25th October 2019
Written by Scott Reid, Associate Partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner
What sort of country are we? What sort of country do we want to become? Would our ancestors be proud? These are questions I’ve been pondering lately. Yes, today’s latest episode of the UK’s regular staring-down-the-barrel-of a gun held by the EU over Brexit has something do with it. But mainly, my navel-gazing is thanks to a newfoundAncestry.com subscription and a more-than-a-little nerdy obsession with my family tree. Having plumbed the archives - albeit armed with a laptop from the comfort of my sofa - it turns out that us Reids (and Fishers, McFadyens, and Stewarts as the various lines that together make up my family tree are called) are a colourful bunch. On my travels, I’ve collected tales of Islay farmers, shipbuilders in Govan, a Bristolian butcher noted in the local gazette for his “prize-winning” pig (that same butcher ended up involved in a murder scandal, an unfortunate coincidence given his line of work), and a young family noted in the rolls at Ellis Island as they embarked upon a new, more prosperous life in the US. Each faced crises of their own and each (with the exception of our unfortunate butcher) overcame them. We got richer, the world liberalised and I pat them on the back that, today, all is well in my homestead. And yet, isn’t that more than a little short-sighted? Reading yesterday’s results of a Policy Institute study into how British moral attitudes have changed between 1989 and 2019, I was struck by how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. Thirty years ago only 23% strongly agreed that gay people should be treated just like anyone else, where now that figure is 64% and just 5% for those who disagree. And today, the number of people who disapprove of having a child outside of marriage has nearly halved to 13%.
It isn’t all cause for celebration, however. A separate poll by Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh yesterday found that – unfathomably – a majority of voters thought that violence against politicians was a “price worth paying” for their preferred Brexit solution to be delivered. Couple that with the Policy Institute’s finding that the number of those who believe that politicians are good people has also more than halved in the last 30 years, and you’re left with the impression that whilst we may be less deferential, we are also far angrier. The past is very much a foreign country when truth be told. But that shouldn’t lend itself to a subjective judgement, I think. Those Reids of yore might take exception to my supposed lack of moral rectitude or willingness to stick it to the man, but I’d counter that greater civil liberties and flushing toilets are, indeed, wonderful things to behold. As our politics hurtles towards its next destiny-defining decision, it’s a helpful reminder that history – and the future – have their eyes on us.
The prime minister has offered MPs more time to debate his Brexit bill if they agree to a general election on December 12. The government has also said that it plans to bring forward a vote on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in the Commons on Monday. The Times reports that Labour MPs, whose support the government would need in order to secure a two-thirds majority to overturn the act, are in “open rebellion” following hints that Jeremy Corbyn could support the government. Meanwhile, the Queen’s Speech was passed by 310 votes to 294 after being endorsed by the Democratic Unionist Party and former Conservative independent MPs. Donald Trump has offered his support to about 30 Republican representatives who disrupted a Democratic impeachment hearing, delaying it for five hours. It was reported yesterday that Democrats intend to start the next phase of the impeachment process next month, leading to a potential trial of the president in the Senate by December. The Republican protestors criticised Democrats’ unprecedented move to hold the investigative phase behind closed doors, where previous impeachment votes were held in the House to begin the inquiry in public. Evo Morales has “won” Bolivia’s presidential election according to the country’s election tribunal. Bolivian electoral authorities said Morales had secured 47.1% in the first round, passing a 10% margin required for an outright victory and so avoiding the need for a second-run off vote. Second-placed Carlos Mesa has criticised the process and has been joined by the US, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia in calling for a second round to be held amid allegations of vote rigging.
Business & Economy
Barclays has reversed its decision to stop customers withdrawing money from the Post Office network. The bank had been the only one of 28 UK banks and building societies not to fully sign up to a Post Office agreement unveiled earlier this month which would offer routine banking tasks in branches for all banks that signed up to the scheme. Shares in Amazon fell nearly seven per cent in after-hours trading yesterday, following a company report that third-quarter profits fell by 25% to $2.1 billion. The shortfall was attributed to a spike in shipping costs as a result of increased demand for one-day deliveries which are available to Amazon Prime members. The company still expects sales growth of between 11% and 20% next year, having increased its year-on-year figure in the three months to September by 24% to $70 billion. The UK has risen to eighth place in an annual World Bank study for ease of business. The UK listed behind Georgia and overtook Norway overall, and was judged in categories including the ease of starting a new business, protection of investments and insolvency resolutions. New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong took the top three positions.
What happened yesterday?
Markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt all finished higher yesterday, helped by a relative calm among investors ahead of an expected decision by EU leaders to grant a Brexit extension later today. London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.93%, whilst the Stoxx 600 was 0.59% higher, Germany’s Dax 0.58% higher and the French CAC 40 0.55% higher. Movements in London were helped by a weaker pound, which closed the day down 0.51% on the euro at €1.15 and by 0.81% on the dollar at $1.29. In corporate news, AstraZeneca (+5.55%) gained after lifting its second quarter sales guidance alongside higher third-quarter sales results. Kaz Minerals (+5.07%) was also up after reporting a jump in third-quarter copper production, and expecting its full year results to be at the upper end of guidance. Royal Bank of Scotland (-3.34%) fell after posting third-quarter losses and apportioning £900 million for payment protection insurance pay-outs.
Whats happening today?
Hastings Vivo Energy WPP
UK Economic Announcements
(11.00) CHI Distributive Trades Surveys
Int. Economic Announcements
(07.00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER) (09.00) IFO Expectations (GER) (09.00) IFO Current Assessment (GER) (09.00) IFO Business Climate (GER) (15.00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)
Columns of Note
Should we pay to enter bookstores? It’s a novel question asked by New Yorker writer, Howard Fishman, as the publishing industry faces a future of being permanently undercut by online book sales. He argues that the instinctive preference for a consumer to buy from a bricks-and-mortar store (as opposed to Amazon) can be tapped into – and charged for – allowing book shops to thrive in the age of e-commerce. (£) Commenting on the back of the Mario Draghi’s final European Central Bank policy address as its president yesterday, Times’ columnist Ed Conway warns his successor that they can’t take the euro’s survival for granted. Draghi is famous for having described the single currency as “irreversible” in 2012, and yet spent much of the next seven years fighting for its life. Conway believes resolution might come for a president who is able to bridge the cultural and economic divide between northern and southern European countries. (£
Did you know?
The sun makes up more than 99% of the solar system’s mass. And when compared on a relative ratio, more than one million Earths could fit inside the sun.
House of Commons No business scheduled. House of Lords No business scheduled. Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.