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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Shot down in May

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
11 January 2021

Good morning,

In 1971, Frank Sinatra announced his retirement. He went on to give over a thousand concerts before his death 27 years later. In a similar feat, Nigel Farage is back.

Not that he was ever entirely away. But last week, the Electoral Commission recognised the Brexit party’s reinvention as ‘Reform UK’. Its leading policy? Opposing Covid-19 restrictions. There are other policies – tighter immigration restrictions, Lords reform – but Reform UK’s USP is its vision of a free and wheezy Britain.

Single issue parties are not inherently bad things. The SNP’s 14 years in Scottish government show that a party need not be limited by its over-arching goal. A monolithic cause can unite supporters who, over trifling issues of economics and society, are otherwise divided. A monolithic cause drove Farage’s extraordinary success in the 2019 European elections. 

Yet to fight May’s local and devolved elections on a platform of opposing coronavirus measures is to put all one’s eggs in a basket that has already fallen apart. Even if laxity were popular with Farage’s core (and it isn’t), Covid-19 is – however slowly – on its way out. With growing signs that May’s elections may be delayed until the autumn, voters may not even have a say on this issue until it is, hopefully, an essentially non-issue.

The fate of the Lib Dems shows what happens when a party’s one issue ceases to be an issue. Fervent opposition to Brexit seemed the party’s route out of its post-2015 doldrums. Despite some successes for the party in 2019, Brexit happened. Now the party of Mill and Beveridge is fumbling for ideas and for votes

Two years ago, some feared that Brexit was insoluble. In deal terms, it was not. The effects of coronavirus, like those of Brexit, may persist for decades. Vaccines, however, point to a time when the virus will no longer be the single, defining issue of the day. That does not mean we are returning to ‘normal’; other issues will assume dominance. Yet, even in this locked-down deep of winter, everyone ought to think about what comes after. That’s life 

News

Seven mass vaccination centres will open across England this week alongside more GP-led and hospital-based centres. About two million people in the UK have already been vaccinated. In Scotland, the Oxford-AstraZenenca vaccine will be rolled out at over 1,100 sites from today. 
 

In the US, Democrats are moving to remove President Trump from office. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has announced a non-binding motion that would give Vice President Pence a day to convene cabinet and remove President Trump via the 25th amendment. Failing this, Pelosi announced her party’s readiness to begin impeachment proceedings this week.
 

Sir Keir Starmer has said that Labour would make only minor changes to the Brexit deal if it were in office. The Labour leader has claimed his party would not seek “major renegotiation” with the EU and that there was “no case” to re-join the trading bloc. Starmer faced frontbench resignations over his decision to whip Labour MPs to back the Brexit deal last month. (£)

Business and economy

The Federation of Small Businesses has warned a quarter of a million small businesses in Britain could go under without further government support. The representative body’s annual survey of its members found just under five per cent believed they would need to shut for good in 2021, while business confidence was at its second lowest level in ten years.
 

Social media app Parler has been suspended from Apple and Amazon’s web stores over its failure to moderate extremist views. The move comes after Google also removed the app, which has proven popular with users who have been blocked from other social media platforms. The bans have been prompted by evidence that rioters used the app to organise attacks on the US Capitol last week.
 

Senior figures in the property investment sector are calling on M&G to relieve its unrewarded investors. In December 2019, M&G responded to a rush in redemption by suspending trading in its £2.3 billion UK property fund. Since then, tens of thousands of small investors in M&G’s flagship property fund have suffered a negative annual return of around 11% while collectively paying millions of pounds in fees. Retail property, M&G’s specialism, was suffering a structural decline long before the pandemic began. (£)

Columns of note

The Financial Times’ FT View welcomes the easing of Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on Qatar but questions if it will be able to heal the mutual damage they have caused. President Trump’s defeat has precipitated the end of the embargo. Now the détente allows Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ingratiate himself with incoming President Biden. The column notes, however, that Mohammed will need to go further if he wishes to improve his reputation in the wake of human rights crackdowns and Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
 

In The Guardian, novelist Marilynne Robinson reviews President Trump’s career and concludes that what began as farce is ending as tragedy. Robinson asserts that America’s constitution and greatest successes were “built on self-restraint”. Robinson concludes that Trump weaponised his supporters’ self-pity to create last week’s scenes, which represent, by contrast, the “nullification of law and reason”.

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

The week ahead

The Consumer Electronics Show is swapping the Las Vegas Strip for an all-virtual meeting. The trade show, which usually attracts 200,000 attendees, will commence online today. Investors are braced for higher rates as the US publishes inflation figures on Wednesday. On Thursday, Germany will publish full-year GDP figures; observers expect a 5.2% contraction: the greatest since the financial crisis. JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup will report US fourth-quarter earnings on Friday.

In UK publications, observers expect Thursday’s RICS house price balance for December to show the sector’s continued resilience, aided by the stamp duty holiday. By contrast, Friday’s GDP and trade figures for November are expected to show a 4.8% fall: the first such decline in seven months.

In politics, Democrats in the US Congress will today launch a bid to remove President Trump while the European Parliament will begin to debate the Brexit deal. Uganda goes to the polls tomorrow: Bobi Wine is challenging Yoweri Museveni – the incumbent since 1986 – for the presidency. Germany’s governing Christian Democratic Union will elect a new leader on Saturday. The candidates are a conservative, Friedrich Merz; a moderate, Armin Laschet; and Norbert Röttgen, a foreign policy expert. The winner is likely to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps down.

What’s happening today?

AGMs
Honye Fin.serv.

GMs
Premier Foods

Trading announcements
Abcam
SIG

 

Source: Financial Times

did you know

France’s longest border is with Brazil. French Guiana borders Brazil for 450 miles: 42 miles more than metropolitan France’s border with Belgium.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Housing, Communities and Local Government

General debate
Global Britain

Westminster Hall
Debate on e-petitions relating to Government support for the hospitality industry
Debate on an e-petition relating to rollout of covid-19 vaccinations


General committees
The Second Delegated Legislation Committee will debate the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1483)
The Third Delegated Legislation Committee will debate the Draft Tax Credits Reviews and Appeals (Amendment) Order 2020
 

Public Accounts Committee
The committee will take oral evidence from Sarah Munby (Permanent Secretary, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Emily Lawson (Chief Commercial Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement), Sir Chris Wormald (Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and Social Care), Sir Simon Stevens (Chief Executive, NHS England), Michael Brodie (Chief Executive, Public Health England), Nick Elliott (Former Director General and SRO, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), and Kate Bingham (Chair, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) on Covid-19: Planning for a vaccine Part 1: preparations for potential Covid-19 vaccines

 

Treasury Committee
The committee will take oral evidence from George Peretz (QC, Monckton Chambers), Elizabeth De Jong (Director of Policy, Logistics UK), Barney Reynolds (Global Head of the Financial Services Industry Group, Shearman and Sterling), and Conor Lawlor (Director for Brexit; Capital Markets and Wholesale, UK Finance) on the UK’s economic and trading relationship with the EU.
 

Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee
The committee will take oral evidence from Scott Corfe, Research Director, Social Market Foundation Cllr Mark Crane (Lead for Economic Development, District Councils Network), Paul Swinney (Director of Policy and Research, Centre for Cities), Martin McTague (National Vice Chair Policy and Advocacy, Federation of Small Businesses), and Ros Morgan (Chief Executive, Heart of London Business Alliance) on supporting our high streets after Covid-19

House of Lords 

Oral questions 
Various

Legislation
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – report stage (day 1)

Scottish Parliament 

In recess until 12 January 

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