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DAILY BRIEFING

Liberté, Egalité… Européanité?

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner

23 November 2021

Good morning,

Admittedly, likening the European Union to a college fraternity is risqué even for me, a staunch Europhile. But, like fraternities, aspiring member states “rush” to join, get hazed by a labyrinthine supranational political structure, and ultimately, play up or down their membership depending on both their audience and the bloc’s performance.
 
The spotlight on the approaching French presidential elections in April 2022 is a reminder of European leaders’ fondness for Euroscepticism when running for national mandates. The latest European figure to capitulate in the run to securing the Republican party nomination, is none other than the head of the EU negotiating team on Brexit, Michel Barnier.
 
The former EU technocrat has apparently come a long way since becoming notorious for his insistence that the EU must never deviate from its core principles, including “the supremacy of European law and the free movement of people”. Back in March 2020, the first week of post-Brexit trade deal negotiations wrapped up on a sour note, with Barnier warning that the bloc would not commit to a treaty with the UK if it refused to apply the European Convention on Human Rights and respect the sovereignty of the European Court of Justice.
 
The stunning volte-face of Europe’s former champion was captured on French national television just days ago. At the Republican Party’s third and last televised debate among the party’s nominees to win the presidential bid on December 4th, Barnier attacked everything from “cancel culture” and “wokeism” to gender-inclusive language. The debate itself was predominantly monopolised by immigration and security issues, on which Barnier commented there are “a host of examples of this… power given to minorities to the detriment of national interest and the national narrative”. Barnier also called for a five-year moratorium on non-EU immigration and a legal shield from European courts to protect France.
 
A right turn that could give you whiplash, if you ask me.
 
One might theorise that Barnier is just being pragmatic by channelling the French centre-right’s anger and frustrations against the EU and leveraging them to lay down the shortest route to power possible. While Barnier is widely known among European technocrats, and in the UK, he is less well known in France. Euroscepticism, albeit light, might actually prove to be beneficial for Barnier. Olivier Rouquan, of Paris University’s centre for administrative and political sciences, commented that the party’s voters are an “older electorate, [who] know Barnier and resemble him in many ways”. Latest polling by NSPPolls (as reported by The Guardian) show Barnier as Les Républicains’ favourite, and in the presidential running with a 9.0% share of voters.
 
While party members might find the 70-year-old Alpine hiker and spreadsheet aficionado “stable and reassuring”, this attempt at a student-esque personal reinvention might still not be enough to win him the race.

News

The UK will review its COVID travel rules in January and reform its airport slots system as part of a wider new aviation strategy, said British minister for transport Robert Courts. The minister’s comments address reports that the UK is lagging behind other European countries in lifting pandemic travel restrictions and that the need for day-two coronavirus tests and complicated passenger locator forms are deterring tourists from traveling to the United Kingdom.
 
Business minister Paul Scully sought to deflect criticism after a fellow Conservative MP called the number of crossings over the English Channel a “state failure” by shifting the blame on France. Defending home secretary Priti Patel, Scully said the UK’s agreement with France is not being “effected well enough at the moment” as French authorities have been less stringent on migrants leaving the country. (£)
 
The prime minister has been accused of delivering a “shambolic” speech to the Confederation of British Industry, where business leaders were looking for leadership and the government’s widely anticipated 10-point plan to support businesses going green. During his speech, the prime minister made seemingly bizarre references to the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig, mentioned Lenin and fumbled for half a minute over his printed speech while trying to regain his place.

Business and economy

Bulb Energy announced that it will be put into administration, following a sharp rise in wholesale gas prices this year. Bulb Energy, which has 1.7 million customers, is the first energy company that will be run by the government through industry regulator Ofgem after failing to find another company to take over its customers.  
 
President Joe Biden has nominated Jay Powell to serve a second term as chair of the Federal Reserve, opting for continuity as the American economy struggles through persistently high inflation and a patchy labour market recovery. Lael Brainard, who was considered in the run against Powell, will serve as vice-chair, replacing Richard Clarida. (£)
 
Jon Cunliffe, the Bank of England’s deputy governor for financial stability, made the case for a central bank issued digital currency to replace “disappearing cash” on “The Swap” podcast by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. Cunliffe’s comments come after the Bank of England and HM Treasury launched a joint consultation on whether to launch an electronic version of the pound dubbed “Britcoin”.

Columns of note

The government has set ambitious goals to ban the sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030, which will require focus to prepare the country’s infrastructure to accompany that transition. Andy Palmer, former chief executive of car manufacturing Aston Martin and former COO of Nissan, writes in the FT that any plan must incorporate an engineering upskilling if it is to work. Palmer espouses the idea that “the automotive revolution we are on the cusp of can no doubt be a key driver” of the prime minister’s desire to create a high-skill, high-wage economy, as more complex electric vehicles will require more than mechanical knowledge. (£)
 
Elsewhere in The Guardian, Rachel H Tribe criticises the government’s latest guidance about how local authorities in England should distribute the household support fund. While the plan currently sets aside £421 million to subsidise food banks for people on low income, Tribe advocates that cash handouts would be a much more efficient way of helping those in need. Such an approach reveals the government’s belief that people affected by poverty are inherently “bad” with money and does little to address the structural causes of poverty in the country. Since people know what’s best for them, “why can’t we trust them?”

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in a mixed state on Monday, where a strong rebound in the telecoms sector was dampened by worries over tightening Covid-19 related restrictions in Europe. The FTSE 100 index ended the session up 0.44%, while the sterling ended in the red against other major currencies, slipping 0.23% on the dollar, to $1.34, and 0.02% against the euro, to €1.19.
 
In equity markets, Vodafone and BT group rose 3.19% and 2.33% respectively, after private equity firm KKR offered $12 billion to acquire Telecom Italia. BHP Group advanced 3.11% after it signed an AUD 40 billion petroleum merger deal. Copper prices increased, leading to mining giants Antofagasta, Rio Tinto and Anglo American stocks rose by 5.01%, 1.9% and 1.13% respectively. Marks & Spencer shares also increased 1.95% following reports that Apollo Global Management was considering a buyout.
 
Elsewhere on the continent, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index inched up 0.2% at close, after wavering during the day due to the rising number of European countries reimposing pandemic restrictions.
 
Across the Atlantic, the US equity market rose, as traders reacted positively to news that Jay Powell had been nominated for his second term as Federal Reserve chair. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indices both rose 0.9%.

What’s happening today?

Final Results
Compass Group
Avon Rubber

Interim Results

Ao World
Severn Trent
Caledonia

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 1644, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University John Lightfoot calculated that the world was created on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning. (source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Climate Education
 
Legislation
Health and Care Bill (Day 2): Remaining stages
 
Adjournment
Ickford and flood risk in planning
 
Westminster Hall debate
Promotion and regulation of financial products on Black Friday
Hertfordshire Greenbelt and the National planning Policy Framework
Ofsted inspection of multi-academy trusts

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Level of ministerial attention that charities and civil society will receive
Continued detention of opposition politician Makomborero Haruzivishe in Zimbabwe and political repression in that country
The award of £48 million from the Levelling Up Fund to the Council of the Isles of Sicily for the purchase of new ships and requirement for the Council to demonstrate value for money by arranging competitive tenders for procurement, construction and operation, of the ships
Persistence of the gender pay gap and steps required to close it
 
Legislation
Dormant Assets Bill – third reading
Armed Forces Bill – report stage
 
Orders and regulations
Draft Conformity Assessment (Mutual Recognition Agreements) (Construction Products) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Draft Local Audit (Appointing Person) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Draft Antique Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 2021
Draft Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2021
Draft Eggs (England) Regulations 2021
Draft Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021

Scottish parliament 

Time for Reflection
Rev Raheel Arif, Minister, Denny Old and Haggs Parishes, Falkirk
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Topical Questions
 
First Minister’s Statement
COVID-19 Update
 
Ministerial Statement
International Development COVID-19 Support – Partner Countries and Humanitarian Responses
Closing the Poverty Related Attainment Gap – The Future of the Scottish Attainment Challenge
Scottish Government Response to the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland
 
Committee Announcements
 
Business Motions
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Decision Time
 
Members’ Business
S6M-01310 Foysol Choudhury: Linking Food and Climate Change at COP26

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