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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Biden’s cast is worth watching

Written by  Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie, partner 
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
24 November 2020

Good morning,

Never mind the 50 stars on the flag, the real stars of the show come US election night 2020 were CNN’s magic wall and John King, the US network’s indefatigable analyst. 
 
I miss those guys.
 
Their presence filled millions of homes, like mine, around the globe on 3 November and beyond, so much so that it’s claimed that Americans lost 138 million hours of sleep on election night, let alone the rest of us, only to learn very little on the night itself.
 
One thing that even the electrifying key race alerts couldn’t have predicted, however, is that three weeks on, we would be in a position where a sitting president is only just hinting at conceding the election, allowing a formal transition of power formally to begin. 
 
It comes as Michigan’s electoral board approved its vote tally last night, resisting pressure from President Donald Trump’s legal team to delay the process, and paving the way for president-elect Joe Biden to receive the state’s 16 electoral votes. 
 
Even as the General Services Administration acknowledged Biden as the “apparent winner”, the sitting president vowed to keep contesting his election defeat through legal channels.
 
All of this has, of course, been a big distraction from the president elect’s own mandate, as overnight he named the team that will staff the transition in advance of the inauguration less than two months from now.
 
Determined not to be drawn into the Trump reality show, Biden has kept his eyes on the prize, selecting seasoned diplomats, academics and experienced ex-officials. Among them, the former US secretary of state John Kerry, who will act as “climate tsar” when he takes office. His new diplomatic task will surely be tougher now than when he served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, during which time he helped steer the negotiation of the Paris Agreement, locking down commitments from nearly 200 countries – including his own (at least back then) – to begin to reverse the dangerous effects of global warming.
 
Other key choices include Avril Haines, the first woman to be director of national intelligence. Regarded as a sharp policy expert, she’s top among career intelligence officers. 
 
Then there’s Biden’s “alter ego”; guitar-playing Beatles fanatic Antony Blinken who is set to take up one of the most important foreign policy positions when he becomes secretary of state. He joins Kerry in the task of reviving the US’s global reputation after four years of Trump.
 
The announcements come as further pressure mounts on Trump to give up his legal fight.
 
We don’t need a key race alert to tell us the end is nigh for the “Trump Show”. After years of watching, his ratings are in and even his ardent supporters are switching off
 
That’s not to say that there won’t be a spin off. But for now, it’s time to change the channel as Biden’s cast is worth watching.

News

Prime minister Boris Johnson set out a three-tier system of Covid restrictions for England, which will come into force after the end of lockdown on 2 December and will last until the end of March. The new regime includes an easing in some areas, such as reopening shops and gyms and letting people return to sporting events in limited numbers, but introduces tougher rules on other areas such as pubs and restaurants.
 
Preliminary data has suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford is highly effective at stopping people from developing coronavirus symptoms, with interim results showing 70% protection and the researchers found that this figure can be increased to as high as 90%. While Pfizer and Moderna jabs have showed 95% protection, the Oxford vaccine is expected to be cheaper, and easier to store and distribute more widely. 
 
The two-week self-isolation period for arrivals to England is to be cut to five days next month, with travellers allowed to leave quarantine after a negative Covid-19 test. Under the new scheme, passengers who choose to use it must book a test before travel from a list of government-approved suppliers. The cost is likely to be between £65 and £120.

Business and economy

The new lockdown in England caused activity in the dominant UK services sector in November to fall to its lowest level since the spring, as the interim IHS Markit/Cips services purchasing manager’ index fell to 45.8 in November from 51.4 the previous month – the lowest level since May. (£)
 
Speaking to a Westminster committee yesterday, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey cautioned that a no-deal Brexit would leave worse long-term economic scarring than the coronavirus. His warning contradicts Rishi Sunak’s comments to the BBC on Sunday, who stated that the coronavirus would have a larger impact than a no-deal Brexit to the UK economy in the short and long-term.
 
Debenhams is in exclusive talks with JD Sports about a rescue takeover that could secure the future of thousands of retail workers before the crucial Christmas trading period. It is understood that JD Sports, the FTSE 100-listed sportswear business, is interested in acquiring the whole of the department store chain, and opened talks with its advisers Lazard and administrators at FRP on Monday. (£)
 
The government will roll out regional restrictions after Boris Johnson confirmed the second lockdown in England will end on 2 December. But new rules mean pubs operating under Tier 2 can only trade if customers have a “substantial meal”. In Tier 3, pubs must shut and can only sell goods for takeaway. The UK hospitality industry has warned that instead of ‘saving Christmas’, these restrictions are, in fact, killing Christmas and that pubs, restaurants and hotels will face going bust as a result.

Columns of note

Social-distancing measures have forced businesses to re-think how to keep customers safely apart. What about those firms which capitalise on bringing people together? This week’s Economist argues that while the industry is raising to the current challenges caused by the pandemic, there are reasons for long-term optimism what will see the industry emerging from this crisis not only more innovated but also, perhaps, a bit less crowded. (£)
 
In the weeks preceding the US elections, news outlets were flooded with speculation about what a Biden presidency would mean for the UK. In the meantime, hardly anything has been said about its potential impact on Euro-Atlantic relations. Writing in POLITICOPat Cox argues that Biden’s presidency may be the last chance to repair the deeply damaged relationship between the EU and US.

Cartoon source: The Economist

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks finished in a mixed state on signs of progress in developing AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and news that UK business activity shrank in November. The FTSE 100 closed down 0.28% at 6,333.84, while the FTSE 250 gained 0.39% to 19,582.35. 
 
Sterling had a stronger day, advancing 0.17% on the dollar to $1.3298, and gaining 0.37% against the euro to €1.1242.
 
In the meantime, US stocks ended on positive territory, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing 0.85%, to 29,510.78, the S&P 500 gaining 0.31%, to 3,568.49, and the Nasdaq Composite index adding 0.06%, to 11,861.69.
 
In company news:
 
Cineworld has secured $750m debt facility while its lenders have agreed to waive its debt covenant until June 2022 to help it weather the pandemic.
 
Telecoms group Vodafone has committed to reduce its total global carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, ten years earlier than originally planned.
 
Retailer Pets at Home has secured its position as a rare winner during the pandemic, as the group reported double digit revenue growth in the six months to October.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Compass Group
Greencore
Ten Life
Treatt
UDG Healthcare

Interims
Ao World
CML Microcircuits
Eckoh Technologies
Design Group
Pennon
Pets At Home
Record
Severfield
Trifast

AGMs
Essensys
Go-Ahead
JPMorgan Smaller Companies

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product (GER)
(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(15:00) House Price Index (US)
(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

A German court has ruled that bread rolls and coffee do not constitute a complete breakfast. Source: @qikipedia

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
National Health Service Reserve Staff – Alan Mak
 
Consideration of Lords amendment
Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill
 
Motion
Motion to approve the Draft Prohibition on Quantitative Restrictions (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Motion to approve a Money Resolution relating to the Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill
Motion relating to the appointment of members to the Independent Expert Panel
Motion relating to the Committee on Standards Eleventh Report of session 2019–21
 
Adjournment
Covid-19 infections at HMP Frankland in Durham – Mary Kelly Foy

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Benefits of adult learning delivered through the Union Learning Fund – Lord Shipley
Money spent on the Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal project per week – Baroness Rawlings
Protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from domestic abuse – Baroness Wilcox of Newport
 
Legislation
Fire safety Bill – Third reading – Lord Greenhalgh
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – committee stage (day 1) – Baroness Williams of Trafford

Scottish Parliament 

Health and Sport Committee Debate: The Supply and Demand for Medicines
Stage 3 Proceedings: The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill
Members’ Business — S5M-22736 Rona Mackay: National Adoption Week 2020

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