4 December

@lyle_h_hill

4 December

Good morning,

Theresa May flies to Brussels today for another round of crunch Brexit talks.She will be welcomed by both Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two sides seek to finally agree on whether that all important 'sufficient progress' has been made on divorce talks, thereby enabling discussions on a future trading relationship to begin.

Negotiations have continued throughout the weekend, following Theresa May's decision to increase her offer on the table for a Brexit "divorce bill" last week. There was a general consensus amongst the British government that "money talks" and this concession by May would swiftly bring about trade negotiations. 

However, the EU has used the latter part of last week to cite that progress must be made on other areas too, such as assurances on EU citizen's rights and on the vital Irish border issue. Donald Tusk last week announced alongside Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar that Ireland would have an ultimate veto on progressing talks to the next stage, if it felt the UK had not come to an adequate solution on the border.

The Irish border issue has been the biggest stumbling block for the UK so far, and the issue has only been exacerbated by the unique political difficulties that are faced in Northern Ireland at the moment. With stalemate between the DUP and Sinn Fein, and DUP MPs propping up Theresa May in Downing Street, any special deal agreed on the border must be acceptable to Arlene Foster.

Nevertheless, for once there seems to be positive signs emanating from the Brexit negotiations. The EU side, according to Katya Adler, the BBC Europe editor, is in an "upbeat mood" and sees signs of momentum in the discussions. For Theresa May, this trip to Brussels may be more fruitful than her last, where she was told firmly to come back when she had a better offer.

News

Following a BBC Panorama investigation, the government has halted a controversial foreign aid scheme after it emerged aid to Syria was being diverted to extremists. The project, run by Adam Smith International, has been ongoing since 2014 and seeks to provide community policing in rebel held areas. Adam Smith International strongly denies the allegations.

Former Labour deputy leader, Lord Hattersley, has used a column in the Observer to argue that Labour is facing the greatest threat in its history from the pro-Corbyn group Momentum. Hattersley's remarks come amid a deselection row in the party which has been spearheaded by Momentum activists. Ten moderate councillors in North London have either announced they will not contest their seat again or have been deselected following Momentum pressure.

The East of England Co-op will become the first supermarket chain to sell non-perishable items beyond their packaged "best before" dates in a bid to cut food waste. Dried foods and tinned products will be sold for 10p in over 125 stores in east Anglia. The move comes following estimates from the Food Standards Agency that the UK needlessly throws away 7.3 million tonnes of food every year.

Business & Economy

The healthcare insurer Aetna has been purchased by the largest American drugstore chain, CVS Health. The deal is rumoured to be around $69 billion and is tipped as a consolidation in the market in a bid to fend off Amazon should it decide to enter the pharmacy market.

Facebook has announced that its new office is set to open in London, creating 800 new jobs. Facebook estimates that by the end of 2018 close to 2,300 people will work for the company across the UK. The office in London is set to be the company's largest engineering hub outside of the United States.

The Financial Reporting Council, the UK's auditing watchdog, has revealed that it has more than tripled the size of its enforcement team over the last five years. The enforcement unit now employs 30 staff, as the watchdog tries to fend off criticism that it is too close to the industry it seeks to monitor.

The CBI has once again called for clarity over Brexit as it releases its latest economic growth estimates. The group explicitly wants detail over the Brexit transition arrangements as it warns of tepid economic growth forecasts over the next two years. The CBI expects the economy to grow by 1.5% next year and 1.3% in 2019.

 

Markets

The week ahead

The week kicks off with Theresa May meeting EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in a bid to push forward Brexit negotiations.

Last week, the prime minister established a "divorce bill" that was designed to prove sufficient progress had occurred in talks to allow the two sides to negotiate a trade arrangement in parallel to separation talks. May will be hoping EU leaders agree with her position when she meets with them tomorrow.

Also this week, the Catalonian crisis may be back on our newsfeed. Tomorrow, a Belgian federal judge will decide whether deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is to be extradited back to Spain, where he faces charges of rebellion and sedition.

Tuesday marks the official start of the Catalan election campaign, which was called by Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy after the Spanish government removed the entire Catalan government from office. All 135 seats will be contested in the election.

And finally, also scheduled for Tuesday, the Turner Prize will be presented in Hull. The shortlist has been displayed in Hull's Ferens Art Gallery since September and attracted over 45,000 visitors in its first month.

Finals
Character Group
MXC Capital
 
AGMs
Jubilee Platinum
Mysale Group
Taptica International
UK Mortgages Limited

 

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) PMI Construction

International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Producer Price Index (EU)
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in the Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle hails Holyrood for its "up close and personal" style of politics, which saw Nicola Sturgeon recast this week as a bridge engineer rather than the first minister. Pringle argues that minister in Holyrood face far more scrutiny over the detail than their counterparts in Westminster, but that they should be thankful for this.

Fiona Gell, writing in the Guardian, brings Blue Planet II closer to home. She argues that the coral reefs we have off the coasts of Britain are just as spectacular and brimming with wildlife as those shown on the hit BBC show. She believes these reefs are in just as much need of protection as those in the tropics.

Did you know?
In Silicon Valley, startups that result in a successful exit have an average founding age of 47 years.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions
Communities and Local Government (including Topical Questions)

Legislation
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 4) - Committee of the whole House
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Child tooth decay - Baroness Benjamin
Nursing and midwife numbers - Baroness Thornton
Identity Cards - Lord Campbell-Savours

Debate
Economy in light of the Budget Statement - Lord Bates
 
Scottish Parliament
 
No business scheduled

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions
Justice (including Topical Questions)

Opposition Day Debate
A debate on Universal Credit on a motion in the name of the Official Opposition

House of Lords
Oral questions
Rural poverty - Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
The EU and proposals on the Irish border problem - Lord Dykes

Debate
Future of UK trade and customs policy in the light of the Government’s white papers on the Customs Bill and on Trade Policy on those issues -Baroness Fairhead

Scottish Parliament
Ministerial Statement
Planning and Inclusive Growth

Public Petitions Committee Debate
PE1517 Polypropylene Mesh Medical Devices