29 January 2019

Tom Gillingham

29 January 2019

Good morning,

Winter is coming.
 
If you’re not familiar with the origins of this now iconic phrase, please allow me to explain. Game of Thrones is a TV series where a cast of despicable characters unsuccessfully squabble over an uncomfortable royal seat in a vaguely olde-worlde version of the UK.
 
The show’s key tension comes from the fact that all of the action is set against a creeping deadline – ‘winter’ – which will change the kingdom from a land of plenty to a place of hunger and even more strife.
 
How Sky Atlantic still get away with calling it “fantasy” is beyond me.
 
That little diversion aside, let’s come back to the fact that winter is literally coming to the actual, contemporary UK. Weather forecasters are predicting much of the country will see snow falling at some point this week.
 
I find it genuinely amazing how the British media manages to find new and more panic-inducing terms for seasonal snowfall each year. Offering some fun distraction from the Brexit doom and gloom, top marks go to the Express for the very shouty “SNOW BOMB”, but I’d also like to include an honourable mention for the Evening Standard, which predicts “whiteout” conditions in central London this evening.
 
With inclement weather meeting judgment day (again) in parliament, the absence of a ‘snowmageddon’ headline today feels like an opportunity missed.
 
A beneficiary of any snow day stay-at-homes will likely be streaming services. Perhaps the next few days will offer Game of Thrones fans time to re-watch old episodes in a vain bid to predict its conclusion. Funnily enough, they won’t be the only ones waiting until spring to find out the ending.

News

In today’s series of amendment votes, parliament looks set to reject Theresa May’s Brexit “Plan B”. With the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, MPs could temporarily suspend the rules that give precedence to government business and run the Brexit process itself. This process could – if it can secure enough votes – force the government to request an extension of Article 50 to come up with a deal that can command a majority in the House of Commons.
 
The US has piled pressure on Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, by announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. The sanctions represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date, and they come five days after Jaun Guaidó declared himself interim president.
 
iPhone users are being warned of a bug that allows eavesdropping on their devices through the FaceTime app. The glitch apparently allows callers to view video and hear audio from another person’s device, even if the call to it is rejected.

Business & Economy

Apple will reveal its financial results at 2pm UK time today. Analyst and investor eyes will be on whether the technology giant has managed to arrest its recent decline. There is a perception that it is losing ground in the smartphone sales race, raising the possibility that we might see new products or price points on the horizon.
 
Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company, has protested its innocence after US prosecutors filed a host of criminal charges against the firm. The charges include obstruction of justice, bank fraud and theft of technology. The telecoms giant, which has been plagued by allegations of close links to the Chinese state, has also rejected criminal claims against its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, after her arrest in Canada last month.
 
Royal Mail is battling headwinds including business uncertainty. The company narrowed its full-year profit forecast, and revealed a larger-than-expected decline in the volume of addressed letters. Despite this, its overall trading performance was in line with expectations, thanks in part to increased parcel volumes and revenues. Royal Mail predicts adjusted operating profit (before transformation costs) to range between £500m and £530m for 2018-19, marginally below its previous forecast of £500m to £550m.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Renewed Brexit concerns weighed heavily on London stocks yesterday, with falls as investors eye what is likely to be a bumpy week in the House of Commons. On top of domestic concerns, downward pressure is also being exerted by factors from further afield, like the second round of US-China trade talks which are scheduled for later this week.
 
The FTSE 100 fell by 0.91% to 6,747.10, while the pound was 0.51% lower against the euro at 1.15. It also fell 0.42% against the US dollar, to 1.32.
 
The prospect of trade talks with China also loomed large over the US markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.84% at 24,528.22, the Nasdaq 100 was 1.33% lower at 6,697.09 and the S&P 500 also fell, by 0.78% to 2,643.85.

Finals
Crest Nicholson Holdings
 
Interims
Filtronic
Hargreaves Lansdown
NWF Group
PZ Cussons
 
Q4 Results
Domino's Pizza Group

Trading Announcements
Domino's Pizza Group
DP Poland
Greencore Group
Intermediate Capital Group
Luceco
Royal Mail
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company

AGMs
Greencore Group
Residential Secure Income
UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company
 
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Credit
             
Int. Economic Announcements
(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in The Times (£), Max Hastings suggests that Theresa May is in good company with other underwhelming prime ministers. He says few of her predecessors managed to leave office on a high, before arguing that several accomplished good things initially, then spoilt it all towards the end. He concludes by saying Theresa May’s only chance of securing a notable place in British history is if she succeeds in dragging Britain out of Europe on March 29.
 
Stephen Bush sticks with the Brexit theme for his column in the New Statesman. He says the biggest problem is that, by Wednesday morning, we will have a pretty good idea what parliament dislikes. The bigger challenge is finding something that this divided group of MPs can actually agree to like.

Did you know?

A hill in New Zealand reportedly has the longest place name in the world. It’s called Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY 
 
House of Commons
Oral questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Smoking Prohibition (National Health Service Premises) - Tracy Brabin
 
Motion
Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Discussions with ministers and the heads of police forces about security issues relating to Brexit - Baroness Quin
 
Report by the Social Metrics Commission: 'A new measure of poverty for the UK' - Baroness Lister of Burtersett
 
Consultations on the operation of drones in UK airspace - Lord Balfe
 
Legislation
Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [HL] - Report stage - Lord Bates
 
Scottish Parliament
Ministerial Statement: St John's Paediatric Services Update
 
Scottish Government Business: A Connected Scotland: The Scottish Government’s Strategy for Tackling Social Isolation and Loneliness
 
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Debate: Appointment of a New Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons

Prime Minister’s Questions
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
European Union (Requirements Relating to Withdrawal) - Dr Sarah Wollaston
 
Westminster Hall debate
World cancer day - John Lamont
 
House of Lords

Oral questions
Annual cost to the NHS of patients missing appointments with their GPs - Lord Dobbs
 
Short Debate
Concerns expressed by general practitioners that children and young people with mental health problems are unable to access NHS treatments - Baroness Tyler of Enfield
 
Scottish Parliament
 
Ministerial Statement: Response to the latest EU Exit vote in Westminster
 
Portfolio Questions