As the nights draw in, the weather worsens and the ubiquitous Christmas cheer gets you feeling all cosy (or hateful), a wee game of chess by the fire may seem appealing.
But the World Chess Championships have been far from picturesque this year, as the world’s two best chess “grandmasters” have battled it out over the board. With 773 moves, 51 total hours, and 12 successive draws, the Norwegian champion Mangus Carlsen held onto his crown, eventually crushing his American rival Fabiano Caruana.
Now, forgive me for the slight stretch, but I can’t help but draw a comparison between this series of standoffs and Theresa May’s Brexit to date. She’s negotiated repeatedly to no great effect. Now it seems like her deal is sitting in check, with a meaningful vote in parliament looming over her and little hope of success in her last-ditch attempt to rally support.
To add to the tension, the Bank of England warned yesterday that Brexit would plunge Britain into its deepest recession since the 1930s. In its worst-case scenario, house prices could fall by as much as 30 per cent, interest rates could rise to 5.5% and the economy could shrink by eight per cent – exceeding the 6.3% contraction of the 2008 financial crisis.
And this announcement came just hours after Whitehall analysis suggested that the economy would shrink regardless of the kind of Brexit we end up with. Chancellor Philip Hammond said that “in a purely economic sense” Britain would be worse off than if it stayed in the European Union. Strangely, Theresa May later said in the Commons that the analysis did not mean that the UK would “be poorer in the future than we are today”.
Brexiteers were outraged at the assessments, which they refer to as the resurrection of the “Project Fear” campaigning seen during the 2016 referendum campaign.
To add to the hysteria, security minister Ben Wallace is to warn that a no-deal Brexit would have a real effect on UK-EU security ties, impacting their ability to protect the public. In a speech to law enforcement leaders, he will highlight the importance of cooperation in providing effective security.
So, it seems that May’s deal is backed into a corner and she’s surrounded by opponents (okay, maybe the chess analogy was too simplistic). Here’s hoping the comparisons end with the stalemates and neither side will be subjected to a crushing defeat.
A growing number of young people are becoming victims of knife crime. According to the Guardian, 37 children and teenagers have been killed so far, continuing a five-year upward trend. These deaths were often clustered in inner city areas. Home secretary Sajid Javid told a police conference last month that officers should “feel confident, trusted and supported in using stop and search”, encouraging police to step up their response in the capital.
Ukraine’s leader Poroshenko has urged Nato to send ships to aid in their response to a naval confrontation with Russia off Crimea. He claims that the ships could be relocated to “assist Ukraine and provide security”. Nato has expressed “full support” for Ukraine, which is not a member state, but has not yet responded to Poroshenko’s latest statement.
A Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked in a viral video was left “crying at night” following incessant bullying since he arrived in Britain. After fleeing the city of Homs in 2010 when he was eight, the schoolboy travelled to Lebanon with his family before resettling two years ago. West Yorkshire police said that a 16-year-old boy would appear in youth court to face an assault charge.
Business & Economy
Unilever chief executive Paul Polman is to retire from the consumer goods giant.
Three online gaming companies have been fined a combined £14 million by the Gambling Commission for failing to implement “effective safeguards to prevent money laundering and keep consumers safe from gambling-related harm”. Daub Alderney has been fined £7.1 million, Casumo £5.85 million and Videoslots £1 million. The commission also said it had taken action “against the individuals responsible for the failings”.
The UK and Germany are “growing wary” of Huawei and its potential to undermine the security of telecoms networks. The Chinese telecoms company is set to install 5G equipment in the countries, however a US delegation warned of the potential security threat posed by allowing the company to access networks and supply chains. Australia, New Zealand have already blocked Huawei on security grounds. (£)
The Bank of England has warned that households are sitting on considerable piles of debt which, although lower than during the financial crisis, are “historically large”. If families come under financial strain – a likely outcome of any Brexit – then they may stop spending abruptly. This would amplify an economic downturn. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended down 0.2% yesterday, just before the Bank of England released their report analysing the impact of Brexit.
Meanwhile, Wall Street was up following the announcement by Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell that US monetary policy was not on a “preset” path. The remarks were seen as relatively meek, sending the S&P 500 up 1.9% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 2.1%. China-US trade tension was subdued following a statement from Donald Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow: it is up to President Xi Jinping to “step up and come up with new ideas” to break the deadlock.
In the run-up to the G20 summit, global stock markets were positive. Europe’s Stoxx 600 closed flat and in Franfurt, the Xetra Dax closed just 0.1% lower.
There was renewed pressure on oil prices after Saudi Arabia said it would not cut production unilaterally. Brent crude was down 2.1%.
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.7% against the dollar at $1.28 following the Bank of England release. It lost 0.12% from the euro at €1.13.
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Columns of Note
In this week’s Spectator, Brendan O’Neill asks: is it time we civilised the Sentinelese people? An American missionary named John Allen Chau went to visit the Neolithic tribe in an effort to convert them to Christianity. In response, the tribe, which has little contact with modernity, showered him in arrows, killing him instantly before burying him on the beach. In response, Chau was widely ridiculed and referred to as a typical arrogant American. O’Neill argues that, Chau had the right idea. Rather than preserve these ancient tribes, we should introduce them to modern life. It is an injustice to leave the tribe to live in stone age conditions, without access to the gains of modernity and our common humanity. (£)
Alice Thomson argues in The Times that men who fund the exploitation of vulnerable sex workers should face the consequences. Prostitution has increased over the past decade. The economic downturn, problems in the roll out of universal credit and the collapse of pay-day loan companies have all added to the number of women willing to sell their bodies. Thomson argues that a system like the one in place in Sweden – the sex buyer law – where the punter is criminalised rather than the sex worker, would prove more effective. (£)
Did you know?
If Heinz Tomato Ketchup pours out of the bottle unaided at a speed faster than 0.028 mph, it is rejected for sale.
House of Commons
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 Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
Improving Education Standards - Mrs Theresa May
HIV and World Aids Day - Lloyd Russell-Moyle
House of Lords
Impact on public health outcomes of people being turned away from sexual health services, as reported by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV - Lord Cashman
Supporting the global fight against tuberculosis, in the light of tuberculosis being the leading cause of death globally among people living with HIV/AIDS - Lord Collins of Highbury
Whether the Government's 25 year environment plan will be underpinned by legally binding targets - Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Improving early diagnosis and survival rates for cancer - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
First Minister's Questions
Scottish Government Debate: Ending Homelessness Together
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
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