The power-sharing clock was ticking loudly in Northern Ireland as yesterday’s 4pm deadline to form a new executive approached, was reached, then disappeared over the horizon. Reaching a stalemate, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire is buying more time –one of three options available to him – by extending the deadline on talks for a few more weeks. He said there was “no appetite for another election”, but whether this will help broker an agreement or merely extend the current stalemate remains to be seen. It is difficult to see how to break the blame game between the DUP and Sinn Fein as each party stands firm in their positions. However, no budget or programme for government has yet been set to manage public spending, adding to the sense of urgency for a resolution.
Theresa May had other union politics on her mind yesterday as she met with Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow. The Prime Minister stuck to her position, saying she would not allow a second independence referendum before Brexit negotiations concluded. Scotland’s First Minister told BBC Scotland yesterday that she had been left frustrated by the talks, and continues to argue that a referendum should take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, when the terms of Brexit should be clear.
Downing Street’s next move could be to insist that the SNP secures a mandate for a referendum to coincide with the next Holyrood elections in 2021. With so many chess pieces now on the board, a painstaking tactical exchange is set to ensue over the next few weeks.
Business Secretary Greg Clark has launched an inquiry into the flawed £6bn procurement to decommission a dozen nuclear sites in the UK after it emerged that taxpayers would foot a £100m legal bill on the project. Ministers have admitted the public procurement was “defective” as they announced the inquiry yesterday, to be headed by Steve Holliday, former boss of the National Grid.
As the deadline to trigger article 50 approaches tomorrow, former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith has told The Daily Telegraph that government should review regulations after Brexit, to reduce the current burden on businesses and citizens. The Telegraph has launched a campaign to urge the government to promise a “bonfire of EU red tape” in its 2020 manifesto.
Analysts have predicted that a boycott of Google by some of the world’s largest companies will cost it more than $750 million a year. Investment bank Nomura predicts the cost of hiring hundreds more employees to review and remove inappropriate content would add an additional $50 million to these costs.
As part of efforts to cut £1bn of costs from across the NHS, head of the health service Simon Stevens has announced it will no longer pay for everyday medicines, including painkillers, cough mixture and gluten-free food. Stevens’ detailed NHS Delivery Plan will be officially unveiled this Friday.
Business & Economy
The Bank of England is set to introduce its toughest set of stress tests for banks, having indicated it would make an additional assessment of banks’ business models alongside its usual health checks. This year the Bank will assess how the seven lenders it routinely checks would deal with a persistent drag on profitability over a seven-year period. Commenting on the move, David Strachan from Deloitte described it as “uncharted waters” for the Bank of England as no other central bank has done anything like this before.
Qatar plans to invest £5bn in the UK over the next three to five years, in a vote of confidence for post-Brexit Britain. The country has already invested more than £40bn in the UK. The main focus of the new investment will be in assets worth more than £200m in infrastructure, energy and property.
What happened yesterday?
Yesterday the dollar fell to its lowest level since mid-November, with nearly all the gains since Donald Trump’s election wiped out. US traders showed anxiety over the US president’s ability to get legislation through, following the failure to get the Affordable Health Care Act voted through on Friday.
Europe’s stock markets ended the day in the red. In London, the FTSE 100 finished down 43 points at 7293, a fall of 0.6%. However, the index is expected to open up 26 points at 7,315, as concerns dissipate over the healthcare reforms.
Asian markets steadied themselves and made gains overnight. Japan’s Nikkei made its largest one-day gain in a couple of weeks, jumping one per cent.
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Int. Economic Announcements
14:00 Consumer Confidence (US)
Source: FTSE100, The Financial Times
Columns of Note
In the FT, Gideon Rachman argues that British people have forgotten the country's imperial history. He argues that to misunderstand the past will have dangerous consequences for the future, as we seek to build new trading relationships after Brexit.
In times of disturbing events like last week's Westminster attack, most of us tend to turn to leaders to speak on our behalf, or perform what researchers call “emotional labour” to manage our feelings. The Conversation discusses Theresa May’s response to Wednesday’s attack, making comparisons to Margaret Thatcher’s response to the IRA bomb detonated during the Conservative party conference in 1984. The writer argues that May succeeded in displaying greater empathy than Thatcher, demonstrating integrity and care in the tone of her speech.
Cartoon Source: The Telegraph
Did you know?
The new £1 coin will enter circulation today. Features that make it more difficult to counterfeit include a hidden high security feature and an image like a hologram that changes from a “£” symbol to the number “1” when the coin is viewed from different angles.
House of Commons
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including Topical Questions
The Conflict in Yemen
House of Lords
Introduction of a deposit return scheme to reduce plastic bottle waste and increase recycling - Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Continuation of Scottish Government Debate: Scotland's Choice
House of Commons
Prime Minister's Question Time
Northern Ireland Affairs - Oral Evidence Session
House of Lords
Digital Economy Bill - Report stage (day 3)
Portfolio Questions: Finance and the Constitution: Economy, Jobs and Fair Work