Daily Briefing: 6 March 2017
by Stuart Taylor
Talks get underway today to re-establish power to the Northern Ireland assembly after a historic election result which brought about the end of the unionist majority in Stormont. While the DUP remained the largest party after Thursday’s election, only one seat — and a mere 1,168 votes — separated them from Sinn Fein.
The aftermath has seen much soul searching and anxiety amongst the unionist movement, with some even going as far as to argue for a reduction in the number of unionist parties in order to minimise the fragmentation of support for the cause. The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt, has resigned on the back of his party’s poor performance, and the spotlight on the future of Arlene Foster has intensified despite her party’s victory.
The DUP now have to put their internal struggles aside and try to strike a deal with Sinn Fein or risk yet another election in three weeks. However, the situation already looks tense as Michelle O’Neill’s party, which hailed the result as a “watershed” moment, has delivered an ultimatum that they will not accept Foster’s nomination for first minister without an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme which caused the collapse of the last Executive in January.
While negotiations in Northern Ireland got underway, Chancellor Philip Hammond spent Sunday morning touring television studios to warn that there will be no “spending sprees” in the Budget, which he will deliver to the House of Commons on Wednesday. Hammond said that a better than expected economic outlook did not represent “money in the bank,” but instead would need to be set aside to ensure the UK had enough “gas in the tank” as it prepares to enter negotiations to leave the UK.
On the report that Britain could be hit with a €60bn “divorce bill” were it to leave the EU without an agreement, Hammond dismissed it as nothing more than posturing by Brussels, insisting that the UK will “fight back” and not “slink off like a wounded animal” if it is unable to agree satisfactory terms on a trade deal.
The claim by Donald Trump that his predecessor, Barack Obama, tapped his phone during last year’s election campaign has been rejected by FBI director, James Comey. Comey asked the US justice department to publicly reject the allegation due to concerns that there was no evidence to substantiate the claim, and it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law.
North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, prompting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to warn of a “new stage of threat.” Three of the missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in a move that has also been condemned by the UN, the US and South Korea.
Donald Tusk will face a contest in his bid to be re-elected as president of the European Council, after Poland took the unprecedented step of formally nominating a rival candidate to eject its former prime minister from the EU’s top political job. (£)
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
A deal has been struck by the French company that owns Peugeot and Citroen to buy General Motors’ European operation in a deal worth 2.2bn euros. A press conference in Paris later today will set out more details on the merger, with the future of Vauxhall’s UK factories, which employ 4,500 people, a primary concern.
Terms have been agreed on a merger between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in a deal which will create the UK’s largest asset manager, overseeing assets worth £660bn. The cost of the takeover is likely to be in the region of £11bn and Standard Life has confirmed that the combined group’s new name would incorporate both its name and that of Aberdeen’s and be headquartered in Scotland.
Days after reaching agreement over the BHS pension scandal, Sir Philip Green has agreed to invest as much as £50m a year into the pension fund behind Arcardia, his fashion business, to head off another potential pensions controversy. The company, which owns Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, will double payments into its pension scheme from £25m a year to £50m this year to plug a growing deficit.
Devro, Harworth Group, Irish Continental Group Units, Informa, Synthomer, Ultra Electronics Holdings
International Economic Announcements
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Following Theresa May’s address to the Scottish Conservative conference on Friday, Kevin Pringle writes in The Sunday Times that as the rhetoric in support of the Union intensifies, the sentiment that has underpinned it is in decline. Kevin uses the example of Northern Ireland to emphasise the lack of unionist emotion, concluding that the UK would not have voted to leave the EU out of regard for the difficulties that would have caused Northern Ireland, if the interests of the family of nations had been the principal influence for their voting decision. (£)
Electric cars are the subject of the Financial Times’ Big Read, as China attempts to dominate an industry which has seen demand rise significantly in recent years. Beijing are investing billions in an attempt to surpass Japan and South Korea as the market leaders in the electric car market, in a move that has echoes of the one it took on solar power a decade ago. (£)
DID YOU KNOW?
There are purple ribbons attached to the coat-hangers in the members’ cloakroom at the House of Commons, allowing MPs to hang up their swords as well as their coats.
House of Commons
Home Office, including Topical Questions
* Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill — Chris Grayling
Westminster Hall debate
E-petition 129823 relating to high heels and workplace dress codes — Helen Jones
House of Lords
* Proposals by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to reform the qualifications for admission to the profession — Lord Low of Dalston
* Easing pressure on surgical facilities and personnel within the NHS by greater use of private health facilities — Lord Trefgarne
Higher Education and Research Bill — Report stage (day 1) — Viscount Younger of Leckie
No business scheduled
House of Commons
Justice, including Topical Questions
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee — Andrew Rosindell
Children and Social Work Bill [HL] — Justine Greening
House of Lords
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill — Report stage — Lord Bridges of Headley
Using article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to secure a new policy for the admission of migrants to the UK from the EU
- Lord Dykes
Economic and environmental benefits of shale gas development in the UK — Lord Truscott
Scottish Government Debate: International Women’s Day