It is the day after the Meaningful Vote that wasn’t. Again. Make sense?
Truth be told, clarity on British politics seems more elusive than usual during a week in which we might have otherwise expected another Meaningful Vote to take place.
Instead, yesterday saw no-deal ‘not quite’ taken off the table, a minister sacked over a vote that would eventually pass, and – if by dramatic inevitability – the suspension of a Labour MP over perceived anti-Semitism that was pulled at the last minute…only to be carried forward later.
Yes, I’m a bit stumped too.
Having lost an amendment in favour of its customs union strategy, the Labour Party seems finally to have settled in favour of whipping for a second referendum. The crucial word there, of course, being ‘seems’ – Jeremy Corbyn backed a “public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit” before adding that he would “continue to push” for Labour’s Brexit plan and a general election.
On the other side of the chamber, the day’s key figures were the 88 abstentions and 20 Tory MPs who voted against a three-line whip in favour of the Cooper amendment holding the prime minister’s feet to the first to put no-deal to a vote by March 13 if no agreement has been reached. Put simply, that’s more than a third of the party refusing to lend support to its leader’s signature policy move, and an amendment which was supported by more opposition MPs than Conservatives. Certainly not a good look for the PM.
All this indicates is that Theresa May is still unlikely to pass whatever deal she brings back from Brussels at the next big Brexit vote scheduled for March 12th. These votes will be held in three stages - whether or not to pass the deal; to leave without a deal if rejected; and then finally, to seek an extension of Article 50.
So whilst the next steps might seem clear – no doubt behind the pound’s revival in recent days – the outcome is somewhat less so. But remember, this is Brexit; why kick the habit of a lifetime?
The Hanoi summit between President Trump and Kim- Jong-un has ended with no agreement one day earlier than anticipated, the White House has announced. The summit was intended to focus on a declaration to end the Korean War, including a gesture towards North Korean nuclear disarmament. Trump yesterday urged North Korea to embrace capitalism and foreign investment in the style of Vietnam.
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill expanding background check to all gun sales, including those at gun shows and online. The Democratic-controlled House passed the measure by 240 votes to 190, but it may yet be struck down by the Republican-controlled Senate. In response to Republican concerns over gun purchases by undocumented immigrants, the House intends to approve a separate bill extending the window of FBI scrutiny on sales from three to ten days.
India has demanded the release of a fighter pilot shot down by Pakistan warplanes in a significant escalation of tensions over Kashmir. Pakistan’s information ministry yesterday shared a video of the blindfolded and injured pilot, which has been met with derision by Indian authorities and on social media. The recent aerial attacks marked the first open hostilities since a war in 1971. Global airlines have since rerouted flightpaths to avoid Pakistan’s airspace, including Thai Airways which yesterday suspended all flights destined for Europe.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has cut its €1 billion stake in Volkswagenfollowing disputes over corporate governance and the diesel scandal. According to the fund’s latest shareholdings released this week, its stake in VW was reduced from 1.32% in 2017 to 0.77% by the end of last year. The fund first publicly raised concerns in VW’s corporate governance a decade ago over perceived preference for Porsche as another of its major investments. (£)
The fund has meanwhile declared its intention to increase its exposure to British investments. Chief executive Ygnve Slyngstad yesterday commented that the longer term was particularly attractive for the fund; “With our time horizon, which is 30 years-plus, current [UK] political discussions do not change our view of the situation”.
The Financial Times reports that activist investor Edward Bramson was able to fund the majority of his 5.5% stake in Barclays via a $1.4 billion loan from Bank of America. Under an arrangement known as a “funded equity collar”, Bank of America borrowed the shares in Barclays before selling them to Bramson, while also providing additional funding via the loan. Bramson has angered other investors at Barclays by buying large shareholdings in order to engineer a shift in strategy that would see its investment divisions jettisoned.
What happened yesterday?
London stocks finished in the red on Wednesday while the pound pushed to fresh highs, propelled by expectations that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided. By close of play, sterling stood at a seven-month high against the dollar at $1.33 (up 0.43%) and at a 21-month high against the euro at €1.17 (up 0.64%).
A stronger pound added to significant corporate weight on the FTSE 100, however, leading the top-flight index to close down 0.61% at 7107.20 points – its lowest level in nearly two weeks.
Shares in Marks & Spencer (down 12.47%) fell sharply after the retailer announced its intention to cut its dividend by 40% and undertake a rights issues to raise up to £600 million in order to fund the acquisition of a 50% share in Ocado’s UK retail business which was announced earlier in the day. The outlook for Ocado (up 2.93%) was far rosier, as investors warmed to the M&S cash injection and an estimated saving of £15 million a year in sourcing fees currently paid to Waitrose.
Other significant fallers included ITV (down 3.08%), which reported a drop in adjusted profit for 2018 amid lower ad sales, and Metro Bank (-26.54%), having quietly announced a £350 million cash call on the back of its full-year results after close of trading on Tuesday.
The rare glimmer of Brexit optimism helped the banking sector with Lloyds (up 1.58%), Barclays (up 1.21%) and RBS (up 1.27%) all higher. Taylor Wimpey (up 3.54%) also jumped after announcing a rise in full-year profits on the back of increased project completions and “robust” demand for new homes, making for gains across the housebuilding sector as a whole.
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
Asa Bennett writes in The Telegraph that the fate of Theresa May’s deal, if not Brexit itself, lies with attorney general Geoffrey Cox QC. He has sole responsibility for signing off the “legally-binding changes” to the Withdrawal Agreement over the Irish backstop requested by parliament, seen as crucial to getting enough Tory Brexiteers on board. If he refuses to give his support, Bennett predicts the prime minister may look to Labour to agree on a softer Brexit. (£)
In The Times, Simon Duke writes that banning Huawei over suspected security interference would put European governments behind the pace of technological development in the US and China. He argues that 5G is currently the “road to redemption” for the continent’s ailing tech sector, and so benefits from Huawei’s massive cash pool in order to make consumer access cheaper and quicker. (£)
DID YOU KNOW?
Wombats can run at a speed of up to 25 miles per hour for 90 seconds. In 2009, Usain Bolt maintained a speed of 27.8 miles per hour for only 1.61 seconds.
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
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill - Second reading - Viscount Trenchard
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill - Report stage - Baroness Hodgson of Abinger
Anonymity (Arrested Persons) Bill [HL] - Second reading - Lord Paddick
No business scheduled