It seems Donald Trump’s hands have finally been tied.
Yesterday, the US president was forced to sign into law a bill which imposes fresh sanctions on Russia over the country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump was left with no choice after both the House and the Senate backed the bill with overwhelming majorities, ensuring that Congress would be able to resist any attempt by the White House to veto the measure.
Expressing his frustration at the situation, Trump described the bill as “seriously flawed” and suggested that it will drive China, Russia and North Korea closer together. However, Trump conceded that he would indeed sign the bill for the sake of “national unity”.
In anticipation of further sanctions, Russian president Vladimir Putin has already demanded that the United States reduce its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755.
This, the latest deterioration in US-Russian relations, is a severe blow to the new president, who was elected on a pledge to patch up the thorny relationship. One might be tempted to ask where it all went wrong. Just eight months ago, Donald Trump took to Twitter to laud “smart” Putin for not responding to sanctions imposed by Barack Obama.
While political commentators stir up excitement over the Trump-tinged chaos in Washington DC, events 2,000 miles away in Venezuela are a sobering reminder of what a real political crisis looks like.
As the families of British diplomatic staff were being urgently withdrawn from the country, Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan, hinted that the UK would be willing to impose sanctions on Venezuela along with UN allies. Meanwhile, the EU said it is considering a “range of actions” against the Maduro regime, although efforts are being hampered by Greece, which strongly opposes sanctions.
One person who has been markedly reticent on this issue is Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader previously hailed the Maduro government as a “cause for celebration”. Corbyn now finds himself under mounting pressure to denounce the far-left regime.
Theresa May is facing a Commons battle next month as Labour and Conservative rebels plot to ensure that the UK will remain in the European single market for a transition period after Brexit. Labour’s Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer, has said he will “work with others” in order to put in place a transitional period which provides full access to the single market and customs union.
Amid reports of long queues for British holidaymakers at EU airports, the UK’s aviation minister, Lord Callanan, has vowed to consult with his European counterparts in order to ensure that Britons can “get on with their holidays”. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, said that airlines are “jumping up and down” over the delays, which are being caused by additional checks on passengers crossing Schengen borders.
Whitehall has refused to release a record number of files to the National Archives. Government departments have applied to withhold 986 documents dating back to 1986 and 1987 which were due to be released. Some of the files reportedly relate to a Royal visit to Saudi Arabia and UK defence sales.
The Duke of Edinburgh has carried out his final solo public engagement before retirement from public duty. Having completed more than 22,000 solo engagements since 1952, Prince Philip’s last public duty was to meet with Royal Marines in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
The average pay of FTSE 100 chief executives fell by 17% to £4.5m in 2016, according to analysis published by the High Pay Centre. However, there remains a ration of 129:1 between the pay of FTSE 100 bosses and the average pay of their employees.
Former deputy governor of the Bank of England, Sir John Gieve, has said there is a “very strong case” for raising interest rates. He believes the Bank must reverse the stimulus deployed after the Brexit vote as the predicted economic downturn did not materialise.
Britain’s third-biggest supermarket, Asda, has reported a 19% fall in pre-tax profits to £791.7m in the year to 31st December. The Walmart-owned chain’s market share was also down by 0.9% to 15.7%, behind both Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The firm’s financial director has admitted that the figures were “behind expectations”.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 index closed down 12.23 points at 7411.43 on Wednesday.
The insurance company, Old Mutual, and ITV were yesterday’s biggest risers, their shares up by 2.84% and 2.51% respectively.
The financial services firm, Standard Chartered, was among yesterday’s biggest fallers, its shares down by just over 6% after it decided not to resume dividend payments.
BAE Systems reported a rise in sales and profits for the first half of 2017 but the defence group ended up among the biggest fallers after warning that it expects a “softening” in sales at its cyber security division.
On the currency markets, sterling edged up by 0.2% against the dollar at $1.3230. The pound fell against the euro, down 0.3% at €1.1156.
Aviva, Cobham, ConvaTec Group, esure Group, Inmarsat, London Stock Exchange Group, Non-Standard Finance, Shire Plc, Spirent Communications, Serco Group
Inmarsat, Hellenic Telecom Industries SA ADS, Randgold Resources Ltd., RSA Insurance Group, Shire Plc
Amiad Water Systems Ltd, Dekeloil Public Ltd
Next, UDG Healthcare Plc.
UK Economic Announcements
(12.00) BoE Interest Rate Decision
International Economic Announcements
(11:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)
(15:00) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
In his Times column, David Aaronovitch calls on Jeremy Corbyn to offer an explanation for why President Maduro’s far-left policies have failed in Venezuela. Aaronovitch pleads with Corbyn to end his “silence” on the issue and to tell the British public how the socialist model can be deployed successfully.
In an article in The Guardian, Vernon Bogdanor argues that the only way out of the impasse created by a deadlocked and divided parliament is to hold a second referendum on the Brexit deal. Bogdanor admits that a second vote is currently “unlikely”, however reminds readers that a referendum on Europe also appeared unlikely in 1971.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some people are allergic to Wi-Fi. It's a condition called Electromagnetic Sensitivity.