28 March 2019

Adam Shaw

28 March 2019

Good morning,

Charles de Gaulle famously said “non” to UK entry to the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union. Last night, the House of Commons said “no” to eight Brexit options, reinforcing the political logjam.
 
The indicative votes were not binding on the government, but it had been hoped that they might offer some insight into a way around the impasse.
 
Casting further uncertainty was Theresa May’s offer to fall on her sword, stating that she will resign as prime minister and party leader if her deal is passed in a third meaningful vote later this week, in an attempt to secure the backing of swithering pro-Brexit MPs.
 
However, she couldn’t even get that right, with DUP leader Arlene Foster stating that her party cannot accept the Irish backstop and the perceived threat to the union under any circumstances.
 
May has led a zombie government for some time, but is now the lamest of lame ducks. Regardless of what happens next, it’s difficult to see how she continues in Downing Street much longer. Although it’s worth remembering that a new leader wouldn’t change the parliamentary arithmetic.
 
In the meantime, amidst the political squabbling, the clock to a no-deal Brexit continues to tick.

News

Facebook has announced it will block "praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism" on Facebook and Instagram from next week, as well as improving its ability to identify and block material from terrorist groups. Anyone searching for terms deemed offensive will be directed to a Life After Hate, a charity founded by former extremists which combats far-right extremism. The social media giant announced the measures in a blog post in response to pressure, after a man live streamed his gun attack on two mosques in New Zealand earlier this month.
 
An independent study has found cancer-causing chemicals and other potentially harmful toxins in fire debris and soil samples close to Grenfell Tower, which could pose serious health risks to residents of the community and survivors of the devastating fire. The research was led by Professor Anna Stec from the University of Central Lancashire, who said there was an urgent need for further analysis to “quantify any risk to residents”. The findings will put pressure on officials to explain why they did not immediately commission their own analysis following the fire which claimed 72 lives.
 
A pensioner from Invernesshire could help scientists discover a new generation of pain-relief and anxiety medications, due to a genetic mutation which means she feels virtually no pain. Jo Cameron, who is now 71 years-old, declines offers of anaesthetic during dental work and often only realises she has burnt herself when cooking upon smelling her own burning flesh. Doctors only realised she was different when she had surgery on her hand and declined pain killers. This prompted her anaesthetist to refer her to researchers at UCL and Oxford University.

Business & Economy

Nearly two-thirds of UK companies have still not submitted their gender pay report with less than one week until the deadline. By Wednesday morning, fewer than 4,000 of the 10,000 organisations expected to report had done so. All companies with more than 250 employees must disclose the average difference between what they pay male and female employees per hour. The average gap across the UK workforce last year was 9.7%.
 
Boeing has claimed it has fixed the problem with the stall prevention system which has been blamed for causing two of its 737 models to crash in the past five months. The two accidents, one in October 2018 of a Lion Air flight in October, and the other involving an Ethiopian Airlines operated aircraft earlier this month, killed 346 people in total. This comes as the Federal Aviation Authority faced harsh questions from senators over the nature of its relationship with Boeing.
 
The Port of Calais is ready for Brexit “whenever it happens”, according to its chief executive. Speaking to Sky News, Jean-Marc Puissesseau said that his organisation had spent €6 million over the last year preparing the port for a no-deal Brexit, claiming that if the plans are followed "there should be no more delays after Brexit than there were before".

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Most major stock markets saw minor losses yesterday due to concern about global growth intensified and expectations that the Federal Reserve will likely cut interest rates at least once this year, as well as continued uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union.
 
The FTSE 100 fell 2.1 points, or 0.03%, to 7,194.19. MNC Health, the UAE based healthcare company, was the day’s biggest faller, shedding 7.2%. Analysts at Citigroup attributed this to the business’ related party transactions and a loan taken out by its vice-chairman which was secured on the pledge of a 7% stake if and when the shares are trading approximately 20% higher than their current level.
 
EasyJet led the gains, climbing 3.03%, whilst housebuilders Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon also fared well, rising 2.72%, 2.11% and 1.76% respectively.
 
Meanwhile, GVC Holdings, which owns bookmaker Ladbrokes, also made progress, rising 5.47% after chief executive Kenny Alexander stated that the company had made an “excellent start to the year” and that he wouldn’t sell any further stock whilst in the job. Last week, Alexander and chairman Lee Feldman sold £20 million worth of equity between them, prompting a 20% fall in the share price and significant investor discontent.
 
In the US, the S&P 500 was down 0.46% to 2,805.37, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.13% to 25,625.59 and the Nasdaq dropped 0.63% to 7,643.38.
 
Asian stocks fared better. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.85% to 3,022.72 and the Hang Seng rose 0.56% to 28,728.25.
 
On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.28% against the dollar to $1.3152 and fell 0.3% against the euro to €1.1692.

Finals
Arbuthnot Banking Group, Arix Bioscience, BBGI SICAV S.A. (DI), Biome Technologies, Eddie Stobart Logistics, Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd, IGas Energy, India Capital Growth Fund Ltd, Impact Healthcare Reit, International Public Partnerships Ltd, Intelligent Ultrasound Group, Scisys Group, Secure Trust Bank
 
Interims
Ceres Power Holdings, Diurnal Group, Tritax Eurobox (GBP), Genedrive
 
Trading Announcements
Mitie Group
 
AGMs
Aukett Swanke Group, Chenavari Capital Solutions Red, Temple Bar Investment Trust, United Bank Ltd GDR (Reg S)

EGMs
Datang International Power Generation Co Ltd.
 
UK Economic Announcements
(07:00) Nationwide House Price Index
 
International Economic Announcements
(09:00) M3 Money Supply (EU)
(10:00) Business Climate Indicator (EU)
(10:00) Consumer Confidence (EU)
(10:00) Economic Sentiment Indicator (EU)
(10:00) Services Confidence
(12:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(12:30) Gross Domestic Product (US)
(12:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(12:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)
(14:00) Pending Home Sales (US)

Columns of note

In the Financial Times, Edward Luce asserts that if Democrats are to retake the White House next year, they must remember Bill Clinton’s mantra, “it’s the economy, stupid”. He argues President Trump will win if the 2020 election becomes a referendum on his personality. Instead, Democrats must “diagnose Mr Trump as a symptom, rather than the cause, of America’s problems”, and not be distracted by his personal flaws and the Russia investigation.
 
Writing in The Times, David Aaronovitch examines the visit to Cuba undertaken by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall this week. He reminds us that Cuba is still a repressive state, with no free press, no non-government media, only one political party and where dissenters are harassed and imprisoned. He argues that “we lose something morally” when we engage with these countries and that when we do, “we should drop the outward show of somehow enjoying ourselves or commending their regimes.

Did you know?

There have been several recorded instances of dolphins chewing gently on puffer fish to get high off toxins released when puffer fish inflate.
Parliamentary highlights
TODAY

House of Commons

 
Oral questions
 
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions)
Church Commissioners, the House of Commons Commission, the Public Accounts Commission and the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission
 
Business statement: Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
 
Backbench business
 
General Debate on Beer Taxation and Pubs - Mike Wood
General Debate on Permitted Development and Shale Gas Exploration - Wera Hobhouse, Mr Clive Betts
 
House of Lords
 
Oral questions
 
Speech of the Chief Executive of Ofcom encouraging public service broadcasters to collaborate to compete with global giants such as Netflix and Amazon in producing high-quality original content - Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury
Modernising the way productivity is measured in the economy - Lord Haskel
Domestic production, marketing and trade of meat prepared according to the rules of religious slaughter - Baroness Ludford
Humanitarian situation in the countries affected by Cyclone Idai - Baroness Hayman
 
Debate
 
Report from the Liaison Committee 'New special inquiry committees 2019–20'
Continuing and evolving role of the Commonwealth and the UK’s relationship with it - Baroness Goldie
 
Scottish Parliament
 
General Questions
 
First Minister’s Questions
 
Members' Business — S5M-16231 Rhoda Grant: Condemnation of Misogyny, Racism, Harassment and Sexism
 
Portfolio Questions: Finance, Economy and Fair Work
 
Scottish Government Debate: Progressing Towards a Fairer Scotland for Disabled People
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons
 
No business scheduled
 
House of Lords
 
No business scheduled
 
Scottish Parliament
 
No business scheduled