4 February 2020

Written by Scott Reid, Associate Partner

Edited by David Gaffney, Partner

Good morning, And the winner is… Well, we don’t know quite yet. Just as vote counting in the Iowa caucus to select the US Democratic presidential candidate got underway last night, the party reported mass “inconsistencies” due to a technology failure, leading to a “major delay” in results. With no clear winner as yet – all candidates might as well claim success. And they did, in what was already shaping up to be an uncertain race. Other hotly contested and controversial competitions are, of course, available. Look no further than the cinema awards season, which witnessed its yearly chiding by high-profile award recipients and prizegivers at the BAFTAs on Sunday evening. One unlikely duo to take to the podium were Prince William and Joaquin Phoenix, who together called out the Academy’s lack of recognition for black and ethnic minority talent. Of this year’s nominations, all 20 actors were white and no women were included in the best director category. The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of BAFTA, said that the lack of diversity “simply cannot be right in this day and age”, a comment quickly identified on social media channels as a very large stone thrown from a rather delicate royal glass house. An exception to BAFTA business-as-usual was the best documentary award given to Waad al-Kateab for her autobiographical and strongly female voice-focused film, For Sama, which I think deserves a special mention. A first feature film by a 28-year-old who has already stormed Cannes and SXSW and looks bound for an Oscar, For Sama chronicles the director’s life over five years as she falls in love and brings up her child (Sama) in war-torn Aleppo. An accompanying campaign, ActionForSama.com, has been created to hasten the end to bombing of healthcare facilities in Syria. It is one to watch as a model for how independent, grassroots cinema can thrive in an age of activism. Overall, the stage seems set for a rerun of the 2015 hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite when that ceremony takes place next Sunday - although maybe now updated with a pithily-named sequel, #OscarsSoWhiteAndWithMoreMen, given no female directors have been nominated for the headline best film category. All the more reason to celebrate the little triumphs like For Sama. The very best of that good news – and I swear I’m not on commission here – is that it’s still available to watch for free on Channel 4.


Boris Johnson has suggested the UK could sever trade links with the EU if a future trade deal means abiding by the bloc’s regulatory standards. Speaking for the first time since the UK exited the EU on Friday, the prime minister said he favoured a “Canada-style” trade deal which removed tariffs and quotas on trade with the EU, but was also prepared for a relationship “like Australia” which has none. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier meanwhile presented the EU’s draft mandate which require Britain to adhere to EU environmental and labour market rules as they currently stand in return for a trade agreement. In the House of Commons, health secretary Matt Hancock also suggested that the coronavirus “will be with us for at least some months to come” as he announced £20 million investment in efforts to produce a vaccine. As of this morning, there are more than 20,400 confirmed cases of the virus in China where 425 people have died, with one death recorded in the Philippines and another newly reported in Hong Kong. China’s Politburo Standing Committee has also admitted to “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s response to the outbreak. The UK government has also brought forward the last date to buy a new petrol, diesel or hybrid car from 2040 to 2035. The policy will be unveiled at an event today to launch Glasgow’s hosting of the COP26 climate summit In November. Former MP Claire Perry O’Neill resigned as president of COP26 last week, having accused Boris Johnson of failing to deliver on promises for additional funding and people.

Business and economy

The UK’s aviation industry has today set a target to reduce its net carbon emission to zero by 2050. The industry body Sustainable Aviation announced the goal whilst suggesting it could eliminate 30 million tonnes of CO2 waste a year without restricting growth, helped by cleaner engines, new fuels and planting trees. A spokesperson for the organisation did not comment on alternative transport choices or cancelling new airports and runways as potential solutions. Several UK high street banks are still unable to offer online currency services via Travelex after the travel money provider was hit by a cyber attack on new year’s eve. Travelex said yesterday that it aimed to restore services this week, until when staff will continue to use pen and paper in transferring customer funds. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has acquired a 12.5% stake in luxury brand Mulberry for an estimated £2 million. A statement from the group, which changed its name from Sports Direct International late last year, said it was a “key priority” to build relationships with luxury third parties as part of an overhaul in its corporate and consumer retail strategies.

Columns of note

In The Atlantic, Yale law professor and author of The Meritocracy Trap, Daniel Markovits, writes a blistering attack on McKinsey & Co as a catalyst of worsening structural inequalities in America and the West. As the Iowa caucus reaches its conclusion, the article also looks at Democratic presidential candidate and former McKinsey employee, Pete Buttigieg, as an example of how the left is failing to properly scrutinise the role of management consultants as aspiring politicians. In the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley says that the two visions proposed by Boris Johnson for the UK post-Brexit cannot coexist. The author says that instead he must choose which goal he wants to pursue – a start-up nation powered by the free-trade-orientated Global Britain brand, or a cohesive One Nation UK, dedicated to greater infrastructure and welfare spending in the North and Midlands. (£)


What happened yesterday?

Losses for the pound following Boris Johnson’s comments over the possibility of a barebones trade deal with the EU led the London stock market up yesterday on February’s first day of trading. By close of play, the FTSE 100 was up 0.55% at 7,326.31 points whilst the pound was down 1.56% on both the dollar at $1.30 and by 1.25% on the euro at €1.18. There was a glimmer of optimism on the macro front, however, as the latest Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers’ index hit a score of 49.8 – its most positive reading in nine months. In equity news, airline easyJet (+3.84%) was up, following sector peer Ryanair (+6.66%) after the latter reported a return to profit during the third quarter. Imperial Brands (-0.50%) was also in the black before falling later on after announcing the appointment of Inchcape leader Stefan Bomhard as its new chief executive. Joining it was Aston Martin Lagonda (-4.53%) with the stock reversing some of Friday’s strong gains on news that it is to benefit from a £200 million rescue package.

What's happening today

Finals Micro Focus RM St.Modwen Properties Interims Genedrive K3 Capital Gro Mattioli

Trading announcements Larsen And Toubro AGMs Agronomics Blackrock Fr Hargreave Numis UK economic announcements (09.30) PMI Construction Intl. economic announcements (10.00) Producer Price Index (EU) (15.00) Factory Orders (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

In English, “to be blue” is to feel sad, while in German, it is to be drunk. In Russian, “to be light blue” is to be homosexual.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Legislation NHS Funding Bill: Committee and Remaining Stages Motion To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the Local Government Finance Act  1988 (Non-Domestic Rating Multipliers) (England) Order 2019 - Jesse Norman Adjournment Rail services in the North East - Mr Kevan Jones Oral questions Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (including Topical Questions) House of Lords Oral questions Ensuring free cash machines are available for all communities in the UK - Lord Naseby Consulting Parliament on proposals to improve the use of data science in government processes - Lord Wallace of Saltaire Assessment of food security and scarcity in areas affected by locusts in East Africa - The Lord Bishop of St Albans Post Office’s powers to conduct prosecutions - Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Legislation Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL] - Second reading - Baroness Williams of Trafford Debate Improving the care offered to sufferers of eating disorders - Baroness Parminter Scottish Parliament Topical Questions (if selected)

Stage 3 Proceedings Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill Committee Announcements