Charlotte Street Partners



Baubles in the balance

Written by Iain Gibson, associate partner
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
16 December 2020

Good morning,

So, we are still waiting.

The four UK administrations will resume talks today, after failing to reach an agreement on whether the relaxation of Christmas Covid-19 restrictions should be maintained, amended or scrapped entirely. For those of us who have followed the UK-EU pantomime in recent weeks, this was all wearingly familiar.

According to The Times this morning, there are some differences of opinion between leaders. UK prime minister Boris Johnson is seemingly determined to push on, whereas Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon reportedly suggested some tightening, such as a reduction in the number of households allowed to meet. They will reconvene at 10am today.

Pressure for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reopen the issue has been building. Yesterday, we saw only the second ever joint editorial between the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal, calling for plans to allow household mixing over the festive season to be scrapped. Meanwhile, polls from YouGov and IPSOS-Mori showed a majority of the public in favour of continuing current restrictions between 23-27 December.

Maybe a number of these respondents are giving the “correct” view to the polling companies, whilst secretly hoping for current plans to be maintained, however it is clear that the “Save our Christmas!” bravado of some British press outlets is not an opinion universally shared.

There is real fear out there about what unfettered travel and larger gatherings could do for wider public health, and for our NHS, in the weeks ahead. Others may counter that, in a year that has already been so trying for so many, the mental health implications of taking away what was promised will be a tipping point.

This is a horrible position for all UK administrations to be in, and I believe they do deserve our sympathy as they try to navigate a no-win situation. Case surges across the four nations, especially in Wales and the south of England, suggest to some that respective restrictions were lifted too early before Christmas. An uptick in rule-breaking during these more dangerous winter months has also apparently played a role.

Therefore, what was a UK-wide approach to Christmas may not stand entirely firm. The potential for cross-border discrepancies, and perhaps yet more inter-governmental rows, is significant. We should find out later today the extent to which millions of Christmas plans go back to the drawing board. Someone pass the port.


The number of drug deaths in Scotland has reached the worst level on record, showing a 6% increase between 2018 and 2019, to 1,264. This is more than double the number recorded ten years ago, and yesterday opposition parties in the Scottish parliament called upon Joe Fitzpatrick, the public health minister, to resign.

The UK unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in the three months to October, meaning a total of 1.7m people are out of work. Redundancies were at a record high over the period, with hospitality, manufacturing and aviation particularly badly affected.

The European Union unveiled what it described as landmark legislation, laying out rules for tech giants to do business across the continent. Both the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act contain regulations to limit the power of these companies, and potentially tough punishments for those who violate competition rules.

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated his one-time rival for the Democratic nomination, Pete Buttigieg, to be US transport secretary in his new government.

Business and economy

The latest Consumer Price Index for November 2020 was published this morning, with growth coming in at just 0.3% year-on-year, which is weaker than economists had expected and down from 0.7% in October.
Index provider MSCI will drop seven companies that the US government has determined as having ties to the Chinese military. The companies, which include China’s biggest chipmaker SMIC, will be removed from its global equity indices at the end of trading on 5 January 2021. (£)
Reuters reported yesterday that Facebook will shift all its users in the United Kingdom into user agreements with its corporate headquarters in California, as a way of moving them away from the current agreement with the company’s Irish unit and out of the reach of Europe’s privacy laws.
Australia will challenge China at the World Trade Organisation over Beijing’s move to impose tariffs on its barley exports. The country’s trade minister Simon Birmingham said that the tariffs “are not underpinned by facts and evidence”.

Columns of note

In the Financial Times, Edward Luce warns Joe Biden to beware “liberal identity politics”, noting that whatever he does he will eventually fall out with Democratic party’s progressive wing. Given his options for enacting his agenda are limited, with a potential Republican-controlled Senate and a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority, Luce believes the pressure for Biden to “drift into identity issues to placate the left” will be immense, yet he is best served by sticking to his guns and focusing on his overall economic agenda. (£)

In The Guardian, George Monbiot opines that Brexit was one result of a “civil war within capitalism”. He looks at competing forms of capitalism, which he dubs as “housetrained capitalism” and “warlord capitalism”, suggesting that the latter has managed to seize control of the UK government’s thinking, as it seeks to remove some of the constraints on capitalism in the post-Brexit world.

Cartoon source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

US stocks rose as a new fiscal stimulus for the American economy seemed more likely. The S&P 500 was up 1.3%, as was the Nasdaq Composite. There is also an expectation that when the US central bank meets later today, it will leave its benchmark interest rate at a record low.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 ended the day 0.3% higher, but the FTSE 100 closed down slightly, by 0.3%. Reports of progress in the UK-EU talks helped the pound rise 0.9% against the dollar, to $1.3449.

In company news:

Ecommerce site Wish priced its IPO at $24 a share, the top of its price range.

A number of bids have come forward to take control of national carrier Air India, including the Tata Group and a consortium offering employees a controlling stake in the airline

Pinterest has agreed to pay out a record $20m to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. 

What’s happening today?

Real Good Food

Dixons Carphone
FRP Advisory


Ncondezi Enrg
Orusur Mining
United Carpets

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Producer Price Index
(07:00) Consumer Price Index
(07:00) Retail Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Retail Sales (US)
(15:00) Business Inventories (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

During a sea battle between Danish and British ships in July 1714, the captain of the Danish vessel sent an envoy across to his enemy, thanking them for a good duel and asking to borrow some of their ammunition so the fight could continue. The request was refused, the captains drank to each other’s respective health and the ships then departed.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Arms (Exports and Remote Warfare) – Alyn Smith
Motion to approve the Draft Airports Slot Allocation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021- Grant Shapps
Motion to approve the Draft Tax Credits Reviews and Appeals (Amendment) Order 2020- Jesse Norman
Motion to approve The Draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Order 2020 – John Glen
Motion Relating to the Appointment of Members to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Carbon Border Adjustment Tariffs and decarbonisation – Jerome Mayhew

House of Lords 

Oral questions
National Bus Strategy for England – Lord Bradshaw
Oral questions
Number of prisoners and children in custody, who have tested positive for COVID-19 – Lord German
Oral questions
Engagement with the incoming government of the United States on their global priorities, including climate change – Baroness Northover
Oral questions
Impact on supplies of COVID-19 vaccines of departing the EU without a deal – Lord Bassam of Brighton
Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill – Second reading and
remaining stages – Lord Agnew of Oulton

Scottish Parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Portfolio Questions
Rural Economy and Tourism
Justice and the Law Officers
Constitution, Europe and External Affairs

Stage 1 Debate
Scottish Parliamentary Standards (Sexual Harassment and Complaints Process) Bill
Scottish Government Business
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Approval of SSIs (if required)
Decision Time
Members’ Business
S5M-23592 Sarah Boyack: Interlinked Fire and Smoke Alarm Systems

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