Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

The claim game

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
3 December 2020

Good morning,

As if it were an early Christmas present, the best news in a rather despairing 2020 broke yesterday, when the UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced Britain has become the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use.
 
But the good tidings don’t end there. The first 800,000 of 40 million doses ordered are already on their way and could be in hospitals with facilities to store the vaccine at –70C as soon as next week. The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that “the first vaccines against Covid will be administered in Scotland on 8 [December]”, if they arrive as expected.
 
The UK government has been able to claim such a milestone thanks to special regulations allowing the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) to approve the vaccine for emergency use before 1 January 2021, when the regulator is set to become fully responsible for medicines authorisation in the UK after Brexit.
 
As it happens, despite Hancock’s assertion yesterday morning that early approval of the vaccine was “because of Brexit”, the reality is that European Union laws also allow other member states to approve medicines for emergency use without authorisation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
 
Both No 10 and the MHRA were quick to contradict the health secretary’s claim, citing section 174 of the UK’s Human Medicines Regulations, which permits the rapid licensing of medicines without the EMA’s authorisation in the event of an emergency such as a pandemic.
 
Others have been quick to criticise Boris Johnson’s government for trying to frame the breakthrough as a huge “national” win for Britain. The German ambassador to the UK, Andreas Michaelis, stressed the importance of “European and transatlantic” efforts to get the vaccine ready to be administered, while others have cautioned ministers against political posturing, given the huge task before them.
 
His upbeat tone notwithstanding, the prime minister actually refrained from boasting a British triumph during a Downing Street news conference on Wednesday evening. Johnson warned people against getting “carried away with over-optimism”, and emphasised that the good news doesn’t mean “the struggle is over”, not least because of the “immense logistical challenges” that remain in getting doses to risk groups. Indeed, it will be months before restrictions are lifted, which will in turn require much persuading millions of people to accept the vaccine’s quality, safety and efficacy.
 
However, it would seem recovery is now at least within reach. If mass immunisation programmes prove successful in protecting the most vulnerable here and abroad, there are reasons to be hopeful about the possibility of rapid economic growth in the months and years ahead. If and when that moment comes, we’ll do well to remember the solution was conceived in the spirit of cooperation and scientific achievement.

News

The outgoing president of the United States, Donald Trump, released a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday evening, in which he repeated debunked and false claims about the November election results and voter fraud. The surprise video, which sees Trump suggest a “re-vote” of the presidential election could be called if the US Supreme Court did “what’s right for our country”, has been branded “one of the most dishonest” he has ever given.
  
The Department for Education has said all universities in England will be offered facilities to run post-Christmas Covid-19 tests, in order to avoid new outbreaks and ensure the safety of students and staff. According to the plan, universities have been asked to stagger the return of students over five weeks by 7 February, while medical students and those on placements or practical courses with a need for in-person teaching should return as planned from 4 to 18 January.
 
Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy supporter, has been charged with fraud, raising fears of a renewed crackdown on the city’s activists and media figures after three other prominent pro-democracy activists were jailed a day before. The founder of Next Digital, who was arrested yesterday along with two other senior executives from the media company, has been denied bail and will remain under detention until a court hearing in April next year.

Business and economy

The US House of Representatives has passed an act to remove Chinese companies from US stock exchanges if they don’t abide by its auditing rules. The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which still needs the US president’s approval, would require companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a foreign government.
 
The owner of Arcadia, Lady Christina Green, will bring forward a £50m payment into the retailer’s pension fund in the next seven to 10 days, as part of a commitment made last year to pay £100m into the scheme. The announcement comes as political pressure mounts over the group’s fall into administration earlier this week, which has put 13,000 jobs at risk.
 
Bonmarché has gone into administration for the second time in a year as a result of the negative impact of Covid-19 on high street retailers. The restructuring advisory firm RSM has been appointed as administrator of the fashion chain, which closed 30 stores after entering administration in October 2019 and before being bought by the retail mogul Philip Day in February 2020.

Columns of note

Philip Stephens writes in the Financial Times that whereas China’s ambitions to rule the world are a serious challenge to the US, for the EU the danger is existential, given its status as a “normative power” unable to survive in a world where rules “are replaced by the will of the mighty.” Although European governments have grown more concerned about China’s geopolitical objectives and see Joe Biden’s election victory as an opportunity for a cohesive western approach, Stephens argues that there’s still an unwillingness among EU leaders to let go of the misplaced idea that economics and geopolitics can be neatly separated. Europe, he concludes, will have to take sides. (£)
 
In The Guardian, Martin Kettle writes that the ongoing Tory backbench revolt against Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic is a problem of the prime minister’s making. If Johnson had focused on communicating that mass vaccination is the only way out of the pandemic from the start, he argues, his strategy this winter would have been much clearer, although more austere, than it has been. In Kettle’s view, the prime minister appears to be permanently caught between advisers who tell him that firm measures are needed to control the pandemic and his own instinctive belief that they are somehow “un-English, illiberal or even unmanly.”

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in the green on Wednesday, with the FTSE 100 ending the session up 1.23% at 6,463.39 and sterling trading weaker against both the dollar by 0.56% at $1.3345, and the euro by 0.71% at €1.1040 on the back of Brexit worries. In the US, the S&P 500 rose 0.2%, setting a new closing record, while the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite dropped by less than 0.1%.
 
In company news:
 
Sainsbury’s was 2.87% lower after rival Tesco said it would repay £585m of Covid-19 business rates relief to the UK after Britain’s supermarkets came under pressure to return the money.
 
Avon Rubber slumped 8.76% despite the manufacturing company posting better-than-expected full-year results.
 
IWG closed down 6.71% after the workspace provider said it would raise £300m in a convertible bond issue to help pay for planned acquisitions at attractive prices.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Aj Bell 
Caretech Hldg
Countryside Properties
Impax Asset Man
Oxford Metrics
Paragon Group
Tritax Euro.

Interims
Clipper
Mirada

AGMs
Baillie Gifford Japan Trust PLC
Cqs New C.h.y.f
Ferguson
Jubilee Metals
Marwyn Val.
Meikles
MJGleeson
Nanoco
Ormonde Mining
PipeHawk

UK economic announcements
(09:30) PMI Services

Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(10:00) PMI Services (EU)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(15:00) ISM Services (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In the 19th century, people spent twice as much money on bread as they did on rent. Today, people throw 32% of their bread away. (@8fact)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Transport (including Topical Questions)
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
 
General debate
The future of coal in the United Kingdom
 
Debate
Debate on a motion relating to digital infrastructure, connectivity and accessibility the subjects for these debates were determined by the backbench business committee
 
Adjournment
Closures of the Orwell Bridge during high winds – Tom Hunt

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Review of the National Trust Acts – Lord Lexden
 
Alignment of National Planning Policy Statements with UK commitments to Paris Climate Agreement and Climate Change Act 2008 – Lord Whitty
 
Access to Child Trust Funds by children with learning disabilities – Lord Young of Cookham
 
Government plans for GCSE and A-level exams in 2021 and beyond – Lord Randall of Uxbridge
 
Legislation
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – committee stage (day 3) – Baroness Williams of Trafford

Scottish Parliament 

First Minister’s Questions
 
Portfolio Questions
 
Committee of the Whole Parliament – Stage 2 Proceedings
Scottish Parliament (Assistance for Political Parties) Bill
 
Final Stage Proceedings
Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland (Amendment) Bill
 
Stage 1 Debate
Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Copyright© 2020 Charlotte Street Partners