7 January 2019

Katie Stanton

7 January 2019

Good morning,

If you fell out of the wrong side of bed this morning, then perhaps you can take solace in the fact that some parliamentarians will definitely be wishing they could stay in bed watching Mary Poppins and Ben Hur every day for the rest of the month.

Yes, it seems it’s going to be a decidedly blue January for Tory MPs as they head begrudgingly back to Westminster today. One cabinet minister summed up sentiment with the rather profound: “The next few weeks are going to be hideous”. Yikes.

And this is true for no one more than Theresa May, who is getting pushback from just about everybody as she takes personal charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit this week. Yesterday she received a letter signed by more than 200 MPs from across the political spectrum urging her to rule out a no-deal.

Meanwhile, former Conservative party chairman Lord Chris Patten will back a final say referendum on the Brexit outcome in a speech later today. He is expected to liken the prime minister’s threat to crash out of the EU without a deal to the tactics of Dr Strangelove: “if you threaten that something crazy will happen your opponents will back down.”

But Patten is confident that the prime minister would never carry out her no-deal threats. Instead, he will argue in the Commons this week that a referendum is the only way to stop “an act of self-harm.”

Behind the scenes, Theresa May and her aides are working tirelessly to patch together a deal tolerable for MPs ahead of the “meaningful vote” next week. Her focus is on ensuring that the so-called Brexit backstop – which keeps Britain in the customs union if no formal trade deal is in place by 2020 – is not a permanent fixture.

So as May tries to forge a path through the Brexit chaos, it seems even her allies are pessimistic. “If MPs don’t vote for this thing, you end up with paralysis,” one admitted. And plan B? That seems to lie somewhere between a no-deal, an Article 50 extension, and a referendum. Feel better now?

News

A man has been charged with murder following the fatal stabbing of Lee Pomeroy on a London-bound train on Friday. The 51-year-old had been travelling with his 14-year-old son when he was stabbed to death. Darren Shane Pencille was charged with murder and possession of an offensive weapon yesterday and will appear in court later today.

A new long-term plan to overhaul the NHS will boost funding for GPs, mental health, and community care as bosses seek to curb the reliance on hospitals. They say it will “kick-start a greater focus on preventing ill-health.” But senior doctors warned of the challenges faced by hospitals, as many trusts are missing all three key waiting time targets and are struggling to balance the books.

A 28-year-old man has been charged over a fire at an escape room venue in Poland in which five teenage girls died. The suspect, who has not yet been formally identified, had neglected to ensure escape routes that could have allowed the girls to flee during the blaze.

Business & Economy

Comet’s liquidator, Deloitte, could face disciplinary action for its conduct during the retailer’s administration. A four-year investigation is thought to be nearing a conclusion and was sparked after concerns that the insolvency partners were conflicted as administrators because of previous work advising the company. Deloitte has racked up more than £15 million in fees to date from the insolvency of Comet, which collapsed in 2012. (£)

Car sales plummeted seven per cent in 2018, with diesel vehicles leading the decline. Sales of diesel cars dropped by 30 per cent, as customers worried about potential restrictions on diesel vehicles. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders blamed the fall in sales on Brexit uncertainty and a shortage of supply of some vehicles due to a new emissions testing scheme.

The department store Selfridges is set to report an eight per cent rise in sales in the 24 days to Christmas, according to a report in The Times. The news comes as other high street retailers have struggled with sales. (£)

Britain’s manufacturers are much less confident about the prospects for the UK economy than they were a year ago, according to a joint survey by EEF and insurer AIG. Almost three-quarters of manufacturers said that Brexit was their biggest source of uncertainty, with most companies fearful of the long-term impacts of exchange rate volatility. (£)

Markets

The week ahead

Normality should return to the markets this week with the release of more corporate and economic data, including a host of UK retailers, with M&S and Debenhams expected to post updates on recent trading.

Parliament is due to return from the Christmas holiday today and the final budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday. But Brexit is likely to take precedence, as parliament counts down to the “meaningful vote” on January 14.

Across the pond, American officials are scheduled to visit Beijing this week to resume trade talks. The meeting will mark the first face-to-face meeting between president Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping since the leaders agreed to a trade truce late last year. Fears about the broader impact of the trade war were bolstered last week following a revenue guidance cut from Apple, which was partly blamed on China, and talk of a wider economic slowdown. 

Trading Announcements

MJ Gleeson

Mattioli Woods

AGMs

URU Metals Ltd. (DI)

Int. Economic Announcements

(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)

(15:00) Factory Orders (US)

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

Columns of Note 

In his weekly column for The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle reflects on 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. Devolution has “enabled Scotland to pursue pioneering policies that would have been impossible in its absence” such as free personal care and the public smoking ban. But he also notes the irony in devolution: it has given the Scottish Tories the freedom to set out an alternative policy agenda, without which the party may never have recovered from its 1997 wipe-out. (£)

A Financial Times big read by Ben Hall and Ralph Atkins tracks the dramatic rise of Austria’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz. After coming under heavy criticism for his stance on illegal immigration in 2015, Kurz now feels vindicated. His support for tougher border controls have helped to propel him to power, but to his critics this legitimises Austria’s far-right by “advancing a xenophobic agenda”. (£)

Did you know? 

A tiger’s tongue is so rough that if it licked your hand it would draw blood.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions: Work and Pensions (including Topical Questions)

Debate: Fifth Report from the Committee on Standards on implications of the Dame Laura Cox report for the House's Standards System: Initial Proposals

Backbench Business: General Debate of Children’s Social Care in England

Adjournment: United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights interim report on the UK – Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck 

House of Lords

Oral questions

Transport for the North proposals to include capacity and capability for freight services in plans to electrify and upgrade the Manchester to Leeds route – Lord Berkeley

Removing international students from the net migration statistics – Lord Holmes of Richmond

Government estimate of the number of flats that still have combustible cladding­ – Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Governments proposed timetable for the passage of all remaining legislation required for Brexit ­– Baroness McIntosh of Pickering

Legislation: Offensive Weapons Bill – Second reading – Baroness Williams of Trafford 

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled.

TOMORROW 

House of Commons

Oral questions: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (including Topical Questions)

Ten Minute Rule Motion: International Development Assistance (Palestinian National Authority Schools) – Dame Louise Ellman

Legislation: Finance (No. 3) Bill – remaining stages

Adjournment: Congestion on the A40 in West Oxfordshire – Robert Courts

House of Lords

Oral questions

How many F-35B jets will make up the Operational Conversion Unit ­– Lord West of Spithead

Increasing the number of nurses working in the NHS in England – Lord Clark of Windermere 

Deploying a largely full framed and supported division in field for divisional movement and manoeuvre training – Earl Attlee

Ensuring that migrants crossing the English Channel are dealt with in a humane way – Lord Roberts of Llandudno

Legislation: Financial services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill – Committee stage – Lord Bates

Short debate: Supporting adolescent girls in fragile and conflict-affected countries – Baroness Hodgson of Abinger

Scottish Parliament  

Scottish Government Debate: Ultra Low Emission Vehicles

Members’ Business: Transport Infrastructure in South West Scotland – Brian Whittle