Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Brave enough to see the light

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
21 January 2021

Good morning,

Joseph R Biden Jr was sworn in yesterday as the 46th president of the United States in an inauguration day of many firsts: masked-up attendees; an outgoing president refusing to attend his successor’s swearing-in for the first time since 1974; and Kamala Harris becoming the first black, Asian-American woman to hold the vice presidency.
 
It all made for a rather extraordinary event, made even more exceptional by the rigorous security measures. Shortly after taking the oath, Biden used his maiden speech as president to hail the resilience of US democracy and mark the day as “our historic moment of crisis and challenge” for which “unity is the path forward”.
 
His address also stressed the importance of honouring the victims of the coronavirus pandemic “by becoming the people and the nation we know we can and should be”. In this regard, the new commander-in-chief has already put plans in place to carry out 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, bring about a mask and distancing mandate for federal employees, and set up a new White House office to deal with the virus.
 
The move signals a stark shift from the previous administration’s policies, the most controversial of which the 78-year-old president was in a hurry to reverse and revoke on his first day in the Oval Office, such as the withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate accord and the travel ban on visitors from mainly Muslin nations. Other policy areas covered in the raft of executive orders and actions signed yesterday include race and gender equality, financial relief, human rights, regulation, and ethics.
 
Vice President Harris was equally busy after inauguration as she swore in three new Democratic senators to office, which leaves the upper chamber of the US Congress evenly split between the two main parties. Although this 50-50 composition might temper some of Biden’s legislative ambitions, it effectively bestows tie-breaker powers upon Harris in the Senate, making her one of the most powerful vice presidents ever.
 
Establishing a dialogue of unity in a country so bitterly divided will be the most daunting challenge facing the Biden administration. For now, however, it’s a new day in America; and one that has prompted an almost audible collective sigh of relief from liberal democracies around the world.
 
In the words of 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, who enthralled everyone with her reading during Biden’s inauguration, “there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

News

Boris Johnson has welcomed Joe Biden’s inauguration as president of the US as a “fantastic thing” for a country “that’s been through a bumpy period”. The UK prime minister also described Biden’s election as a big opportunity for the two countries to work together in supporting Nato and tackling Covid-19 and the climate emergency.
 
The UK Foreign Office is refusing to give the EU ambassador to London full diplomatic status, meaning the bloc’s diplomats would not have the full protection of the Vienna Convention. The decision, which is expected to be discussed by EU foreign ministers next Monday, stems from the government department’s intention to treat the EU delegation only as representatives of an international organisation.
 
Meanwhile, in Germany, a new proposal to the EU backed by chancellor Angela Merkel would allow member states to ban all UK residents from entering their countries and to cut all passenger transport links with Britain, in order to prevent or at least slow down the spread of virus variants to and within the bloc. (£)
 
The UK registered 1,820 more coronavirus deaths within 28 days of testing positive – the highest number reported on a single day since the pandemic hit. Commenting on the figures, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said they were “appalling” and warned “there will be more to come” as a result of the new Covid-19 variant.

Business and economy

Unilever is to refuse business to suppliers that do not pay at least a living wage or income to its employees by 2030. The consumer goods giant is one of the first big firms to make such a commitment to build “a more equitable and inclusive society” by improving living standards for low-paid staff worldwide. According to Unilever, the wage should be enough to cover food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transport, clothing, and provision for unexpected events.
 
The Chinese foreign ministry has announced sanctions against former top officials in the Trump administration, banning companies and institutions associated with them from doing business with China. The measures cover the likes of former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who accused Beijing of committing genocide against its Uighur Muslims on his final day in office.
 
Businesses have urged the UK and French governments to agree financial aid for cross-Channel rail operator Eurostar as it fights for survival amid the continuing Covid-19 crisis. Although Eurostar is majority-owned by the French state rail company SNCF, the UK’s stake was sold to an Anglo-Canadian consortium in 2015, which would complicate the lifeline issue. The Department for Transport has said it has been “engaging extensively with Eurostar on a regular basis”.

Columns of note

Aditya Chakrabortty argues in The Guardian that the language of poverty used in 21st century Britain, with different classifications such as food poverty, fuel poverty, or digital poverty, is concealing the fact that more than 14 million Britons did not have enough money to live on going into the pandemic. Such a narrow group of subcategories and phrases mouthed in Westminster and repeated in the media, he concludes, sees people experiencing hardship as different physical needs to be met by a patchwork of largely volunteer organisations, denying both their essential humanity and ours.
 
In The Times, Iain Martin calls on the prime minister to vaccinate all teachers and school support staff immediately and put a plan in place to close the attainment gap between the children of the better off and those experiencing financial hardship, who have been hardest hit. Unless the government prioritises pupils by providing weekend and summer learning and extra support, a generation will be damaged, he writes. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in the green on Wednesday. The FTSE 100 was up 0.41% at 6.740.39, while sterling finished firmer against both the dollar by 0.21% at $1.36 and the euro by 0.34% at €1.13.
 
Across the Atlantic, Joe Biden’s inauguration pushed stocks on Wall Street to an all-time high, with the S&P 500 index closing up 1.4% and the technology-focused Nasdaq rising two per cent.
 
In company news:
 
Pearson rallied 8.57% as the education publisher said sales and profit for the full year were in line with expectations, despite the additional impact of Covid-19 in the fourth quarter.
 
Burberry gained 3.86% after the fashion house said fewer price cuts offset strong sales of full-price items boosted by its association with the campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford.
 
WH Smith was 10.42% higher after the stationery retailer reported better-than-expected Christmas trading, despite burning through £15m to £20m in cash each month during lockdown.
 
Dixons Carphone was in the red by 3.32% even as the electrical and telecommunications retailer maintained full-year guidance and reported a sharp rise in electricals revenue over the Christmas period.

What’s happening today?

Interims
Ig Group Holdings
Sensyne Health

AGMs
Baillie Geu
Barings Emerg.
Brndshld Sys
Hend.far East
Mineral & Fin

Int. economic announcements
(12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Housing Starts (US)
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 1873, the Spanish city of Cartagena wrote to President Ulysses S Grant to ask to join the United States. (@qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions)
 
Church Commissioners and House of Commons Commission and Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body and Public Accounts Commission and Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission
 
Urgent question
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if he will make a statement on the vaccine roll-out – Huw Merriman
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
 
Ministerial statement
Skills for Jobs White Paper – Gavin Williamson
 
Backbench Business
Debate on a Motion relating to errors in payments made to victims of the Equitable Life scandal – Mr David Davis, Bob Blackman, Sir Edward Leigh, Dame Margaret Hodge
 
Debate on the operation of the Child Maintenance Service during the covid-19 outbreak – Marion Fellows
 
Adjournment
Operation of the Extradition Act 2003 – Mr David Davis

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Government outcomes at the G7 Summit due to be held in the UK in 2021 – Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
 
Ensuring heritage organisations have access to sufficient supplies of locally produced coal to continue operating after 2021 – Lord Faulkner of Worcester
 
UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which comes into force on 22 January – The Lord Bishop of Coventry
 
Representations made to the government of Russia about the arrest of Alexei Navalny – Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
 
Private Notice Question
Access to the Covid-19 vaccination for vulnerable people in less economically developed countries as part of their development and aid work overseas – Lord Sarfraz
 
Legislation
Medicines and Medical Devices Bill – third reading – Lord Bethell
 
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – third reading – Baroness Williams of Trafford
 
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – third reading – motion to decline to allow the bill to pass – Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
 
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] – report stage – Baroness Vere of Norbiton

Scottish Parliament 

Ministerial Statement
Scotland’s Economic Performance: The Contribution of Place-Based Economic Development Zones
 
The impact of leaving the EU on Scotland’s rural economy
 
Portfolio Questions
 
Stage 1 Debate
Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill
 
Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

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