If you’ve got your Brexit blinkers on at the moment, you’re forgiven. I’m certainly guilty of it too. Lost in a black hole of insular (and increasingly depressing) political prattle, it’s easy to pass over major international happenings – front pagers under different circumstances – with no more than a brief glance.
So what’s been happening while this Brexit malarkey unfolds? Well, lots. And, of course, it’s important to keep the UK’s precedent-setting exit (or non-exit) from the EU at the back of our minds throughout, but give yourself a little respite from the flood of Brexit chat.
According to analysis by UBS, global unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years. The worldwide unemployment rate fell from eight per cent in 2010, to 5.2% in 2018, a breakthrough that economists attribute to “flexible working practices, lower wages and rock-bottom interest rates”.
And while more people may be employed in 2018, it turns out they don’t want to work for a tech company anymore. A string of reputational issues and scandals has caused tech firms to slide down the annual rankings of the best places to work. Now it seems that people would rather work at Nandos than deal with mismanaged sexual harassment at Google or dodgy data privacy at Facebook.
So we’re demanding more from companies than ever, including actions to ensure brands are sustainable and conscious of their environmental impact. But, with short-term threats to our happiness consuming every minute of our intelligent existence, the environment has taken a backseat.
At the UN climate summit earlier this week, almost 200 nations worked to turn the Paris 2015 agreement into action amid reports that we are far from a plateau in global carbon emissions. Research by the Global Carbon Project estimates that CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, a sharp increase from previous years.
But the news isn’t getting a great deal of traction. Quite the opposite in fact: in France, President Macron has bowed to pressure from protesters over a carbon tax that would see the petrol price rise again in January – on top of an increase that has already seen the price of diesel increase by 7.6 cents per litre. He agreed to suspend the tax for at least six months.
The policy was supposed to help reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, but it ended up disproportionately impacting the poorest in society; those in rural France who are quite happy to go about their normal, fossil-fuelled existence. Their message to Macron: “stop making our lives harder”.
Meanwhile, there may be a small glimmer of hope for war-ravaged Yemen, as UN-sponsored peace talks are due to begin in Sweden today. A UN team is set to work alongside delegations from the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels in an effort prevent further escalation of the conflict which has already led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent years. Thousands of people have died fighting and millions are now on the brink of starvation.
Brexit may be all-consuming at the moment, but sometimes it’s necessary to break the bubble.
Britain’s biggest gambling companies, including Bet365 and Paddy Power, have voluntarily agreed to stop advertising during live sports broadcasts. The “whistle-to-whistle” ban follows political pressure and extensive talks between firms. The ban is similar to the one proposed by the Labour party and will not be enforced after the 9pm watershed.
Cabinet ministers have urged Theresa May to delay the crucial Brexit vote as they fear that defeat could be so catastrophic as to bring down the government. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson is at the core of a push to postpone the Commons vote which it is thought could be lost by 100 votes or more.
Canada has arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer following a US request for extradition. Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver on Saturday. It is thought the arrest is over a possible violation of sanctions against Iran. The news comes as Washington and Beijing are locked in a war over trade, technology and security issues. The arrest puts more pressure on the already fragile 90-day truce and is indicative of President Trump’s aggressive stance on China. (£)
Business & Economy
Later today Ted Baker will announce details of a probe into complaints about the conduct of its founder Ray Kelvin. The company’s chairman David Bernstein said the investigation would be “professional, impartial” and led by one of two recently appointed external directors. It follows a petition by male and female employees complaining that Kelvin had allegedly hugged them and kissed their necks and ears.
The UK parliament has accused Facebook of giving some developers preferential access to data, after publishing hundreds of pages of emails which illustrate a clear disregard for privacy. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee published private conversations between top executives, revealing preferential “whitelisting agreements” with a number of firms, including Netflix and Airbnb, regarding their access to user data. (£)
The chairman of HS2 and Crossrail Sir Terry Morgan has resigned from his position, the Department for Transport has said. He had told the BBC over the weekend that he expected to be sacked after only four months in the role due to disappointment at Westminster over delays to Crossrail and cost escalations. Engineer Allan Cook CBE will replace him.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed almost 1.5% weaker, losing more than 100 points. The biggest losers included equipment rental company Ashtead group, which fell 5.8% and engineering company Melrose, which lost five per cent.
This mirrored a global trend which saw stocks fall amid concerns over the longevity of a truce between the US and China and worrying signals of economic health from the US bond market after a sell-off on Wall Street.
Stocks exposed to the trade dispute were the worst effected, with chipmakers and car manufacturers bearing the brunt of the sell-off. The Stoxx index tracking European technology was down 1.2%, followed by industrial metals makers, which were down 1.5%.
China’s commerce ministry said yesterday that it was “confident” a trade agreement could be reached within the three-month truce deadline. But this was marred by President Trumps tweet: “We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all – at which point we will be charging major Tariffs against Chinese product being shipping into the United States.”
On currency markets, the pound rebounded against the dollar, up 0.22% at $1.27 and also rose 0.19% against the euro at €1.12.
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Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Factory Orders (GER)
(13.30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13.30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
Columns of Note
Brendan O’Neill praises the French people’s revolt in the Spectator this week in an interesting alternative take on the challenges of environmentalism. He argues that environmental policies inflicted on the “little people” of France by the Paris bourgeoisie and populist political elite are paternalist. While they may have the means to hop on trains and buses in their sprawling city-scape, those in rural France need to drive to make a living. The uprising marks the first revolt against a new trend of eco-elitism. (£)
Extremism rises as the consequences fade, writes Janan Ganesh in The Financial Times this week. As Americans pore over the accomplishments of the late George HW Bush, they are also lamenting the passing of the “greatest” generation both from high office and the electorate – those who fought for their country. Ganesh argues that the current spurt of populism is partly down to the fact that our leaders have not witnessed the near ruin of civilisation. (£)
Did you know?
In 2013, a coconut in the Maldives was detained on suspicion of vote-rigging.
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
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
No business scheduled
No business scheduled