5 March 2019

Katie Stanton

5 March 2019

Good morning,

In a hypothetical Lil’ Miss International Political Personality Pageant, the irrefutably pretty Justin Trudeau would be a hot contender for the number one spot. Where world leaders battle it out for tiaras, sashes and a self-esteem boost, the Canadian prime minister has the perfect balance of sparkling smile and stirring spiel to win the hearts of the masses.

In fact, YouGov lists him second only to Barack Obama in the most popular international public figures category.

And while he’s not quite Putin topless on a horse, his charisma, panache and zest for all things wholesome and Canadian is undeniable.

But life hasn’t been so rosy for Mr Popular over the past few weeks. Just last night one of Canada’s top ministers quit saying she has lost confidence in the government’s handling of a corruption inquiry.

In what is now the third high-profile resignation of the year, treasury board president Jane Philpott posted a resignation letter detailing her “serious concerns” with “evidence of efforts by politicians…to intervene in the criminal case involving” the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin and two of its subsidiaries currently face fraud and corruption charges in connection with alleged bribes worth C$48 million to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011.

The firm claims that it has changed its ways and should be allowed to enter into remediation rather than facing trail, saving thousands of employees from facing the consequences of former executives’ wrongdoings. A conviction could result in a 10-year ban on bidding on Canadian federal contracts; a major financial knockback for the firm which could potentially lead to major job losses.

Prime minister Trudeau has denied political meddling to protect the company from facing a bribery trail. But ministers claim they faced sustained pressure from Trudeau and his aides to seek a settlement in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.

The matter is proceeding to trial nonetheless and the company has pledged to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations.

So, with a federal election looming seven months in the distance, the clock is ticking for Trudeau to salvage his damaged reputation or risk losing control of his position as leader of the Liberal party – and that treasured tiara.

News 

According to a survey of local authorities, the average council tax bill in England will rise by 4.5% or £75.60 from April. The increase is lower than the 5.1% rise last year but is still the second highest council tax rise in the last decade according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa). 

Ministers will today resume efforts to secure legally-binding changes to Theresa May’s Brexit deal with a view to getting MPs’ backing in a week’s time. Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and attorney general Geoffrey Cox will meet EU officials in Brussels in search of guarantees to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Venezuela’s opposition figurehead Juan Guidaó has returned to the country in an effort to re-energise his campaign for political change. The leader secretly left Venezuela last month in defiance of a travel ban to seek support elsewhere in South America and it was thought that he would be arrested upon re-entry. But it seems that threats of intervention from the US and the international spotlight have kept him safe for now and he continues with his political campaign to overthrow president Maduro.

Business & Economy 

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has been granted bail by the Tokyo district court, 107 days after he was arrested and charged with allegations of financial misconduct. In what is a rare decision for the court, Ghosn’s bail was set at ¥1 billion (or $9 million) and comes with a range of conditions including a ban on him travelling outside of Japan. (£)

The UK’s biggest estate agency group Countrywide has been fined £215,000 by HM Revenue and Customs for failing to carry out sufficient money-laundering checks. Countrywide, whose 50 agency brands include Hamptons and Bridgfords, has seen its profits halved over the last year as the sector was hit with falling sales amid a property slowdown. The firm publishes its annual results next week. (£)

China’s second in command Li Keqiang has today unveiled tax cuts worth $298 billion to boost growth in the economy. Opening the annual session of China’s parliament, Li warned that the country faces “a tough struggle”, forecasting slower growth of 6-6.5% this year. In an effort to combat the effects of a slowing economy and a US-led trade war, the measures will boost spending, increase foreign firms’ access to markets and cut billions of dollars in taxes.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 closed 0.36% higher yesterday while the broader 250 index closed marginally lower. Aviva was up 0.58% after naming its new chief executive, while Ted Baker shares were 4.67% higher following the resignation of founder Ray Kelvin as chief executive amid allegations of misconduct.

In the US the S&P 500 was down 0.6% while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.7% as optimism that the US and China will conclude trade negotiations faded. Meanwhile, the CSI 300 index of major Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 3.7% as China’s annual legislative session opens and more supportive policy was anticipated to support future growth and combat an economic slowdown.

The pound was lower at the end of the day in response to the news that the construction sector contracted in February. Brexit was cited at the main reason for the dip as delays to building projects start to take their toll on the industry. The pound was down 0.22% against the US dollar at $1.31 but rose 0.27% against the euro at €1.16 as the markets closed.

Finals

Apax Global Alpha Limited

BioPharma Credit

Direct Line Insurance Group

e-Therapeutics

4Imprint Group

Getbusy

GVC Holdings

Huntsworth

Harworth Group

Ibstock

Intertek Group

LSL Property Services

MPAC Group

Science Group

Interims

Ashtead Group

Craneware

Netcall

Q3 Results

Ashstead Group

AGMs

Blackrock North American Income Trust

CareTech Holding

Ecofin Global Utilities and Infrastructure Trust

Schroder European Read Estate Investment Trust

GMs

Range Resources Ltd. (DI)

UK Economic Announcements

(08:30) PMI Services

Int. Economic Announcements

(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(08:00) PMI Composite (EU)

(08:00) PMI Services (EU)

(08:30) PMI Composite (GER)

(08:55) PMU Services (GER)

(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)

(14:00) New Homes Saes (US)

(14:45) PMI Composite (US)

(14:45) PMI Services (US)

(15:00) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US)

Columns of Note 

Writing in The Times Martha Gill explains why you should never say sorry on social media. Apologies only serve to offer your critics a target – you’ve admitted guilt, your sincerity is in question and you will simply never be able to apologise enough. Humans will instinctively “punish and punish again”. Consequently, public figures who refuse to apologise for their failures are treated better than those who beg unashamedly for forgiveness. Just look at President Trump or Chris Grayling; unapologetic and still in office. (£)

According to Gideon Rachman, the 21st-century will see the rise of the “civilisation state”. Writing in the Financial Times, he notes the uptake of the term across the world; instead of representing simply a territory or ethnic group, a civilisation state represents a distinctive civilisation. In a move away from the traditional nation-state, Rachman sees each civilisation as nuanced and unique, requiring its own distinctive rules and institutions. It is language that is already being widely adopted in China and India. So, is the liberal western one-size-fits-all state structure coming to an end?

Did you know? 

You can cook a chicken by slapping it 49,000 times.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY  

House of Commons 
Oral questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) - Philip Davies
 
Legislation
Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustment) (No. 2) Bill
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Addressing the gender pay gap. - Baroness Nye
 
Ensuring there are sufficient specialist staff to achieve the priority ambition for stroke care - Baroness Wheeler
 
Proposed measures to ensure basic air connectivity in the event of a no-deal Brexit - Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate
 
Preparedness of small businesses for a no-deal Brexit - Baroness Burt of Solihull
 
Scottish Parliament 
Topical Questions
 
Scottish Government Debate: EU Withdrawal Negotiations

TOMORROW 

House of Commons

Oral questions

Northern Ireland

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Motion

Appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Legislation

Northern Ireland Regional Rates and Energy (No. 2) Bill

Adjournment

Special educational need in Wiltshire – Dr Andrew Murrison

House of Lords

Oral questions

Ensuring the UK maintains gender equality and rights in the workplace in line with other EU member states – Baroness Crawley

Review of the Prevent strategy – Lord Sheikh

Contract to build five Type 31e frigates – Lord West of Spithead

USA’s negotiating objectives for a future trade deal with the UK – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Legislation

Stalking Protection Bill – Third reading – Baroness Bertin

Trade Bill – Report stage (day 1) – Baroness Fairhead

Orders and regulations 

Short debate

Improving the swimming and life-saving skills of children provided through schools – Lord Storey

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio questions

Finance, Economy and Fair Work

 

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

 

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Early Years

 

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Supporting Scottish Agriculture