Daily Briefing: 15 December

Good morning,

It’s a difficult gig to write the briefing this morning without feeling too depressed. I find myself having to repeat most of what my colleague wrote yesterday.

An agreement for the evacuation of civilians in Aleppo has been reached as hours after yesterday’s agreement was in place, fighting resumed and the ceasefire failed before the evacuation could begin.

Reports this morning tell us a new ceasefire went into effect in the early hours. By 6am GMT a Syrian official source had told Reuters that the evacuation had already started. But the International Committee of the Red Cross denied this. Let’s hope tomorrow morning we aren’t reading about another failed ceasefire.

So what happens after this? The Conversation warns that the end of the conflict in Aleppo is only chapter one in this “multi-sided” conflict, with Russia, Iran and Turkey all having stakes in the outcome of the next phase.

News

In parliament yesterday, David Davis gave the clearest indications so far on the government’s thinking about leaving the EU. Britain will not have a Brexit plan until February but should be able to complete talks within 18 months and then go through a ‘transitional’ phase of leaving, he said, and indicated Britain would refuse to allow the EU any control over immigration policy. His comments came in advance of an EU summit in Brussels today.

Council tax bills in England are to rise by an average of £90 to fund social care, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will confirm today. Councils will be allowed to bring forward tax rises of 3 per cent in April and a further 3 per cent in 2018 to raise funds. Jeremy Corbyn clashed with Theresa May on this at PMQs yesterday, with the Labour leader saying that elderly people are being left isolated because of a “crisis made in Downing Street”. Meanwhile the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, believes that the council tax rises were not “the final word” in social care funding.

British Airways cabin crew have voted in favour of strikes in a row over pay. Union Unite said its members backed walkouts at Heathrow by four to one, which could significantly disrupt passengers travelling over the Christmas period. Meanwhile, talks at Acas between embattled rail operator Southern and drivers’ union Aslefare set to resume this morning, in the hope that a resolution can be found before drivers strike again on Friday.

Business & Economy

Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will publish the Scottish Government’s budget plans for 2017 following FMQs today. The Herald reports that plans to use higher council tax to invest an extra £500 million in education have been dropped, with council leaders made aware on Tuesday.

Yahoo has warned that more than one billion user accounts may have been affected in a newly revealed cyber attack, one of the biggest data breaches in history.

The US Federal Reserve has signalled that it will step up the pace of interest rate rises next year as a robust jobs market and stronger growth prompted the central bank to raise rates for only the second time in a decade.

Markets

Interims 
Oneview Group

Q3 results 
PJSC RusHydro ADR, Summit Therapeutics

AGMs 
Alternative Liquidity Fund Limited, Falanx Group, GCM Resources, Gunsynd, Haydale Graphene Industries, InnovaDerma, Leaf Clean Energy CO, Nanoco Group, Northern Venture Trust, Sareum Holdings, Standard Life Equity Income Trust, Smart (J) and Co, Tiso Blackstar Group SE (DI)

UK Economic Announcements
Retail Sales, BOE Interest Rate Decision

International Economic Announcements
Consumer Price Index (US), Continuing Claims (US), Current Claims (US), Current Account (US), Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Source: FTSE100, The Financial Times

Columns of Note

As the UK debates its role this week in the Syrian conflict, Guardian columnist Owen Jones argues that British bombs would not have saved Aleppo.

Tech Crunch takes us inside Africa’s “silicon valleys”, where funded technology centres are spurring on innovation and growth.

Cartoon Source: The Times

On this day

On this day in 2001, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened after a team of experts spent 11 years and $27 million to fortify the tower without eliminating its famous lean.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions 
Culture, Media and Sport, including Topical Questions; and International Trade, including Topical Questions

Business Statement
Leader of the House

Backbench Business
(i) Creation of a commercial financial dispute resolution platform (ii) Broadband Universal Service Obligation

Adjournment 
Preservation of HMS President and other historic warships — Dr Julian Lewis

House of Lords
Oral Questions 
Impact of the availability of affordable housing on the ability of both private and public sector organisations to recruit and retain staff — Lord Kennedy of Southwark 
Ensuring the higher education sector is represented in all of the Brexit negotiations — Baroness Royall of Blaisdon 
Government’s assessment of the review by David Lammy MP of racial bias and BAME representation in the criminal justice system — Lord Patel of Bradford 
Alternative contractor to take over the management of Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre — Lord Beecham

Debate 
Effective service user representation in health and social care and enhancing the independence and capacity of Healthwatch England and of local Healthwatch groups — Lord Harris of Haringey

Short debate 
Allegations of child sexual abuse within football clubs — Lord Addington

Debate 
Reducing road traffic accidents caused by motorists using handheld mobile devices whilst driving — Baroness Pidding 
Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions
Finance and the Constitution

Scottish Conservatives debate: Taxation

Member’s Business: Maree Todd S5M-02049: Scotland’s Climate Targets

Susan Arthur 
Senior Associate 
Charlotte Street Partners

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