It is an odd comfort that even as Westminster fractures over Brexit, the Indian sub-continent looks set for war, and President Trump eyes his latest attempt for a Nobel Peace Prize in Hanoi, you can guarantee that warm weather will dominate the UK’s conversation agenda for the day.
But it is pretty warm, isn’t it? Unseasonably so, you might say. Kew Gardens yesterday broke the record for the UK’s warmest winter day for a second consecutive day, reporting a temperature of 21.2°c in the afternoon. And you will have felt the heat wherever you might have been across the land; Trawsgoed in west Wales peaked at 20.6°c, whilst Edinburgh basked in a sunny 16°c. In somewhat predictable fashion, UK news outlets responded with a hallmark flurry of exclamation marks, social media graphics, and sunglasses emojis.
The news, I’m afraid, is not all cheery. Woodland in Ashdown Forest, Saddleworth Moor and Holyrood Park have all been hit by large fires, some of which continue to be fought this morning.
When you consider that just last month the country was thrown into extremely cold temperatures, nearly 40 degrees below those likely to be experienced today, or that this time last year we were on the precipice of the ‘Beast from the East’, the recent relative heatwave should be cause for alarm. Climate change continues to catch us off-guard, and it would seem some parts of the media and government have yet to treat it with the gravity it deserves.
The public, on the other hand, may be one step ahead. Brexit and nuclear warfare included, the weather clearly comes first on most people’s agendas when chewing the cud. If the weather of recent days has shown anything, it is that small talk may be more prescient than we think.
Pakistan’s government has vowed to retaliate against the first Indian airstrikeson the country since 1971. Indian jets yesterday bombed an alleged terrorist training camp near the town of Balakot, north of Islamabad, killing an estimated 300 militants. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has since convened a meeting of the government’s nuclear command, suggesting “Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing”. (£)
In the UK, MPs will today vote on a number of Brexit amendments after the prime minister promised a vote on the opportunity to reject no-deal if no consensus is reached after March 12. Although House of Commons speaker John Bercow will decide which amendments are picked, it is likely they will include attempts by opposition MPs to delay Article 50 and to legislate for a second referendum.
Facebook and Instagram have removed Tommy Robinson from their platformsafter the founder of the English Defence League was reported to have “repeatedly” broken the sites’ hate speech rules. Facebook yesterday said that Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) has posted material that used “dehumanising language and [called] for violence against Muslims”.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Metro Bank has suffered a 15% drop in its share price after announcing a £350 million cash call and board reshuffle in response to an accounting error now being investigated by regulators. Ahead of investigations by the FCA and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, Metro Bank chairman and founder, Vernon Hill, and chief executive Craig Donaldson, stated their intent to remain in post. (£)
M&S and Ocado have confirmed a £750m joint venture which will give M&S a 50% share of Ocado's retail business. The joint venture will be called Ocado and will deliver M&S products from September 2020 at the latest, when Ocado's deal with Waitrose expires. Under the deal Ocado will also continue to supply its own-label products and big name branded goods.
Dave Jenkinson, the new chief executive of Persimmon, will be one of the lowest-paid bosses in the FTSE 100 after the housebuilder announced reformsto tackle allegations of poor standards and excessive boardroom bonuses. The York-based company is Britain’s second biggest housebuilder, selling nearly 16,500 homes last year.
The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge by black cab drivers to revoke Uber’s licence to operate in London. The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, suggested a decision by chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who granted Uber its 15-month permit licence, “was not biased” and he would therefore allow Uber to continue operating in opposition to an appeal for judicial review lodged by the United Cabbies Group.
What happened yesterday?
The pound surged to its highest level against both the euro since May 2017 and the dollar since last September after Theresa May offered parliament a vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit if her Withdrawal Agreement hasn’t been passed by March 12. Cooling off from early highs, sterling finished the day at €1.16 (+0.94%) and $1.33 (+1.21%) respectively.
The pound’s gains made for losses on the FTSE 100, which fell 0.45% to 7151.12 points yesterday with overseas-exposed stocks bearing the worst of the day’s falls. Metals company Fresnillo fell 8.14% as it posted a 34.7% drop in full-year pre-tax profits, whilst British American Tobacco (-1.83%) and Imperial Brands (down 1.58%) were also affected by the currency hikes.
Domestic stocks including housebuilders Taylor Wimpey (+4.02%), Barratt Developments (+2.69%) and Berkeley Group (+2.51%) all fared better, alongside retailers Next (+3.46%), Sports Direct (+2.50%), Dixons Carphone (+3.10%), JD Sports (+2.84%) and WH Smith (+1.74%).
In corporate news, Standard Chartered (-0.63%) reported a 28% rise in adjusted full-year pre-tax profit to $3.86bn, missing analyst consensus of just under $4bn. Going the other way was Ocado (+11.71%) who topped the day’s gains as its management confirmed they are in discussions about a joint venture with Marks & Spencer (+3.23%).
Capital & Counties Properties
Green Energy Technology Inc. GDR (Reg S)
International Personal Finance
Law Debenture Corp.
Pacific Horizon Inv Trust
Riverstone Energy Limited
St James's Place
Beeks Financial Cloud Group
Personal Group Holdings
Aberdeen Diversified Income and Growth Trust
Bankers Inv Trust
Baronsmead Venture Trust
Electra Private Equity
Finsbury Growth & Income Trust
Image Scan Holdings
Jupiter Emerging & Frontier Income Trust RED
Polar Capital Global Healthcare Trust
River and Mercantile UK Micro Cap Investment Company Limited
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(10:00) Economic Sentiment Indicator (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US
(15:00) Pending Homes Sales (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
In The Times, Kenny Farquharson ponders what devolution in 1979 might have meant for Scotland in the forty years since. He suggests that with a bolstered Labour presence north of the border, Scotland may have been spared the worst excesses of Thatcherite social policy. When Scotland did gain devolution twenty years later, Farquharson suggests it did so as a far angrier nation.
Ian King looks at a potential M&S-Ocado tie-up for Sky News. He notes that Ocado currently benefits from Waitrose’s customer base – an advantageous arrangement – with many consumers under the impression the two are actually co-owned. At M&S, he suggests, the tie-up may signal a more strategic change, pondering whether the retailer is seeking Ocado’s heft in order to compete with the Big Four supermarkets on food?
DID YOU KNOW?
Queen Elizabeth II has owned more than 30 corgis in her lifetime.
House of Commons
Prime Minister's Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Planning (Affordable Housing and Land Compensation) - Helen Hayes
Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No. 2) Bill; 2nd and 3rd reading
UK's Withdrawal from the European Union
Older people's dental health - Andrew Selous
House of Lords
United States Elie Wiesel and Atrocities Prevention Act, signed into law by the US President on 19 January - Lord Selkirk of Douglas
Update to the Human Tissue Act 2004 - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Threat to river ecosystems posed by farm chemicals, sewage and excessive abstraction - Baroness Redfern
Restricting the profits made by housebuilders through the Help to Buy scheme - Lord Shipley
Further discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Lord Callanan
Scottish Labour Party Debate
Carers Allowance Supplement
Eating Disorders Awareness Week – Emma Harper
House of Commons
Exiting the European Union (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House of Commons - Andrea Leadsom
General Debate on St David's Day - Tonia Antoniazzi
General Debate on the UK's Progress toward Net-Zero Carbon Emissions - Layla Moran, Caroline Lucas
International efforts to secure peace in Yemen - Keith Vaz
House of Lords
Nomination process for the position of President of the World Bank - Lord Stern of Brentford
Addressing the cost of theatre tickets in London and any effect this has on theatre-goers - The Earl of Glasgow
Reviewing the Marriage Act 1949 to make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to civilly register their marriage before, or at the same time as, their Islamic ceremony - Baroness Cox
Improving the safety of medicines and medical devices - Lord O'Shaughnessy
Contribution to public safety made by the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team and work carried out by other search and rescue services - Lord Burnett
First Ministers’ Questions
World Hearing Day and Hearing Awareness Week 2019 – Alexander Stewart
UK Immigration Policy after Leaving the EU – Impact on Scotland’s Economy, Population and Society
Delivery of Devolved Benefits
Stage 1 Debate
Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Debate
Appointment of a Member of the Standards Commission for Scotland