7 September

@lyle_h_hill

7 September

Good morning, 

The French islands of St Martin and Saint Barthélemy have taken a considerable and sustained battering as Hurricane Irma passes over the Caribbean. President Macron has confirmed that the impact on the islands would be "hard and cruel", as nine people were confirmed dead and the death toll expected to rise.

The Category 5 hurricane is the strongest in a decade, with wind speeds of up to 185mph causing extensive damage. Over 90% of the buildings on each island are said to be affected, with most completely destroyed. The French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb has announced that the four "most solid" buildings on St Martin have been destroyed. The small island of Barbuda is said to be "barely habitable".

Hurricane Irma will now continue over Puerto Rica and the Dominican Republic, before making landfall with Florida later in the week.

Elsewhere, Aung San Suu Kyi is facing mounting international pressure over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma. The crisis in the Rakhine state has now reached epidemic proportions, with over 126,000 people fleeing across the river to Bangladesh in the face of attacks from the Burmese army and police.

Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday claimed that "deliberate misinformation" was to blame for reports of persecution, but Bangladeshi authorities confirmed that a further five children have drowned attempting the crossing. Over four fifths of those trying to enter Bangladesh are women and children. 

Many international human rights organisations are branding the situation as "genocide" and calling for the Burmese government to bring an end to the persecution immediately.

NEWS

Syria has announced this morning that Israeli fighter jets have struck army positions in the country. The strike is said to have killed two Syrian soldiers and is believed to have been an Israeli attempt to limit the Syrian army's capability to launch another chemical attack.

A new watchdog, the Office for Students, will today be given powers to curb excessive pay at UK universities. Universities will be fined if they fail to justify high salaries for their vice-chancellors or if staff are not satisfied at their institution. Any university paying its vice-chancellor more than the prime minister will have to submit a written explanation to the new watchdog.

European Union papers leaked to the BBC suggest that the EU is pushing for Northern Ireland to secure a different Brexit deal to the rest of the UK. The plans would protect cross-border co-operation in areas such as health, education and transport, but the EU insists it is up to the UK to find a "unique solution" to the issue.

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Sky News has learned that Downing Street has asked FTSE 100 executives to sign a letter praising the government's Brexit strategy and expressing confidence in the future of a "global Britain". The letter is expected to be published before the end of the week.

Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, Ross McEwan, is tipped to be among the candidates vying to take over as the boss of Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. McEwan has a long history with CBA, having been head of its retail banking division for nine years before joining RBS in 2012.

Keith Hellawell will remain as chairman of Sports Direct after a high-profile City campaign to improve standards in the Boardroom failed to oust him from the role at the company's AGM. Institutional investors led the push to remove Hellawell, but he won the backing of 53.24% of independent shareholders allowing him to remain in post.

MARKETS

What happened yesterday

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.25% yesterday, a drop of 18.79 points to 7354.13. The drop has been attributed to continued concern over the situation in North Korea.

David Madden, at CMC Markets, said: "Stocks in Europe are a mixed bag this afternoon as the stalemate regarding North Korea is still ongoing."

Despite reporting a profit jump of 12% in the last year, house builder Barratt Developments fell 4.57%. Rivals Persimmon and Berkeley Group also fell by 2.4% and 3.37% respectively during a bad day for house builders generally.

On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.08% against the dollar to $1.30440 and also rose 0.02% against the euro to €1.09410.

Finals
Ashmore Group, Avation, CPL Resources, Frontier Developments, Go-Ahead Group

Interims
Biffa, Brady, Gama Aviation, Hunters Propety, Molins, Sanne Group

AGMs
BCA Marketplace, Cohort, Carpetright, Dixons Carphone, Dart Group, Nakama Group

UK Economic Announcements
(08:30) Halifax House Price Index

Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
 

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Writing in The Telegraph, Felix Simon outlines that even in the age of Trump, it is almost inconceivable that Angela Merkel will lose the German elections. He suggests "Merkel is poised to win not despite, but because she is by most accounts fairly boring."

David Pilling, writing in the Financial Times, praises Kenya for confounding the chaotic and coup-prone image of Africa. However, he argues that people across the continent who overwhelmingly support democracy in opinion polls deserve better from their leaders, many of whom deliberately install rigged election systems to maintain power.
DID YOU KNOW?
The harmonica is the world's best-selling musical instrument.
PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS
House of Commons
Oral questions
Exiting the European Union (including Topical Questions)
 
Legislation
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - 2nd reading (day 1) - Mr David Davis
 
Adjournment
Hive stadium and the sale of public assets - Bob Blackman

House of Lords
Oral questions
Children in care and obtaining places in state and independent boarding schools - Lord Lexden
University pension schemes - Baroness Falkner of Margravine
Reporting to Parliament on the progress of negotiations with the European Union with regard to Brexit - Lord Spicer
 
Debate
Overcrowding in UK prisons - Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
Improving digital understanding at all levels of UK society - Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho

Scottish Parliament
General Questions

First Minister's Questions

Scottish Government Business

TOMORROW

House of Commons
No business scheduled.

House of Lords
Legislation
House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Lord Grocott
Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Lord Dholakia
Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill [HL] - 2nd reading - Lord McColl of Dulwich

Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled.