29 January


29 January

Good morning,

It is only Monday, but the prime minister may already be looking longingly at her schedule for Wednesday. Theresa May is visiting China, a trip that might provide a chance of respite from the domestic troubles that gave her another torrid weekend.

Newspaper headlines continue to make uncomfortable reading for the prime minister, with her party’s discontent that has dogged her premiership threatening to escalate into a full-scale civil war.

The unrest stems from an anxiety on the part of Brexiteers that Philip Hammond’s idea for a “very modest” Brexit, whereby Britain remain in a customs union with the EU, is fast becoming the prevailing view of the government. This has led to a synchronised attempt by a number of Eurosceptic Tory MPs to call for the removal of the chancellor from his position.

MPs including Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg took to the airwaves on Sunday to declare that reports of a softer Brexit were “very concerning” and the chancellor was “not being loyal to the prime minister”.

Moves to discredit Hammond come as May prepares to chair a meeting of her Brexit cabinet committee in order to devise the country’s position ahead of the start of the next round of talks with the EU later this week. These talks are also unlikely to be plain sailing, with the EU expected to set out a hard line stance that Britain should automatically accept all the rules set by the EU during the transition period.

While Hammond may be the top target, May’s position remains under intense scrutiny. Graham Brady, chairman of the influential backbench 1922 committee, is expected to receive more letters later today that call for a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

While it looks like her authority is in terminal decline, a leadership election in the midst of Brexit negotiations is likely to cause further turmoil and that might just keep May in Downing Street for longer than many of her colleagues perhaps would like.


Russia’s main opposition party leader was arrested and later released on Sunday for organising an unauthorised protest in Moscow, where thousands took to the streets to protest against President Putin. Demonstrations took place after the decision to ban Alexei Navalny from challenging Vladimir Putin in the polls. (£)

Labour has said it will not seek to block or wreck the EU withdrawal bill when it begins its passage through the House of Lords tomorrow. However, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, the party’s shadow Brexit minister, said that the party will make changes to the legislation because it is considered “not fit for purpose”.

Roger Federer made yet more history yesterday as he beat Marin Cilic to secure a record-equalling sixth Australian Open. Federer beat the Croat 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to win the 20th Grand Slam tennis title of his illustrious career.

Business & Economy

MPs have accused Carillion of “wriggling out” of payments into its company pension schemes as its troubles grew. New evidence has been given to the Work and Pensions Select Committee that revealed the collapsed construction group’s pension shortfall near doubled to nearly a billion pounds in three years. (£)

Music streaming service, Spotify, is preparing to become the first company to attempt a “direct listing” on the New York Stock Exchange in March or April. The company is hoping to save millions in underwriting fees by registering its shares on the exchange and letting them trade freely when the market opens. However, the process would not raise any money and put shares at the mercy of market volatility. (£)

US tax reform, a strengthening international economy and swelling equity markets have been given as reasons for global deal making recording its strongest start since the turn of the century. Data from Dealogic has shown a total of $273bn in mergers and acquisitions has taken place so far this year, marking the busiest January since the peak of the dotcom boom in 2000.


The week ahead
All eyes will be on Donald Trump on Tuesday as he delivers his first formal State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. His speech is likely to concentrate on his perceived highlights in an otherwise turbulent first year in office. Tax reforms and his involvement in sustaining a healthy stock market and strong economy will form the basis of his address, as well as a targeting support for the Republicans ahead of November’s mid-term elections by calling for the repeal of Obamacare.

On Wednesday, Janet Yellen will chair her final US Federal Reserve policy meeting, though it is likely to be an uneventful meeting with short-term interest rates unlikely to change.

Wednesday will also see Facebook and eBay announce fourth-quarter results, with both companies expected to reveal a rise in revenue and profit. Apple, Amazon, Alibaba and Shell will announce their respective results on Thursday.

Porvair, SThree


UK Economic Announcements
(07:00) Nationwide House Price Index

International Economic Announcements
(13:30) Personal Income (US)
(13:30) Personal Spending (US)

Columns of Note

Kevin Pringle writes in The Sunday Times that Scotland’s MSPs “should be acting as legislators, not just politicians”. Turning his focus to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, Pringle says that a law as controversial as this needs to have broad political consensus and calls on opposition parties to work together to deliver improved legislation in the event that the football law is repealed. (£)

In The Times, Clare Foges writes that people in Britain protesting against Donald Trump is a “monumental waste of time”. Foges says this energy is wasted as the US president does not care about his British detractors, and that this anger and energy should instead be channelled into furthering causes closer to home. (£)

Did you know?

In Japan, Kit Kat biscuits are often given to students as a good luck charm before exams. The custom is based on the name's resemblance to the phrase "kitto katsu," meaning "you will surely win." Kit Kats all round for the Scottish football team, we humbly suggest.

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

Oral questions

Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill - Remaining stages

House of Lords

Oral questions
UK representations to the Turkish government on human rights abuses following EU withdrawal - Lord Balfe

Full integration of Gibraltar in the Brexit negotiations - Lord Luce

Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan - Lord Gardiner of Kimble

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled


House of Commons

Oral questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - including Topical Questions

House of Lords

Oral questions
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Second Reading (day 1) - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park

The BBC's coverage of Brexit, set against its new Charter and guidelines - Lord Pearson of Rannoch

Identity of individual conducting the UK's negotiations for EU withdrawal - Baroness Walmsley

Protection of women in the events industry - Baroness Hussein-Ece

Scottish Parliament

Topical Questions

Stage 3 Proceedings: Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill