Anna Soubry has been one of the loudest pro-European voices since the EU referendum – a constant thorn in the side of Downing Street, freely criticising government policy and party colleagues over Brexit.
The MP for Broxtoe and former business minister has previously accused Boris Johnson of backing the Leave campaign to further his personal ambition of becoming prime minister, warned that history will condemn those who “haven’t stood up and tried to stop all this nonsense [a no deal Brexit]”, and, in December, she was one of 11 Tory rebels who forced the government to concede a parliamentary vote on the final deal.
However, the ante has been upped once more. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Soubry called on Theresa May to “get a spine” and throw the “hard ideological Brexiteers” out of the party, saying she will leave the Conservatives if the prime minister fails to do so.
This threat seems unlikely to alter the May’s course. Although there are around a dozen Conservative MPs with a similar outlook to hers, Soubry is the only one to have broken cover and publicly mooted quitting the party.
Furthermore, the European Research Group (the pro-Brexit group of Conservative MPs, led by arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg) is thought to number more than 60 – a significant and influential bloc for any government, let alone one faced with the current parliamentary arithmetic. Quite simply, May needs them far more than she needs the likes of Soubry.
So, what next? Well, there are significant elements in both main parties which feel alienated by their current leadership. If Soubry follows through with her threat, might this start the ball rolling on a new, moderate and centrist party akin to Emmanuel Macron’s “En Marche!”?
President Trump has been rebuked by UK Government ministers and health officials after claiming in a tweet that the NHS is failing. Responding on Twitter, health secretary Jeremy Hunt referred to the US system’s own failings, pointing out that 28 million Americans have no cover. Downing Street backed Hunt but avoided criticising Trump directly, with a spokesman saying: “The prime minister is proud of having an NHS which is free at the point of delivery”.
Public Health England (PHE) has said that e-cigarettes should be available on prescription – in the same way that nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum are – as they help people to give up smoking. According to an independent review of the latest evidence published by PHE, 20,000 people are quitting smoking every year with the help of e-cigarettes, and they are 95% less harmful than smoking.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has backed a campaign by the Fawcett Society to pardon women who were jailed while fighting for the right to vote. The call comes on the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act, passed 6th February 1918, which gave women who were over the age of 30 and property owners the right to vote. Theresa May will mark the centenary with a speech in Manchester where she will hail the “heroism” of the suffragettes.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
Asian stocks have tumbled during trading today, following the lead of Wall Street. Japan’s Nikkei had fallen more than seven per cent at one point but eventually closed down 4.73%, whilst Sydney’s ASX dropped 3.2%. At the time of writing, Hong Kong’s Han Seng was trading 4.16% lower and the Shanghai Composite Index was down 3.16%.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed that Stagecoach’s contract to run the East Coast Mainline will end earlier than planned after the operator “got its numbers wrong”. The contract, which was due to end in 2023 has already been cut short once. Stagecoach will continue running the line for “a small number of months” and is set to lose about £200 million as a result. The Department for Transport is urgently seeking a successor, with one option said to be bringing the route back under government control.
Lloyds Bank has cut 930 jobs ahead of a new three-year strategy to be laid out by chief executive António Horta-Osório’s later this month. The job losses affect six divisions, with commercial banking and information the worst affected. However, the redundancies will be partially offset by the creation of 465 new roles, with staff under consultation invited to apply for the vacancies.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into allegations of bribery, corruption and money laundering at Petrofac is now “wide ranging in time and scope”. Shares in the oil services company – a constituent of the FTSE 250 – dropped 4.3% yesterday after it admitted that more of its directors were to be questioned by the SFO, some of them under caution.
What happened yesterday?
Global stocks fell across the board yesterday, with all major indices down.
The declines across the Atlantic were particularly sharp, with the Nasdaq down 3.78% and the S&P 500 shedding 4.1%.
Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,175 points, or 4.6%, representing its biggest one-day day points fall ever, surpassing the previous record set in September 2008 when the $700 billion bank bailout designed to rescue the US banking industry was rejected by Congress.
It was the biggest drop in percentage terms in six years. The losses erased the gains made since the beginning of the year and were largely attributed to fears that interest rates will increase due to higher inflation.
However, David Kelly, global chief strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, suggested that “both the bond and stock market were overdue for a correction after a placid two years”. He went on to warn that the coming week could be “bumpy” but said investors should “focus on the basics of fundamentals, valuation and positioning”.
It was a similar story closer to home, though the drops were not as acute. The FTSE 100 fell 108.45 points, or 1.46%, whilst the FTSE 250 was down 271.97, or 1.36%.
Randgold Resources was the worst performer on the main index, dropping 7.38%, whilst Vodafone fell 4.01%.
Kingfisher was the biggest gainer, climbing 2.26%. Mining companies also had a good day with Antofagasta, Glencore and Anglo American up 1.66%, 1.07% and 0.34% respectively.
On the currency markets, the pound fell 1.04% against the dollar at $1.3973 and was down 0.52% against the euro at €1.1274.
Amino Technologies, BP, Ocado Group, RM, St Modwen Properties
Frontier Developments, Hargreaves Lansdown, Mattioli Woods
TalkTalk Telecom Group
Babcock International Group
JP Morgan Indian Investment Trust, Numis Corporation
London Capital Group Holdings
UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) Retail Sales
International Economic Announcements
(00:00) Balance of Trade (US)
(07:00) Factory Orders (GER)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Reflecting on the disruption of an event featuring Jacob Rees-Mogg at the University of the West of England, Hugo Rifkind contends that Jeremy Corbyn and Rees-Mogg actually have a lot in common. He argues that the two men are “standard-bearers in a great national clash of values” and laments the situation brought about by Brexit in which “policies have been bundled up with values and identity to remove the possibility of honest debate”.
In The Guardian, Femi Oluwole reflects on the intergenerational inequality that drove so many voters to support Jeremy Corbyn at the general election. He praises Corbyn for giving hope in areas such as the housing crisis, tuition fees and job prospects where there is a “crisis of optimism”, but warns that this is all for nothing if the Labour leader does not stand up against Brexit.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Berlin Wall has now been down for longer than it was standing
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
Legislation: Space Industry Bill [Lords] – remaining stages
Backbench Business: General debate on housing, planning and the greenbelt – Laurence Robertson
House of Lords
Assessing women’s economic freedom and promoting equal pay – Baroness Donaghy
Providing additional resources for teaching English to refugees
Reviewing the safety of pelvic mesh implants – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Ensuring that children and young people are not being indoctrinated in schools – Lord Storey
Debate: Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster – Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Equalities and Human Rights Committee Debate: Making the Most of Equalities and Human Rights Levers
Scottish Government Debate: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Right to Vote
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Northern Ireland
Prime Minister’s Question Time
House of Lords
Minimising the number of animals slaughtered without stunning in UK abattoirs - Lord Trees
Effectiveness of Government planning for the winter crisis in the NHS - Lord Clark of Windermere
Reducing the use of plastic and ensuring the maximum amount is recycled - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
The future relationship between the UK and the EU Customs Union. - Baroness Ludford
Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill [HL] - Third reading - Lord Empey
Nuclear Safeguards Bill – Second Reading – Lord Henley
Portfolio Questions: Economy, Jobs and Fair Work; Finance and the Constitution
Scottish Government Debate: Stemming the Plastic Tide: Action to Tackle the Impact of Single-use Plastics on Land and in our Seas