5 April

Ania Lewandowska

5 April

Good morning,

People of rebel-held town, Khan Sheikhoun, are the latest victims of the conflict in Syria that shows no sign of ending.

At least 58 people have been killed, including 11 children under the age of eight, and dozens have been wounded in a suspected chemical attack in Idlib province yesterday. Doctors treating victims at makeshift hospitals in the area said victims from Khan Sheikhoun were showing signs of sarin poisoning, including foaming at the mouth, breathing difficulties and limp bodies. 

And as if things were not bad enough, moments after the attack a missile hit one of the clinics, bringing down rubble on top of medics as they struggled to treat victims.

The UN Security Council is to hold emergency talks today and the UN war crimes investigators will probe the attack, which has been described as the deadliest chemical weapons attack in years and blamed on the Syrian regime.

The suspected use of chemical weapons brought furious reaction from around the world. The UK, the European Union and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey condemned the attack. The White House called it a “reprehensible” act “that cannot be ignored”.

Damascus has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and told local media and Reuters that it had hit a rebel warehouse that was stockpiling chemical agents.

The people of Syria continue to suffer and the world is powerless to stop it.

 

NEWS

The Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested diesel car owners could get some help from the government if cities adopt new charges to tackle pollution. May said drivers who were encouraged to buy diesel cars by previous governments, only to see the policy reversed, must now be “taken into account”. The proposals come as Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, announced plans to charge diesel car drivers £24 a day to drive in central London from 2019. 

Free movement of people from the EU could continue for five more years, Theresa May suggested yesterday. Speaking to journalists during her visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister said she expects there to be an “implementation period” to help businesses to adjust.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has denied that he has damaged the Labour Party, despite anger among many of its members after he avoided expulsion. The veteran politician was suspended from the Labour Party for another year after he claimed Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s.

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile from its eastern port of Sinpo into the Sea of Japan, apparently testing a land-based version of its rocket that can be fired from a submarine. The launch comes days before President Trump meets with China’s Xi Jinping — with North Korea at the top of the agenda.

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Plans for a new nuclear power station in north-west England have hit further troubles after Engie said it would force its partner in the project, Toshiba, to buy its stake for close to $139m. The French utility company Engie said it was exercising its "contractual rights" to sell the shares. Toshiba's Westinghouse in the US sought bankruptcy protection last week.

The European Commission will investigate whether the Royal Bank of Scotland’s alternative proposal to help challenger banks and boost competition among lenders will be able to substitute a previous pledge to sell its Williams & Glyn unit. EU state aid regulators will begin gathering evidenceon the viability of the plan, which is set to cost RBS at least £750m.

Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase has backed up President Trump's call for US banking regulations to be cut back. In his annual letter to shareholders, Dimon said regulations on bank reserves and mortgage lending have left banks with "too much capital" which could more usefully be lent to borrowers. (£)

 

MARKETS

What happened yesterday
Mining stocks led a rise for the FTSE 100, with Fresnillo, Anglo American and Rio Tinto among the four main risers. The miners closed between 2.4% and 2.9% up, helping the FTSE finish 0.48% higher at 7,317.9 points.
 
Morrisons and Sainsbury’s fell 2.8% and 2.4% respectively after research from Kantar suggested more pricing pressures facing supermarkets. Old Mutual, whose shares have fallen in wake of political turmoil in South Africa, regained their poise.
 
The pound was down 0.37% against the dollar at $1.2440, and fell 0.29% against the euro at 1.1663 euros.

Finals
Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP), M P Evans Group Plc (MPE), Puretech Health plc (PRTC), Zegona Communications plc (ZEG)

Interims
McCarthy & Stone plc (MCS)

Trading Announcements
Electrocomponents plc (ECM), Mothercare plc (MTC)

AGMs
Scottish American Investment Co plc (SCAM), Smith & Nephew plc (SN.)

International Economic Announcements
(7:00) Factory Orders (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Nigel Farage is back, writing in the Daily Telegraph he insists the EU’s opening position on Brexit negotiations “makes any deal impossible”. He discusses the European Parliament’s motion voted on in Strasbourg today. Farage is surprised and disappointed with the fact that the EU won’t enter into any trade negotiations before Brexit is complete. He also expressed his outrage in relation to comments made about Gibraltar and insisted that it should “become an integral part of the United Kingdom”. (£)

In the Financial Times, David Gardner analyses the situation in Raqqa, the Syrian capital of Isis. He writes it is already clear the US military intends to use the Syrian Kurds as its strike force. This is despite objections from Turkey worried about the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), ambitions of establishing a “self-governing mini state” in the region.

 

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY 

House of Commons
In recess until 18th April

House of Lords
Legislation
Digital Economy Bill - 3rd reading - Lord Ashton of Hyde

Scottish Parliament
In recess until 16th April. 
 

THURSDAY 

House of Lords
Oral questions

Curbing the use of tax havens - Lord Sharkey 

The programme for the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and the expansion and strengthening of international cultural, trade and investment initiatives - Lord Chidgey

Increasing the number of women on boards and in senior posts of sports governing bodies - Lord Addington

Legislation
Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill - 3rd reading - Baroness Gale

Debate
Report from the EU Committee 'Brexit and the EU budget' - Baroness Falkner of Margravine