25 February 2019

@Stu7Tay

25 February 2019

Good morning,

We wake this morning to British success at last night’s Oscars ceremony as Olivia Colman defied the odds to win the gong for best actress. Colman scooped the award for her role in The Favourite and is the first winner from these shores since 2009. As a fan of Peep Show, one couldn’t help but wonder what Mark Corrigan would have made of his Soph swapping life with him and Jez in Croydon for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
 
The Oscars is undoubtedly the showpiece event for movie buffs. However, for us politicos, this week’s blockbuster comes in the form of the long-awaited sequel between US President Donald Trump and North Korean premier Kim Jong-un.
 
The two leaders are set to travel to Vietnam for a meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday. It will be their second summit in eight months, having met last June in Singapore.
 
Although both leaders received global acclaim for their first historic encounter, the summit failed to deliver much beyond a vaguely worded commitment from North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. This time around, expectations are being downplayed with the White House at pains to strike a more realistic tone.
 
This change in attitude is almost certainly down to the fact that Pyongyang has shown no signs that they are prepared to offer concessions. One of the US’s stipulations for a second meeting was that North Korea provide full information about its nuclear capabilities. As recently as November, Vice President Mike Pence called it an "imperative" for a second summit.
 
Three months on and Washington has all but given up on achieving this, with senators resigned to the fact that Kim and his aides ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.
 
With that in mind, what could Trump – who concerned US diplomats last year by offering concessions on a whim – propose to Kim this week? Plans that have so far been touted include the pulling of some American troops from South Korea, or even a formal peace declaration ending the Korean War. This would be attractive as it would not only carry significant historic weight but would allow the president to promote his role as a peacemaker as he continues his crusade for a Nobel Peace Prize.
 
So while actions over words should be the name of the game this time around, in all likelihood, the summit will be used as a global stage for the president to try to win his own prestigious gong.

NEWS

Moderate Conservative MPs are putting Theresa May under pressure to delay Brexit until 23 May rather than leave the EU if no deal is in place by the end of March. The prime minister announced on Sunday that MPs will get a fresh vote on her deal by 12 March.
 
The director of GCHQ, the UK's cyber-security agency, has warned that the UK must recognise the potential "opportunities and threats" of using Chinese technology. Jeremy Fleming will emphasise the need for better cyber-security practices in the telecoms industry when he gives a speech later today. His intervention comes as the US continues to pressure its allies to not use Chinese firm Huawei's technology to build new 5G networks.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he is confident Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's "days are numbered" following deadly clashes over humanitarian aid. Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó has said that Maduro must resign after two people died in Saturday's clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Maduro, who blocked aid deliveries.

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Donald Trump has said the US will delay an increase in tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods set for March 1, raising hopes that tensions between the world’s two largest economies can be averted. The US president has proposed summit with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to conclude the agreement. (£)

The Institute of Directors has said that businesses have lost faith in the political process after they revealed that confidence in the service sector is falling at its fastest pace since the financial crisis. The institute warned that further postponement of the Brexit process would only serve to “drag out uncertainty” and risk an accidental no-deal. (£)

The Bank of England has confirmed their gender pay gap has worsened in the past year despite a pledge by Mark Carney, its governor, to increase the number of women in its most senior roles. The median pay gap at the bank increased by 0.4% over the past year. (£)

MARKETS

The week ahead
The US-North Korea and the EU-Arab League summits are the headline events taking place this week but there are a few other happenings of note.
 
For tech watchers, all eyes are on Barcelona, where the annual Mobile World Congress is currently underway and will run until Tuesday. The main focus of discussion is likely to be on the declining mobile market and whether cutting-edge innovations such as folding phones can help revitalise consumer interest.
 
Fourth-quarter gross domestic product data on Thursday will be the US’s main economic release of the week, followed by personal consumption expenditure, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, the day after.
 
A number of retail and consumer stocks will report corporate earnings in the US this week. Home Depot, Macy’s, Campbell Soup, TJX Companies and Gap are amongst the companies reporting quarterly earnings this week. Here in the UK, Persimmon, Metro Bank, Standard Chartered, WPP, British American Tobacco and STV all report.

Finals
Ascential
Bunzl
Centamin (DI)
Dialight
Hammerson
Hiscox Limited (DI)
Kosmos Energy (DI)
Quartix Holdings
Reach
RTC Group
Tekcapital

Interims
Base Resources Ltd
Dechra Pharmaceuticals
Finsbury Food Group
Tristel
 
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures

Columns of note

“Digital gangsters” threaten to kill democracy. That’s the view of The Times’s Edward Lucas. Lucas says the devastating report from a Commons committee looking at disinformation shows the ‘menace posed by over-mighty tech giants and foreign meddling’ and argues that Brexit is distracting politicians from dealing with this severe issue. (£)
 
Writing in The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle laments what he sees as the “shrunken and parochial” political debate in Scotland this week. Citing the criticism around Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to lead a delegation of tech companies to France, and the debate over the proposed workplace parking levy, Pringle says a narrowing of the lens at Holyrood must be avoided and there is an onus on parliament to remain focused on the bigger picture. (£)

Did you know?

In a room of just 23 people there’s a 50% chance that two people have the same birthday, and, in a room of 75, there's a 99% chance of two people matching. This is the basis of a probability theory better known as the birthday problem.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY
 
House of Commons
Oral questions
Home Office (including Topical Questions)
 
Motion
Draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Protecting the right to freedom of religion and belief of Uighur Muslims and other persecuted religious groups - Lord Suri
 
Review of the “check, challenge, appeal” system for business rate appeals - Lord Naseby
 
Resolving the political and humanitarian crisis in Yemen - Baroness Anelay of St Johns
 
Ensuring those suffering from an eating disorder can access treatment and support - Baroness Parminter
 
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons
Oral questions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
National Health Service (Prohibition of Fax Machines and Pagers) - Alan Mak
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Giving greater power to local authorities to deal with issues arising from short-term lettings - Baroness Gardner of Parkes
 
Strengthening controls over internet providers in the light of concerns over child bullying and suicide - Baroness Massey of Darwen
 
Will HS2 Ltd fulfil the requirements of public procurement regulations by obtaining its electricity supply through transparent and competitive tendering - Viscount Ridley
 
Report 'Closing the Regional Attainment Gap' published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility. - Baroness Tyler of Enfield
 
Scottish Parliament
Ministerial Statement: Patient Safety within the NHS in Scotland
 
Stage 1 Debate: Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill