UK economic sentiment darkens with Brexit looming
Economic sentiment among UK businesses and consumers continued to decline in August, according to a new survey.
The European Commission’s economic sentiment index for Britain dropped to 92.5 in August from 94.3 the previous month. The situation darkened in the dominant services sector as well as in retail trade. Consumers also assumed a more pessimistic outlook.
Nadia Gharbi, economist at Pictet, tweeted this very interesting chart comparing UK sentiment with the eurozone:
Traders bet on currency volatility
Expectations for volatility in the price of the pound have hit their highest level of the year, as traders bet on major swings in the currency over the next three months.
Yesterday, we reported bets in the options market on future volatility had shot to their highest since January, and today they went through that level.
The pound is currently trading at around $1.22, nearly a cent lower against the dollar since immediately before news of Mr Johnson’s gambit to suspend parliament.
“The implications are that markets have shifted the no-deal odds higher once again, and with it shifted the pound lower and bond prices higher,” RBC’s macro strategists said in a note to clients on Thursday.
In other news…
Want a quick break from Brexit mania? The Office for National Statistics has just put out a review of last year’s biggest baby names. Olivia and Oliver won again. Perhaps more interestingly, the rise of personal assistants seems to have prompted a big drop in people naming their child Alexa.
Here’s the full report. Enjoy.
McDonnell says don’t underestimate ‘dictatorial’ Johnson’s regime
Jim Pickard reports:
John McDonnell offered what he dubbed a “personal message” to the “dictatorial” Boris Johnson:
“People have given their lives to secure this democracy. To try to undermine that flies in the face of a whole history of centuries of democratic reforms and advances.”
I asked the shadow chancellor whether the rebel alliance of opposition parties and Tory Remainers had enough time to get their proposed bill — forcing the PM to delay Brexit — through the Commons before its suspension.
He replied: “It’s an incredibly tight timescale, we have to accept that.” He said he was still optimistic that it could be done but warned that Number 10 would use all sorts of tactics — such as creating new bank holidays — to thwart the opposition.
“Don’t underestimate what the Johnson regime will do, some of the bizarre proposals they are looking at.”
Downing St relief over Davidson’s statement
There is relief in Downing Street that Ruth Davidson did not use her resignation statement to lay into Boris Johnson, writes George Parker.
In fact she said she stood “foursquare” behind his efforts to get a Brexit deal, and that she had “looked him in the eye” and believed that the prime minister genuinely wanted to leave with an agreement.
But that doesn’t detract from the fact that Ms Davidson confirmed that the “conflict I felt over Brexit” was a factor in her decision to quit and her departure delivers a serious blow to Mr Johnson north of the border.
Ms Davidson helped deliver 13 Tory MPs to Westminster in 2017: Mr Johnson cannot afford to lose them.
Ireland renews its no-deal Brexit warnings
The chaos in Westminster has prompted renewed warnings from Ireland that a no-deal Brexit is now more likely than ever, writes Arthur Beesley in Dublin. Dublin insisted the prorogation was a matter for UK politicians but one junior minister has compared it to Oliver Cromwell’s shutdown of parliament in the 1600s.
Michael D’Arcy, who has responsibility for financial services, said on Twitter that the move was “perhaps the most anti-democratic decision” since Cromwell’s protectorate government in 1653.
“This was a military dictatorship. Cromwell dismissed his parliament when they disagreed with him.”
The tweets on Wednesday were later deleted. Helen McEntee, Irish minister for Europe, told RTE radio on Thursday that such remarks did not reflect government policy.
Ms McEntee ruled out any change to the backstop to keep open the Irish border after Brexit, saying London had not proposed any viable alternatives to it. “What we are now being asked to do is not renegotiate or change the backstop. We are being asked to remove it completely and to replace it with nothing. We cannot accept that given what we are trying to protect,” she said.
“We’re obviously in a very difficult position now where, with the House of Commons being possibly suspended for five weeks, a no-deal scenario is becoming more and more possible.”
How to prorogue a parliament
So how does one prorogue a parliament, you ask? The answer, it seems, involves a host of peculiarly named officials and a complex ceremony of hat-doffing and chanting in Norman French.
According to parliament’s website, on the day of proroguing — now set as some point between September 9 and 12 — Jacob Rees-Mogg, as Leader of the House, will enter the House of Lords and read an announcement by the Queen appointing a Royal Commission.
This Royal Commission, consisting of five peers, will then enter and instruct Black Rod — a senior House of Lords official — to summon the Commons.
The Commons will arrive and the Lords making up the Royal Commission will “doff their hats” towards the officials of the lower house, who will respond by bowing.
The Reading Clerk will read out the Queen’s command appointing her Royal Commission. The Clerk of the Crown will then announce a number of Acts to be passed.
As the name of each of these Acts is read out, the Clerk of the Parliament will turn towards MPs and declare “La Reyne le veult” – Norman French for “The Queen wishes it”, signifying Royal Assent.
Mr Rees-Mogg will then read out a speech from the Queen reviewing the past year.
And parliament will have been officially prorogued.
You did ask…
(Image Credit: BBC)
Three ways to stop a no-deal Brexit
Video: The FT’s James Blitz examines how opposition politicians could prevent the UK from exiting the EU without a deal as MPs agree a legal strategy for this with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Shadow chancellor says proroguing parliament a ‘pivotal moment’
John McDonnell is giving a speech at Church House in Westminster ahead of next week’s spending review, writes Jim Pickard. The shadow chancellor began his talk with criticism of Boris Johnson, describing yesterday’s announcement about suspending parliament as a “pivotal moment in British politics”.
He attacked the prime minister’s “arrogant sense of entitlement”, saying: “He sees himself as a ruler ruling over the ruled.”
Looking ahead to the spending review, Mr McDonnell asked to see proof that the government would tackle the social care crisis, or that there would be extra money for hard-pressed councils. He also criticised reports that Number 10 wants to cut the fuel duty, saying this would be a subsidy for fossil fuel companies – and that the money would be better spent incentivising people to buy electric cars.
Lord Young of Cookham quits as House of Lords whip
In his resignation letter as government whip of the upper chamber, former Conservative minister George Young says he is very “unhappy at the timing and length of the prorogation, and its motivation”. The decision risks “undermining the fundamental role of parliament at a critical time in our history”.
Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor, posts on Twitter:
Theresa May ‘sorry to see’ Ruth Davidson step down
The former prime minister has tweeted for the first time since she stepped down last month:
Davidson urges MPs to back any new Brexit deal
Ruth Davidson says that after conversations with Boris Johnson, she believes the prime minister is genuinely trying to negotiate a new deal with the EU, and urged MPs to vote for it they get the chance in the House of Commons.
“The simplest way to avoid no deal is to vote for a deal,” Ms Davidson said.
MPs seeking to avoid a no-deal exit had “a goal gaping in front of them three times and they hit the ball over the bar”, she said, referring to former prime minister Theresa May’s doomed efforts to force the original Brexit deal agreed with the EU through parliament.
Prime minister, get us a deal with the European Union. And what I say to people who want to avoid no deal … if the prime minister brings a deal back to the House of Commons, as I know he is trying to do, for God’s sake get behind it.
Ms Davidson also had some thoughts on David Cameron’s decision – who she did not mention by name – to put votes on Scottish independence and then staying in the EU to the public.
I believe two referenda have split Scotland and indeed opinion in the UK. I am convinced referenda should be used to affirm public opinion but not as way for political leaders to fail to lead.
Ruth Davidson on Brexit
Here are the key lines on Brexit from Ms Davidson’s letter, a staunchly pro-EU figure who has had to reconcile her party’s position in Westminster with Scotland’s majority support for staying in the bloc.
While I have not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit, I have attempted to chart a course for our party which recognises and respects the referendum result, while seeking to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks for key Scottish businesses and sectors.
Ruth Davidson resigns
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has resigned.
In a resignation letter posted to Twitter, Ms Davidson pointed to family reasons for her decision, although she also admitted “the conflict I have felt over Brexit”.
I see the Scottish election due in 2021 and a credible threat from our opponents to force a general election before then. Having led our party through seven national elections and two referenda, I know the efforts, hours and travel required to fight such campaigns successfully. I have to be honest that where the idea of getting on the road to fight two elections in 20 months would once have fired me up, the threat of spending hundreds of hours away from my home and my family now fills me with dread. This is no way to lead.
Here’s what you missed from Wednesday:
• The Queen approves the prime minister’s request to prorogue parliament between the second week of September and October 14
• Legal bid to block Johnson’s proposal planned in Scotland for next month
• Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is expected to quit as party leader; press conference scheduled for 11am London time
• More than 1.3m people sign an online petition against the decision to prorogue parliament
• Protesters gather in London for hastily arranged #StopTheCoup rally
• Nearly half of Britons polled in a YouGov survey reject Johnson’s plan to suspend parliament
• David Frost, UK envoy to Brussels, tells European Parliament officials the government wanted a deal as its “first option” and “downplayed” the suspension move
• Donald Trump praises “great” Boris Johnson in tweet.
EU braced for no-deal, says top Barnier adviser
One of the most senior players on the EU negotiating team has insisted that preparing for the UK to leave the bloc without a deal is nothing new.
Stefaan De Rynck, a senior adviser to Michel Barnier, said in a tweet that the EU had “known from the start” the UK might opt for a no-deal exit.
Proroguing UK parliament equivalent to banning Finnish saunas?
A Finnish MP has likened Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue the British parliament to a sauna ban in Finland.
“It is unbelievable that the British Government is going to freeze Parliament,” Timo Harakka, Finland’s employment minister, said in a tweet.
“Parliamentaryism is, after all, a great source of pride for the British (Parliament, for example, defeated King Charles I in 1649). A little like a sauna ban in Finland.”
Sterling back below $1.22
The pound fell 0.2 per cent to trade back below $1.22, as investors and economists assessed the implications of Mr Johnson’s gambit. Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said the investment bank sees a 50:50 chance of Britain leaving the UK without a deal:
The reality now is that, under the new schedule, UK parliament has just under a week in early September followed by just over a week in late October to prevent a no-deal outcome.
Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses ‘candyfloss of outrage’
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, has dismissed as “phoney” the criticism of Boris Johnson’s controversial plan to suspend the UK’s parliament for five weeks, writes the FT’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard, saying it came from people who do not want the UK to leave the EU.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC that the backlash against the plan was a “candyfloss of outrage”, given that parliament would normally have a three-week recess for the party conference season in September and early October.
He added that the number of parliamentary days lost ahead of the Queen’s Speech — expected to be five or six — was “in line” with the typical figure since the second world war.
But Ruth Fox from the Hansard Society told the BBC’s Today programme that the prorogation was “significantly longer than we would normally have” for the purpose of starting a new parliamentary session. The move could “potentially halve” the number of days MPs have to scrutinise the government over Brexit, she said.
No-deal Brexit battle looms over British politics
Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down parliament for five weeks in order to thwart MPs trying to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31 has left his opponents scrambling to respond.
The prime minister asked the Queen to prorogue parliament between the second week of September and October 14 — the longest suspension since 1945. Mr Johnson’s move sparked protests, a backlash from MPs and a legal challenge, but left opposition parties struggling to find time to block his path.
Follow along as the FT covers the day’s events in Westminster and the market reaction to Mr Johnson’s gambit.