7th October 2019
Written by Aidan Reid, Associate
Edited by David Gaffney Partner
The mince pies are on display, Terry’s has dropped the price of its ubiquitous Chocolate Orange to a pound, and Clinton’s has a dozen variations on reindeer wrapping paper. Now is the autumn of my discontent. As more and more retail transactions are made online, Christmas has become an even bigger chunk of the annual earnings for bricks and mortar high street stores. No wonder they seek to stretch the season to be jolly in order to maximise this sparkling sales period, even if most of us would prefer they at least waited until the ghosts of Halloween had departed the scene. Last week saw the publishing industry's so-called Super Thursday, with more than 400 hardback titles published in time for the Christmas splurge, from new depictions of familiar fictional worlds, like Phillip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth, to Bill Bryson’s exploration of the human body’s ability to heal itself. This raft of new work comes at a time when publishing is said to be in good health. Though physical book sales fell for the first time in five years in 2018, the sector as a whole saw revenues of £6 billion. This was largely thanks to a continued shift from print to digital means of consuming books, a trend which is likely to see digital overtake print within five years. The growth of digital publishing means new voices from around the world are more accessible to consumers than ever. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t follow that the average author will be splashing out with gay abandon when they’re buying presents for their nearest and dearest this Christmas. Writers have seen their incomes fall 42% between 2006 and 2018, to an average of just under £10,500 per year, a sum that is well below the minimum wage. The factors at play include the rise in e-book sales, which sees consumers benefit from rock-bottom prices for novels that were years in the making, further pressuring the profit margins for authors already being squeezed by an explosion in the number of self-publishing indie authors. Authors without any alternative sources of income are in danger of being lost to the industry. The 2018 Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns, has spoken of relying on food banks while writing her breakout third novel, The Milkman, and many more fear they will be unable to continue writing due to a lack of income. Unless publishers and sites like Amazon find ways to ensure the sector’s record revenues are passed on to the creators of the content, life-enhancing chapters, paragraphs, and sentences might never make it onto a page. A book isn’t just for Christmas.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has claimed a Brexit deal can still be achieved before 31 October if the EU is willing to compromise. Talks will recommence today, with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, calling for the EU to decide if a deal is possible by the end of this week. Ian Blackford has said that the SNP would support an alternative interim government led by Labour if Boris Johnson refused to extend the Brexit process. This would be on the condition that Labour grants the Scottish Government the power to hold a second independence referendum. The remaining 4,800 passengers stranded after the collapse of travel firm Thomas Cook have returned home. The operation to repatriate those affected saw more than 700 flights scheduled and nearly 140,000 holidaymakers return home. A lawyer representing the whistleblower who accused US president Donald Trump of interfering in foreign affairs has announced that a second source has come forward to corroborate the claims. The revelation comes as a subpoena was issued to the White House for documents relating to the phone call President Trump made to his Ukrainian counterpart, in which he is alleged to have encouraged an investigation into the dealings of Joe Biden’s son.
Business & Economy
The US-China trade saga could take another turn at the continuation of talks on Thursday. They are likely to be complicated by calls from the US president, Donald Trump, for China to also investigate Joe Biden’s son and his activities in the country. This is expected to jeopardise hopes of progress between the two sides, although an additional five per cent tariff on $250 billion of Chinese imports due to be imposed a week on Tuesday may concentrate minds. The implications of this trade war may be starkly laid out across consecutive days with The World Bank expected to publish its global economic outlook tomorrow, followed by the IMF’s take on Tuesday. Looking to the UK, any developments in the Brexit negotiations are likely to have a greater impact as the deadline for a deal nears. Further indications of whether the UK is entering a recession may also be provided by the latest retail sales figures from the ONS on Wednesday. In terms of companies, today sees the deadline for the third largest investor in troubled haulage firm, Eddie Stobart, to make a takeover offer, while Easyjet is expected to show a boost in sales in its trading statement tomorrow, benefiting from the Thomas Cook collapse.
What's happening this week?
You would think that the political uncertainty hanging over America might have diluted investor optimism. Yet the power of a good news day in the form of a US-Japan trade deal and a predicted $2 billion increase in Apple’s revenues in this month’s quarterly figures should not be underestimated. Both these announcements fed into increases across US economic barometers, with the dollar at one stage up as much as 0.4% (its highest level in nearly two-and-a-half years) and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq seeing gains of up to 0.7%. In the UK, the pound continued to regain ground lost last month during concerns over a no-deal Brexit, gaining 0.13% on the dollar to be valued at $1.2315. This was in spite of the less than favourable GDP figures, which partly fuelled a fall in both the FTSE 100 and 250, by 2.4% and 1.74% respectively. Of interest in company terms was GlaxoSmithKline’s shares rising 1.14% on the back of a promising study into a new treatment for ovarian cancer.
Whats happening today?
Pci-pal Sensyne Health.
UK Economic Announcements
(08:30) Halifax House Price Index
International Economic Announcements
(07:00) Factory Orders (GERv
Columns of Note
In a long read for the Financial Times, Murad Ahmed and Arash Massoudi detail the involvement of the activist hedge fund, Elliot Investment, in one of the world’s biggest football clubs, AC Millan. Elliot’s efforts to revive the club sees a financial institution try its hand at the “emotionally challenging” work of running a football club, including managing a controversial move from Milan’s ancestral home, the San Siro, to a new stadium. There have also been clashes between highly decorated former defender Paolo Maldini and the financial gurus brought in to streamline costs. It remains to be seen whether the firm will achieve the anticipated €1bn sale of the club. (£) James Bickertoon writes for Reaction on the series of rallies held by the Brexit Party in lieu of a formal party conference. He describes an American-style fervour and a distrust among those attending of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his insistence that he will bring Britain out of the EU on 31 October. Yet the author claims that despite this mistrust making it likely the Brexit Party will receive a significant portion of votes at a future General Election, its very existence jeopardises Brexit. With the pro-Brexit vote split, he argues that this woule likely lead to an anti-Brexit government and could leave Nigel Farage as the person responsible for stopping Brexit.
Did you know?
More than 2.4 million people registered for the 135,000 tickets available for Glastonbury 2020, which sold out in 34 minutes yesterday morning.
Today House of Commons
Oral questions Work and Pensions (including Topical Questions) Motion The appointment of a Lay Member to the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Motion To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointment Function) (No.2) Regulations 2019 Legislation The Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [HL]: committee and remaining stages Adjournment Healthwatch Calderdale's report on hypermobility syndromes - Craig Whittaker Westminster Hall debate Deforestation in the Amazon - Daniel Zeichner House of Lords Oral questions Length of waiting time before asylum seekers are permitted to undertake paid employment - Lord Roberts of Llandudno Enactment of the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill within the next twelve months - The Lord Bishop of London Proposals for TransPennine freight in the next 10 years - Lord Greaves Protection of elections and referenda against corruption by disinformation campaigns and digital technologies. - Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Orders and regulations Product Safety, Metrology and Mutual Recognition Agreement (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Lord Duncan of Springbank Competition (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 - Lord Duncan of Springbank Trade in Animals and Animal Products (Legislative Functions) and Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - motion to approve - Lord Gardiner of Kimble Trade in Animals and Animal Products (Legislative Functions) and Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - motion to regret - Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Animal Health and Genetically Modified Organisms (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Lord Gardiner of Kimble Capital Requirements (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019; Risk Transformation and Solvency 2 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Lord Bethell Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 - Lord Bethell Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019; Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019 - Baroness Vere of Norbiton Air Services (Competition) (Amendment and Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Baroness Vere of Norbiton Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.
TOMORROW House of Commons Oral questions Justice (including Topical Questions) Ten Minute Rule Motion Details to be provided - Maria Caulfield Motion To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Plant Health (amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 To approve a statutory instrument relating tom the draft environment and wildlife (legislative functions) (EU exit) (amendment) regulations 2019 General debate Baby Loss Awareness Week Westminster Hall debate Government plan to reach net zero by 2050 - Sarah Newton Transport infrastructure in North East Bedfordshire - Alistair Burt Procedure for appointing judges - Stuart C. McDonald Future of Tata's Cogent Power steelworks in Newport - Jessica Morden Pension age of prison officers - Gordon Henderson House of Lords Oral questions Removal of land mines laid in the Falkland Islands by Argentinean Forces in 1892 - Lord Trefgarne Retailer regulations on the sale of kitchen knives - Lord Naseby Financial sustainability of national museums and galleries - Lord Lee of Trafford Lessons learnt and procedural changes following reconsideration of the visa application by Dr Mu-Chun Chiang - Lord Greaves Debate Rural Economy Committee report: 'Time for a strategy for the rural economy' - Lord Foster of Bath Scottish Parliament Topical Questions Ministerial Statement Scottish Government overview of ‘No Deal’ preparations The Proposed National Plan for Scotland's Islands Scottish Government Debate Supporting Innovation Members’ Business debate Gordon MacDonald: 50 Years of the Institute of Occupational Medicine