Daily Briefing: 21 September
International tension is brewing as a blame game begins over who attacked a UN aid convoy in Syria. The episode marks another tragedy not just for Syria, but for the wider stability of the international community, in what is a brutal and bloody conflict. The US has blamed Russia, arguing that Russian planes were flying overhead at the time of the attack. Russia has blamed Syrian rebels, releasing footage apparently showing that a rebel vehicle was driving alongside the convoy at the time of the attack.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, sat next to his Russian counterpart yesterday at a UN summit, but turned his back on the Russian and refused to engage with him. The attack happened on Monday, but as the facts emerge it becomes clear just how awful this situation has become. The convoy of 31 trucks was carrying food, medicine and supplies to the rebel-held areas of Aleppo. The UN has denounced the attack as “sickening” and said if the accusations are true it would amount to a war crime.
In other news, Theresa May has vowed to send British troops to Somalia and pledged £100 million in aid to the continent in an attempt to stop the flow of migrants from Africa into Europe. The move marks Mrs May’s first troop deployment as prime minister. The military trainers will attempt to help hold back al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group.
These policies were announced in May’s first speech at the UN general assembly. The speech revolved around the theme of stemming the flow of migrants at source, rather than attempting to house and accommodate them once they gain access to Europe. She argued that a consistent flow of migrants was leading to instability across Europe.
193 countries at the United Nations have signed a pledge to stamp out drug resistant bugs, or “superbugs” as they are more colloquially known. Experts claim that the deal could save the lives of more than 700,000 people a year. This is a significant step in the fight against these dangerous bugs, with the agreement coming after six years of negotiation. Signatories have two years to report back with an action plan.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that he is to shut down his controversial advisory firm, Tony Blair Associates. Blair has been criticised for the vast profits that his commercial projects have generated since he left office. A statement said that these “substantial reserves” will be donated to not-for-profit work. The move appears to be an attempt to clean up his public image, and Blair has said he will now focus on charity work.
The Scottish Labour Party is to be granted more control and autonomy from the wider UK party. Last night the ruling NEC decided that the Scottish branch of the party, under the control of Kezia Dugdale, will be given power over policy, control of constituency Labour parties and the selection of candidates for Westminster elections. The deal means that only finance of the party will remain under wider UK party control. The membership will vote on the deal at the party conference this weekend.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Newly released data from the UK Financial Conduct Authority has sent out the message that if the “City of London sneezes, Europe’s financial services industry will catch a cold”. The data argues that the UK must retain the ability for its businesses to “passport” with the rest of Europe, as nearly 5,500 UK businesses use the policy to access the European market. 8,000 companies registered in Europe also use the system to access the UK.
RBS has faced a significant set back in its plans to sell 315 branches. A deal between the bank and its rival Santander broke down yesterday, amid reports that the two parties could not come to an agreement over price. RBS had attempted to use the branches to form a new bank under the Williams and Glyn brand, but abandoned the effort in the face of rising costs. Under the bailout deal in 2008, RBS had been given until 2017 to sell the branches.
The Bank of Japan has “launched an unprecedented new kind of monetary easing”. The Bank has set a cap on ten year bonds and vowed to overshoot its 2 per cent inflation target on purpose. The move marks another effort to surprise markets and signal an intention to relieve Japan of years of on-and-off deflation. The decision also shows that eight years after the financial crisis, banks are still willing to experiment with new monetary policy tools.
The FTSE100 closed up 17.24 points at 6,830.79.
Burberry was the biggest riser on the markets as it closed up 48p or 3.6 per cent at £13.79. This rise came after a sharp fall last week on the back of Hermes announcing market difficulties.
The markets appeared ambivalent to the news that GlaxoSmithKline had appointed its former head of consumer healthcare, Emma Walmsley, as its new CEO yesterday. The drug manufacturer remained steady at £16.45p.
However, the big news came on the currency markets as sterling slid against the dollar to $1.2974, a drop of 0.4 per cent. This news was attributed to traders waiting for the outcome of central bank meetings in Japan and the US.
Against the euro, the pound fell even more steeply to €1.161, a slide of 0.44 per cent.
Pan African Resources, Transense Technologies
Mi-Pay Group, Matomy Media Group Limited (DI), NAHL Group, Saga, Sinclair Pharma, ServicePower Technologies, 32Red, Venture Life Group
Accsys Technologies, Circle Property, Diageo, IG Group Holdings, MediaZest, Northgate, Worldwide Healthcare Trust
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Public Sector Net Borrowing
Int Economic Announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
COLUMNS OF INTEREST
This morning in Reaction, Iain Martin uses Robert Tombs’ book The English and Their History to argue that Theresa May is “right to reject the global elite’s mania for open borders”. He suggests that there is an increasing rejection of the elite orthodoxy about open borders in both the UK and wider Europe. He calls the policy a “social and political disaster”.
Rafael Behr analyses Tim Farron’s attempt to position the party as the pro-European choice at the Lib-Dem conference yesterday. The leader appealed to moderate Labour supporters to join his party and form an opposition against Brexit. Behl argues that this is the obvious choice for the Liberal Democrats, but that it is a heavy burden that will be difficult to undertake alone. Due to the Lib Dems polling numbers, he says they have no choice but to try.
ON THIS DAY
1937: J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, which followed the trials and tribulations of Bilbo Baggins. The book was originally written for Tolkien’s own children, but after its release became popular with adults. The book became extremely popular and prompted the publishers to ask for a sequel entitled The Lord of the Rings.
TODAY IN PARLIAMENT
House of Commons
No business scheduled
House of Lords
No business scheduled
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: NHS Scotland Staffing Crisis
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Charlotte Street Partners