Charlotte Street Partners



Barnier's Britain

Written by Charlie Clegg, associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
17 May 2021

Good morning,

What comes to mind when I mention Edgar Wallace? King Kong? Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre? The Green Archer? Nothing? Were I to ask that question in Germany, my readers may have had readier responses. Wallace’s name, now relatively obscure in his native Britain, is, in Germany, very much alive in print, television, and film.

As Germany is for Wallace so Britain seems for Michel Barnier. Not, of course, that the foreign-secretary-turned-EU-functionary is unknown in his native France. Rather, during the Brexit negotiations, ceaseless reports in the UK media burnished Barnier’s reputation as an unbending technocrat. One’s opinions on the EU question largely dictated whether one viewed him as a hero or a villain of the process. French media, on the other hand, paid relatively little attention to the negotiations or to Barnier.

This imbalance seems to persist in the latest stage of Barnier’s career: his tentative stand for the presidency. Barnier has expressed a desire to seek the office; his recent media rounds, ostensibly to promote his Brexit memoirs, seem aimed at testing the appetite for Monsieur le président Barnier. And, while not ignored in France, he has been accorded little more airspace and credence than any other potential candidate.

Here’s where domestic and international images collide. Barnier’s promises on tougher borders and a “patriotic and European” identity are not unusual for his own party, Les Républicains, or even for the increasingly right-leaning Macron government. For the Britons who saw him as a hero of liberal European values, however, those promises seem discordant. Those Britons who took the opposite view have not missed the irony that the adamantine champion of the four freedoms now advocates tougher borders.

Yet why should any of this be a surprise? Barnier has always been always been a figure of the right: as a child, he had a poster of Charles de Gaulle on his wall. Controversies over national security and Islamism, meanwhile, have caused a recent rightward lurch in France’s political centre.

Barnier the domestic politician does have an audience, the problem is that this audience is in Britain, rather than France. He no longer fits the Manichean narratives of Brexit. Now that negotiations are done, may there yet be room for a little more nuance in how we see Barnier and, with that, the continent’s domestic politics?


From today, people across Great Britain will enjoy greater freedoms as lockdowns ease in Scotland, England, and Wales. Northern Ireland remains in lockdown until 20 May while Glasgow and Moray in Scotland will remain at their earlier level due to spikes in cases. Details of the changes can be read here.

Research by the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi indicates that vaccination can halt the “Indian variant” in 97.4% of cases. The discovery comes as the UK government’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed that only one of 18 cases in Bolton – the UK’s worst Covid hotspot – was vaccinated. (£)

Israeli airstrikes have hit Gaza this morning in what appears to be the most intense bombardment since the attacks that killed 42 people last Sunday. The attacks come as a special session of the UN security council has met to discuss the conflict. Israel’s armed forces have claimed the attacks are targeting Hamas’ military infrastructure.

Business and economy

Job recruitment has returned to pre-pandemic levels as employment intentions have risen to their highest point since February 2013. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development quarterly study found employment intention was up in all sectors. Experts do, however, expect the boost to soften later in the year due to pandemic-related “aftershocks”. (£)

House prices in the UK have hit a record high while London prices remain relatively flat. Rightmove’s House Price Index found the average cost of a house rose 1.8% to £333,564 this month. The rise is largely driven by accelerating prices in Wales, North West England, and Yorkshire.

AT&T is moving to merge with Discovery to create a $150bn media giant. AT&T’s media portfolio includes Warner Bros studios, CNN, and HBO while Discovery operates a successful streaming service focussed on lifestyle programming. (£)

Columns of note

Around 80,000 people from the Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang province have been coerced into forced Labour factories. China’s concerted persecution of the Uyghurs has been taking place since at least 2013. In that year, Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti was imprisoned on charges of separatism. Along with Sophie Davidson, Ilham’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, writes in The Guardian about China’s persecution of the minority and how international companies and governments can adopt ethical stances to oppose this.

As the UK reopens, parliaments at Westminster and Holyrood look set to return to fully in-person sessions. In The Times, however, Kezia Dugdale looks at polling which indicates a majority of the public would prefer some kind of remote session to continue. The former Scottish Labour leader argues that keeping partly virtual sessions could serve as a corrective to the “Punch and Judy” style of politics that many in the public find alienating. (£)

Cartoon source: The Spectator


What’s happening this week?

Tuesday sees the AGMs of Royal Dutch Shell, Greggs, and Standard Life Aberdeen. Lloyds’ AGM will take place on Thursday, and on the same day the CBI will publish its industrial trend order statistics. Markets are expected to be particularly focussed this week on US-China relations and the escalating situation between Israel and Palestine.

Also on Tuesday, the EU will publish its latest balance of trade numbers, and the UK will release its latest employment figures. On Wednesday we have the UK and EU’s consumer price indices while the UK also publishes its retail price and producer price. The US will publish the crude oil inventories on the same day and initial jobless claimant statistics the following day. Friday sees the publication of retail sales statistics in the UK and existing home sales statistics in the US.

What’s happening today?

Interim results
Hollywood Bwl

Q1 Results
Fondul Proprietatea
Acron Regs

Gcp Asset Bckd
Horizonte Min.
Vistry Grp

Bahamas Petrol

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)

did you know

Gloria Carter Spann, the sister of former US president Jimmy Carter, was a keen motorcyclist and the first woman to be inducted into Harley-Davidson’s 100,000 Mile Club.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Department for Work and Pensions

Debate on the Queen’s Speech (Day 4): Safe streets for all

House of Lords 

Baroness Black of Strome

Oral questions

Findings of the Ballymurphy Inquest

Debate on the address
Communities, welfare, transport and the environment

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

Share this post