25 March 2019


25 March 2019

Good morning,

It has taken 19 lawyers, 40 investigators and 2,800 subpoenas – over a period of 22 months - but yesterday’s not guilty verdict over possible collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian state in the 2016 election yesterday has given the president perhaps his best day since entering the White House.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report was yesterday submitted to Congress and the parts of it release state that Trump and his presidential team did not conspire or collude with Russia in an attempt to influence the election - perhaps putting to bed the single biggest issue facing the president since the day he was elected.
The verdict was delivered in a four-page summary by the attorney general, William Barr, and completely exonerates him on the matter. There is more ambiguity over the second part of the report on whether Trump obstructed justice, stating that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.’
Trump was at his most bullish on Twitter, writing that the inquiry he has continually called a ‘witch hunt’ had proved "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION". It’s certainly not as clear cut as that but I expect there was a sense of relief and jubilation as he learned of the report’s main finding.
But, he’s not out of the woods yet, with a series of other criminal investigations going on into different aspects of the Trump Organization. However, this will have given the president a huge boost as the 2020 presidential election starts to heat up. Democrats were lining up yesterday to claim that the report raises more questions than answers and pledged to get to the bottom of the uncertainty over obstruction through access to the whole report.
I understand the purpose of the strategy; get bogged down in the detail and attempt to drag out the process – and the subsequent damage to the president – for as long as possible as the election starts to come on to voters’ radars.
However, for many, yesterday’s judgment will be all they need to feel the issue is settled and it’s time to move on to more pressing matters. By continuing to prolong a case that many will feel is closed could put the Democrats on the wrong side of public opinion and leave Trump and the Republicans in a stronger position.
The BBC’s Jon Sopel perhaps put it best last night when he said that if the Democrats are to remove this president from the White House, they’re going to have to do it via the ballot box in November 2020, and not before.


Theresa May is to outline her Brexit strategy to ministers this morning as she chairs a special meeting of the cabinet. It comes after her future as prime minister came under heavy speculation amid claims of a plot to oust her, with suggestions that outlining a timetable for her departure would be the most likely route to seeing her withdrawal deal attract the support it needs.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has ordered a top-level inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attack to examine whether police and intelligence services could have done more to prevent the shootings. Ardern said the country’s highest form of investigation, a royal commission of inquiry, was appropriate for “matters of the gravest public importance”.
A learning centre used to encourage young people to take an interest in STEM subjects has opened for the first time in the UK. Known as a Newton Room and popular in Denmark and Norway, the centre has opened at North Highland College in Thurso and will be made available to schools to use.

Business & Economy

Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed it will consider “all opportunities” to expand in the UK household gas and electricity supply market, including the possibility of acquiring one of the Big Six suppliers. The oil giant will today rebrand First Utility as Shell Energy and offer its customers discounts on fuel at Shell petrol stations. The group has ambitions to be the biggest energy company in the world by the 2030s. (£)
The chief executive of Volvo has said that the premature introduction of self-driving technology risks delaying “the best lifesaver in the history of the car”. Hakan Samuelsson warned it was “irresponsible” to put autonomous vehicles on the road if they were not suitably safe, as that would erode trust among the public and regulators. (£)

Satellite communications company Inmarsat is to be acquired by a private equity consortium in a deal worth around $3.4bn. Led by Apax and Warburg Pincus, the deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will take Inmarsat fully private.


The week ahead

Apple is expected to make a significant announcement later today, which is believed to centre around a new video streaming service featuring original programming.
Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, will travel to Beijing on Thursday with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to hold more talks to try and bring an end to the US-China trade dispute. They will meet with Liu He, China’s vice-premier and leading economic official, who has scheduled a trip to Washington in a fortnight for the second part of the double-header of meetings.
It’s a quiet week on the earnings front but Sweden’s H&M releases first-quarter results on Friday, while other names that are reporting include United Utilities, Bellway, Accenture, PVH and Carnival.

ADES International Holding (DI)
Bigblu Broadband
Be Heard Group
Hansteen Holdings
MD Medical Group Investments GDR (Reg S)
Medica Group
Spectra Systems Corporation

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures
Int. Economic Announcements
(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)

Columns of Note

Writing in The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle says that the UK’s “antiquated political system” brought about the malaise that led to Brexit and is clearly incapable of coping with an issue of such magnitude. Pringle believes that when the Brexit dust has settled, a committee of inquiry should stage public hearings and report on exactly what has gone wrong with Britain. (£)

Clare Foges writes in this morning’s Times that while he may be charming, Boris Johnson would be a “pointless” prime minister. She says the current frontrunner lacks the political purpose and ideas to make an impact in Downing Street and this is the last thing the country to replace the “zombie government” currently in place. (£)

Did you know?

A study by the University of Glasgow found that Scotland has 421 words and expressions for snow.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
Oral questions
Defence (including Topical Questions)
Section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 - Mrs Theresa May
House of Lords
Oral questions
Improving children’s and young people’s access to mental health care - The Lord Bishop of Newcastle
Facilitating co-decision making on UK matters between the Government and the devolved
administrations - Lord Bruce of Bennachie
Government meetings with Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (Fair) about the operation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Lord Campbell-Savours
Ending new transmission of HIV infection by 2030 - Lord Black of Brentwood
That this House, in accordance with the provisions of section 13(6)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, takes note of the Written Statement titled “Statement under Section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018”, made on 15 March 2019 - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
That this House calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to revoke the notification of 29 March 2017 in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. - Lord Adonis
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled

House of Commons 

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
Programme Motion
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill (changed to Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Bill: Programme (No. 2) - Matt Hancock
Offensive Weapons Bill: Programme (No. 3) - Sajid Javid
House of Lords
Oral questions
Ensuring property guardians are legally protected - Baroness Grender
Review of the honours system - Baroness Berridge
Average time spent without appropriate Special Educational Needs support by students who have successfully appealed a decision to have an education, health and care plan - Lord Addington
The petition created by Margaret Anne Georgiadou to revoke Article 50 of the Treaty of the EU and to remain in the EU - Baroness Quin
Scottish Parliament
Topical Questions
Stage 1 Debate: South of Scotland Enterprise Bill