11th October 2019
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Adam Shaw Associate Partner
In the end – when we all inevitably depart this earth – what will we leave behind? Perhaps you’ve accrued an impressive catalogue of professional or academic triumphs for loved ones and admirers alike to cling to. In the years that follow, they will no doubt revisit your works, sitting often and glumly to ruminate on your myriad successes over a glass of whisky and a snotty tissue. Or maybe your mark is more physical: buildings, landmarks, bridges, boats. It could be your family, a success story in their own right, living on to tell your tawdry tale. It may equally be money, status or, better, charity, and the impressive impact you had in your short life. But, alongside the legacies, come unavoidable burdens. The average funeral in Britain costs £4,271. In Dundee, a recent study commissioned by the city council and the Scottish government found that poorer families have accumulated debts of more than £500,000 in total paying for funerals. On average, families owe £1,744, although the report makes clear that this figure could be much higher. Happily, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently carrying out an investigation into the supply of services by funeral directors to “ensure people are not getting a bad deal”. At their most vulnerable time, it seems families are being exploited. But it’s not been plain sailing for the UK’s largest funeral provider either. TheCo-operative Group saw a six per cent slip in revenues last month due to a surprise 10% drop in the death rate. The company chalked this up to the sunny weather, adding that its conscious decision not to change prices in a competitive market had also weighed on growth. The Co-op is not alone. Big companies often lack the flexibility to cut prices and lessen funeral debt for the most vulnerable in society. Smaller independent firms, however, are doing all they can to mop up the pieces, working with families to lower costs. Meanwhile – at the other end of the spectrum – Oliver Peyton is pitching funerals for the “John Lewis” set. His vision, at the subtly named Exit Here, is for “life-affirming funerals”, with willow caskets, navy suits and lady-bearers to boot. They aren’t extortionate either: a hand-painted Mexican Day of the Dead-themed number will set you back the same as a Co-op solid-oak coffin. It seems to me then that the Co-op’s ride or die punters are seeing a few more options in the funeral arena. Couple that with regulators knock, knock, knocking, and perhaps the dingy one-price-fits-all service will be next in line to bite the dust.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay is to meet the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier later, after Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart agreed they could “see a pathway to a possible deal”. The prime minister and Leo Varadkar held “detailed and constructive” talks for over two hours on Thursday. This comes ahead of a summit of EU leaders on 17 and 18 October – the last chance for the UK and the EU to agree a deal ahead of the 31 October deadline.
Just six per cent of migrants who crossed the English Channel to illegally enter the UK have been deported since December last year, according to an investigation by Sky News. This is despite warnings by Boris Johnson that they would be sent back.
Republican lawmakers are expected to support a bipartisan sanctions bill against Turkey for its offensive in Syria. The bill has been introduced by Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and ally of President Trump, and Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen. Trump has been urged to reconsider his Syria policy, which many argue gave Turkey a “green light” to attack Kurdish troops. (£)
Business & Economy
Concern is growing among aerospace manufacturers over regulatory alignment and the ability to bring products to market after Brexit. Firms have sought reassurance that the UK would continue to be a member of the European Aviation Safety agency after any Brexit deal, adding that alignment with chemicals regulations is also “vital” for the sector. The government said it would pursue agreements where necessary. WeWork is scrambling to complete a new debt financing package, after the company’s failed initial public offering left it running short of cash at a faster rate than expected. Fitch Ratings downgraded WeWork’s credit rating last week to CCC+, warning that its liquidity position was “precarious”. (£) Dyson, the technology firm best known for its vacuum cleaners, hasabandoned its £2 billion plan to build electric cars. Although its engineers have developed a “fantastic electric car”, it is not “commercially viable” due to a surge in the number of new carmakers in the market and high costs of production.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed in the green yesterday as sentiment was boosted by positive noises on US-China trade talks. The share index finished up 19.86 points at 7,186.36. Trade negotiations between the two superpowers resumed yesterday, but the big driver in sentiment appeared to be a tweet from President Trump that he will meet Liu He, China’s vice premier, later today. This willingness to negotiate has injected hope into US markets too. Stocks closed higher, with the S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average all finishing up 0.6%. Currency markets also drew some interest, with renewed hopes for a Brexit deal putting the pound on track for its biggest one-day jump in seven months. Sterling was up 0.11% on the dollar at $1.25 and 0.01% against the euro at €1.13.
Whats happening today?
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER) (13:30) Import and Export Price Indices (US) (15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)
Columns of Note
Judith Shulevitz explains why you never see you friends anymore in this month’s edition of The Atlantic. Noting the troubles associated with the Soviet nepreryvka, or continuous workweek, Shulevitz argues that Americans are self-imposing a system much the same due to the contemporary economy. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with non-standard or variable hours, leading to the demise of the traditional calendar: the blueprint for a shared life. No longer can you plan ahead, the bonds of intimate relationships and local community severed and the conditions for tyranny laid bare for all to see. Not a column by any means, the Financial Times has launched “purpose vs profit: the trade-off game”. Essentially players are given fictional scenarios as the “charismatic founder and chief executive” of a tech start-up. The game is to balance profit and purpose over a four-year period: do you prioritise meeting short-term growth targets, or will you take a longer view? Will you prioritise green initiatives, or workplace wellbeing? It’s a really informative, yet entertaining way to illustrate the challenges of managing ESG commitments in 2019. (£)
Did you know?
One of Nebraska’s state slogans is: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”
House of Commons No business scheduled. House of Lords No business scheduled. Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.