Forget The Apprentice, I’m a Celebrity and even a bonus midweek Match of the Day. Today sees the second instalment of the Brexit thriller in the House of Commons after what was undoubtedly a box office opening night.
However, Theresa May might be forgiven for thinking it was a horror she was in yesterday, as she could only watch as her government suffered the worst series of Commons defeats on a single day for any Westminster administration in four decades. For the prime minister, the antagonists were her parliamentary colleagues, who delivered three blows that will do little to halt the erosion of her ebbing authority.
The drama began when the government lost a bid to have the issue of publishing the full legal advice it had received before agreeing the Brexit deal referred to the Privileges Committee of MPs next week. This was swiftly followed by its refusal to publish the advice being found to be in contempt of parliament, the first time that has ever happened to a UK government. The advice will now be published at 11.30am today.
And things went from bad to worse for May and her cabinet, as she suffered a third defeat in what was a breathless hour that will see parliament given a direct say on what happens next if – as expected – they vote down her Brexit deal on Tuesday. MPs voted by 321 to 299 on the proposal for parliament to have the right to decide on a plan-B in a move that reduces considerably the chances of a no-deal Brexit and raises the prospect of other options including a People’s Vote. The vote came a matter of hours after the advocate general to the European Court of Justice argued that Britain could unilaterally revoke Article 50 and remain within the EU without the approval of other member states.
As with all good dramas, there were plot twists and colourful characters. Michael Fallon and Damien Green - considered staunch allies to May - rebelled to support the move to assert parliament’s power over a plan-B, while the DUP voted in favour of finding the government (that it has a confidence-and-supply pact with) in contempt. And yet she found unlikely partners in left-wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner – certainly no fan of the Conservatives - and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who led a failed charge to depose the prime minister only last month.
Before she braces herself to do things all over again, the reviews for day one are in and they make for pretty grim reading for the PM. ’63 minutes of mayhem’ read The Mirror; ‘the day May lost control’ was the Guardian’s judgement, and City AM called it May’s ‘day of humiliation’. For ITV’s Tom Bradby it was ‘perhaps the most significant day since the [referendum] vote itself’.
With her performance being widely criticised, the PM has plenty food for thought as she considers the merits of taking up ITV’s offer of bringing her Brexit production to the small screen.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US presidential election, has said that he will not be pursuing a jail sentence for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, despite Flynn admitting that he lied to the FBI. In a memo, Mueller said Flynn had provided "first-hand" details about links between the Trump election team and Russian officials.
More than 130,000 children – equivalent to five youngsters in every school - will be living in temporary accommodation over the festive period in Britain, analysis by Shelter has found. The research found that 50,000 more children in England, Wales and Scotland are homeless compared with five years ago, a rise of 59%, while there has been a particularly sharp increase in some affluent, high housing cost areas in south-east England.
Researchers have found a ‘universal fingerprint’ in common cancers that could see a diagnosis being made with a simple ten-minute blood test. In an exciting breakthrough in how cancer is understood, a team from the University of Queensland in Australia discovered a tell-tale pattern of gene expression in cancer genomes which is not found in healthy genomes, allowing them to identify cancer DNA circulating in the blood. (£)
Business & Economy
Royal Mail, Thomas Cook and AA are all set to face relegation as the FTSE indices prepares for its end of year reshuffle. The demotions indicate troubles at three of Britain’s oldest corporate names, as Royal Mail prepares to leave the FTSE 100, and Thomas Cook and the AA falling from the broader FTSE 250 list. The most likely company to replace Royal Mail in the FTSE 100 is Hiscox, the Bermuda-headquartered insurer.
AP Moller Maersk, the Danish group that transports nearly one in five seaborne containers, has pledged to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 in a commitment that throws down a challenge to an industry that is one of the biggest polluters. Maersk said that it needed its entire supply chain to come up with carbon-free ships by 2030 to meet the goal.
Takeda Pharmaceutical has secured shareholder approval for a £46bn ($59bn) takeover of UK-listed drugmaker Shire, in what will become Japan's largest ever corporate acquisition. The deal, which still requires approval by Shire’s stakeholders, will bring an end to a long-running pursuit by Takeda and make the company one of the world's top 10 drugmakers.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 and 250 were both down at the close of trading yesterday as the dramatic day in the House of Commons weighed heavily on the pound.
Sterling fell below $1.27 - down 0.35% at $1.2680 against the dollar - after Theresa May’s government was found in contempt of Parliament for not publishing legal advice on the prime minister’s Brexit deal.
The FTSE 100 finished down more than 39 points at 7,022, while the more UK-focused FTSE 250 shed over 234 points at 18,329. Mining shares did particularly well on the blue-chip index: Precious metals miners Fresnillo PLC and Randgold Resources were the top performers, up 3.8% and 3.3% respectively.
Things weren’t much better across the pond as doubts over whether the US and China can strike a trade deal during their 90-day truce cast a shadow over US stocks. The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 returned big losses, falling 3.1% and 3.24% respectively.
Stock Spirits Group
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) PMI Services
Intl. Economic Announcements
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(08:56) PMI Composite (GER)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(14:45) PMI Composite (US)
(14:45) PMI Services (US)
(15:00) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Columns of Note
The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins gives his take on yesterday’s dramatic developments in the Commons. He says that the government’s defeat was humiliating but avoidable and highlights a “major weakness in the loyalty department” and the lack of sage advice behind the door at Number Ten.
Writing in The Times, Max Hastings fears that the wounds of the Brexit civil war may never heal. Hastings says that the acrimony over the EU vote will continue to split families and sever friendships because the economic and political fallout, and thus the recriminations, will persist indefinitely. (£)
Did you know?
With no content other than the title and journal formatting elements, ‘An Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of “Writer’s Block” is the shortest scientific paper ever published.
House of Commons
Prime Minister's Question Time
Section 13 (1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Day 2)
House of Lords
The negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’ (day 1) - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ - motion to regret (day 1) - Baroness Smith of Basildon
Resources for reconstruction programmes in Syria - Baroness D'Souza
Public awareness of health impacts of diesel fuel emissions - Baroness Randerson
What is the basis in statute for the offence of religious hate speech - Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Encouraging oil and gas companies to link executive pay to carbon emission reduction targets - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
Education and Skills
Scottish Government Debate
Protecting Our Interest: Scotland's Response to the UK Government and EU's Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration
House of Commons
Exiting the European Union (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Andrea Leadsom
Section 13 (1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Day 3)
House of Lords
Effect of the UK's withdrawal from the European External Action Service as a result of leaving the European Union - Lord Balfe
Situation in Nigeria following reports of the killing and maiming of 6,000 citizens by Fulani Islamist terrorists and the displacement of two million people by jihadist attacks - Baroness Cox
Possibility for a flexible VAT regime to allow digital publications to be zero-rated - Lord Foster of Bath
The negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’ (day 2) - Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ - motion to regret (day 2) - Baroness Smith of Basildon
First Minister's Questions
Stage 1 Debate: Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill