Charlotte Street Partners



Going round in circles

Written by Katie Armour, senior associate 
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
16 February 2021

Good morning,

If you want to take the ferry to Belfast (in non-Covid times) it’ll take you two hours and 15 minutes from Cairnryan. It’s a pleasant journey – the ferry has plush seats and on a good day you get a nice view of the Mull of Kintyre.
However, if none of the six crossings a day suit your timetable, the prime minister might have just the solution for you.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Whitehall officials have drawn up plans for a network of interlinking tunnels connecting Britain to Northern Ireland.
The saltire-shaped map shows tunnel openings at Stranraer, Heysham near Lancaster, Liverpool and Larne, with all four legs converging at the Isle of Man where the plans propose an “underground roundabout”.
Handily, this roundabout would skirt the 32-mile-long fissure just west of Portpatrick – Beaufort’s Dyke – that is the resting place for around 1.5million tons of dumped second world war munitions and several tons of radioactive waste.
This may all sound far-fetched. It probably is. But these plans have been drawn up and our prime minister is reportedly rather attached to them, so it’s worth having a look.
This is, after all, a man with a penchant for branding. Boris bikes, Boris bridges, Boris island, now Boris’ subsea solutions?

I shouldn’t mock the ambition. We saw the surface of Mars this week, so anything is possible. But is this roundabout a way to distract people from the bigger problems at play? Or an outdated belief that the maintenance of the UK depends on building a land connection rather than convincing people of the merits of the case for a shared future?
On Friday, Oliver Lewis quit his position as head of Number 10’s Union Unit. He’d held the job for just two weeks, succeeding former MP Luke Graham who resigned after the prime minister’s most recent visit to Scotland.
The unit has no Scots and seems to be lacking direction. It’s a ropey state to be in two months out from the Scottish parliament election, the result of which will go a long way to deciding the future of the union.
Maybe the tactic here has been to go to ground, quite literally, to avoid the real difficulties. Yet while the pandemic is rightly the focus at the moment, the constitutional narrative will start to evolve as we move towards the official start of the Holyrood campaigns.
The union is in a very precarious state on Boris’ watch and its proponents don’t have time to be going in circles.


The prime minister is set to unveil a new roadmap for easing Covid restrictions in England. Reports suggest he will prioritise social contact over the of reopening shops and hospitality venues in the plans that will be published today. Restrictions will begin to be lifted with the reopening of schools on 8 March. Scotland’s roadmap is expected to be published tomorrow.

The DUP has launched a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland protocol in response to disruption at Irish sea ports. Party leader Arlene Foster said: “Fundamental to the Act of Union is unfettered trade throughout the UK. At the core of the Belfast agreement was the principle of consent, yet the Northern Ireland protocol has driven a coach and horses through both the Act of Union and the Belfast agreement.”

New data from the Israeli health ministry shows that the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine is 89% effective at preventing infection of any kind. This is the first data anywhere in the world making the convincing case for the vaccine stopping transmission of the virus. The new data is yet to be peer reviewed. (£)

Business and economy

John Lewis is considering the closure of up to eight of its regional department stores as the pandemic drives customers online. The plans could cost up to 1300 jobs, with an additional 1500 roles expected to be lost at the company’s headquarters. A pre-Covid review of the firm’s stores is said to have found up to 20 of them were economically unviable. (£)
Former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has joined the board of Stripe, a fintech payment firm. Carney is expected to help guide Stripe in its efforts to grow emerging carbon removal technologies.

Columns of note

Nick Timothy argues in The Telegraph that there is no roadmap that can take us back to the way things used to be. He says changes in finance, lifestyle choices, our respect for the NHS and the power of the state will have long lasting impacts on the way we live, work and feel.

The FT View this week asserts that the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Uber case is set to reshape the gig economy. The publication’s editorial board argues that while Uber may manage to “tweak the platform” to circumvent the obligations placed on it, the principles behind the judgement should worry gig economy companies and their investors because their new responsibilities will raise costs and reduce returns. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times


What’s happening this week?

The UK is expecting good news as Boris Johnson sets out his plans to ease lockdown in the House of Commons today. Meanwhile, there have been positive reports from new research on transmission of the virus among vaccinated people.

Markets will watch closely this week as the heads of the UK and US central banks appear before their respective legislatures.

In corporate activity, it is believed HSBC will set out some significant strategic changes alongside its full year results. These may include plans to relocate top executives from London to Hong Kong and withdrawing from retail banking in the US.

What’s happening today?

Batm Advanced
Rtc Grp.

Finsbury Food

Trading Announcements
AB Foods

Contago Hdg

Kibo Energy

Final Dividend Payment Date
Schroder Orient

UK economic announcements
(09:30) Public Sector Net Borrowing 

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(13:30) GDP (Preliminary) (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The longest tunnel in the world is Gotthard in Switzerland. It’s a 57km high speed rail tunnel through the Swiss Alps which runs 2.3km under the mountain at its deepest point (Source: BBC)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral Questions
Housing, Communities and Local Government

Access to benefits for terminally ill people

First Delegated Legislation Committee
Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) Regulations

Public Accounts Committee
Covid-19: Supporting the vulnerable during lockdown

Treasury Committee
Private meeting

Housing, Communities & Local Government
Local Authority Financial Sustainability and the Section 114 Regime, The Spending Review and Local Government Finance

Petitions Committee
E-petition session: The movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

House of Lords 

Oral Questions
Teaching posts filled by supply teachers
Timely responses to questions
Election spending limits
Food related crime

Private Notice Question
Surplus covid-19 vaccines

Housing update

Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill

Report from the Procedure and Privileges Committee

Financial Services Bill

EU Environment Sub-Committee

Highgate Cemetery Bill Committee

Scottish Parliament 

Finance & Constitution Committee
Budget Scrutiny
Justice Committee
Oral evidence on the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill

Share this post