Daily Briefing: 28 February

By Stuart Taylor

Good morning,

On the day that phone manufacturer, Nokia, rolled back the years with its unveiling of the retro 3310 mobile phone, politics had its own blast from the past yesterday as former leaders on both sides of the Atlantic made rare interventions in the current political landscape.

Following hot on the heels of his successor Tony Blair, Sir John Major called for “more charm and a lot less cheap rhetoric” from the UK government as it steers the country’s path out of the EU. Speaking at an event in London, the former Tory Prime Minister also warned that Theresa May was offering an “unreal and over-optimistic” vision of what Brexit will look like, believing that there was “little chance” any new trade deal with the other 27 EU countries will replicate the benefits of the current arrangement.

Across the pond, a former president was also breaking his silence to criticise the current occupant of the Oval Office. George W Bush — who was notably silent during Barack Obama’s eight years as president — used a television interview to take issue with Donald Trump’s approach to immigration, the news media, and his ties to Russia. Although he didn’t name Trump, Bush said a free press was indispensable as people in power find it “can be very addictive and it can be corrosive” and hence, they needed to be held to account.

When asked if he supported Trump’s ban on Muslims to the United States, Bush replied “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law”. Ouch.

Trump will have an opportunity to reset his relationship with Bush and the rest of the nation tonight as he delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress. The address is traditionally a platform for a new president to flesh out the details of their policy agenda, and that makes tonight’s address an interesting spectacle. Trump is not renowned for being keen on detail, but he will be face-to-face with an expectant Congress eager to hear the specifics behind his grand plans, most notably his pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare. Also, with Democrats in attendance, Trump will be in the unusual position of speaking to an audience which is split in their feelings towards him.

However, after a day of comebacks, expect the president to return to some of his ‘greatest hits’ from last year’s campaign rallies.

NEWS

The inquest into the death of 30 British tourists killed on a beach in Tunisia is expected to end today. The inquest examined whether the UK government and travel firms failed to protect the holidaymakers, who were victims of an Islamist extremist gunman.

Insurers are threatening legal action over the “crazy” reforms to personal injury compensation, which will cause a hike in car insurance premiums. Liz Truss, the justice secretary and lord chancellor, announced a change in the formula used to calculate payouts yesterday, resulting in the cost of car insurance increasing by up to £1,000 for young drivers. (£)

Five hundred patients may have experienced serious harm as a result of the NHS misplacing 500,000 test results and letters over a five-year period, ministers and officials have conceded in parliament. An investigation is also expected to review whether correspondence between GPs and hospitals that was subsequently mislaid caused or contributed to the death of any patients.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

French political and regulatory interference has been blamed for the collapse of a proposed £24 billion merger between the London Stock Exchange and Germany’s Deutsche Börse. A late intervention by the competition authorities in Brussels sought to encourage the LSE to sell its majority stake in Italian business MTS in order for the deal to go through, a request which came as a “complete surprise” to both parties involved in the deal. (£)

Uncertainty over Brexit could result in the new electric Mini being made in Germany rather than the UK. The decision not to manufacture the model at its plant in Oxford would be a blow for Greg Clark, the business secretary, as he aims to put electric vehicles and battery technology at the heart of the UK’s industrial strategy.

A report to Parliament has concluded that 25 million existing homes will not meet the insulation standards required by mid-century, meaning more than one home every minute will need to be refurbished in the UK between now and 2050. The government has said it will respond to the Green Building Council’s report by announcing new policies as quickly as possible.

MARKETS

The FTSE 100 closed very slightly higher yesterday, but, unsurprisingly, shares in insurance companies fell following a change to how personal injury claims are calculated.

Direct Line shares were down 7% while Admiral Group dropped about 3%. Despite this, the index finished 9.30 points, or 0.1%, higher at 7,253. Shares in the owner of the London Stock Exchange dropped 1.12% after the collapse of a potential merger with Deutsche Börse.

On the currency markets, sterling dropped 0.54% against the euro to 1.17380 euros, and was flat against the US dollar at $1.2456.

Finals

Bodycote, Croda International, Dalata Hotel Group, Exova Group, Fresnillo, GKN, Interserve, IWG, Johnson Service Group, Laird, Moneysupermarket.com Group, Provident Financial, Sphere Medical Holding, St James’s Place, Tullow Oil, Taylor Wimpey

Interims

Revolution Bars Group, Redde, Swallowfield, Waterman Group

AGMs

Elegant Hotels Group, Sage Group

UK Economic Announcements

(00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence

Int. Economic Announcements

(06:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(07:00) Balance of Payments (GER)

(14:45) Chicago PMI (US)

(15:00) Consumer Confidence (US)

Source: FTSE100, The Financial Times

COLUMNS OF NOTE

Nancy Hungerford, a news anchor and correspondent on CNBC, has taken to the pages of City A.M. to write-off Marine Le Pen’s chances in the upcoming French presidential election. Hungerford says that a tendency to draw parallels between Brexit, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen is flawed, saying that no one outside her voter base believes that her election would make them better off financially. She also says that the country’s two-round electoral system provides a “buffer against populist shocks.”

George Osborne and former New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, have penned a joint article in The Times to argue that strong mayors can be the answer to the rise of globalisation, instead of nationalism and isolationism. It is their belief that mayors and city councils understand their communities better than national governments, and that they are often more pragmatic and less ideological. They conclude by saying it is imperative that the northern powerhouse, and the election of its mayors, is backed “to show that free markets, local democracy and open societies can answer the cry for help from citizens who feel the system isn’t working for them.”

DID YOU KNOW?

If you removed all the empty space from the atoms that make up all the humans on the planet, then you could fit all six billion of us inside a single apple.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions

Treasury, including Topical Questions

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Careers Guidance (Access to Schools) — Nic Dakin

Select Committees

Exiting the EU — Oral Evidence Session — the UK’s objectives for its withdrawal from the EU

Environment, food and Rural Affairs — Oral Evidence Session — Food Waste

House of Lords

Oral questions

Addressing the challenges raised by the number of drones, particularly in relation to safety and security risks; and possible legislation to regulate their use — Lord Naseby

Opportunities to enhance bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and the UK — Lord Sheikh

Continued funding for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit — Lord Clement-Jones

Whether the Government will call in the North Korean Ambassador — Lord Alton of Liverpool

Legislation

Neighbourhood Planning Bill — Report stage (day 2) — Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

Scottish Parliament

Ministerial Statement: Scottish Government response to the Independent Review of the circumstances surrounding the death of Bailey Gwynne

Scottish Government Debate: Celebrating Our Past: Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Debate: Gender balance on the Parliamentary Bureau and SPCB

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral Questions

Scotland

Prime Minister’s Questions

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Companies Documentation (Transgender Persons) — Nicky Morgan

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Change in the total number of households in the UK between 2010 and 2014 attributed to households with a non-UK born household reference person

- Lord Green of Deddington

Bringing forward legislation further to their manifesto commitment to ban wild animals in circuses — Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Tackling the abuse of personal injury claims relating to incidents involving motor vehicles — Lord Hayward

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Opposition Debate

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Education

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Culture