Lord Gardiner of Kimble

Debate
Report from the EU Committee 'Subsidiarity Assessment: discontinuing seasonal changes of time'; Reasoned opinion relating to discontinuing seasonal changes of time - Lord Whitty

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio questions
Health and Sport
 
Scottish Labour Party Debate
Health
Inequality
 
Members’ Business
Support for Families of Loved Ones Killed Abroad – Angela Constance

TOMORROW
House of Commons
Oral Questions
Exiting the European Union
 
Business Statement
Business questions to the leader of the House – Andrea Leadsom
 
General Debate
Folic acid fortification
Inclusive transport strategy
 
Adjournment
Effect of M26 road closures – Tom Tugendhat

Scottish Parliament 
General Questions

First Minister's Questions

Members' Business

Regulation of Electricians as a Profession - Jamie Halco

Scottish Government Debate
Scottish government's inaugural contribution to development report