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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

The great recalibration

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
6 August 2021

Good morning,

The history of Anglo-French relations is often portrayed as one marred by mutual suspicion and at times open hostility. Since the signing of the entente cordiale in 1904, however, cooperation and pragmatism have mostly characterised the relationship between the two countries.
 
Although the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union appears to have marked the end of that historical continuity, it is Boris Johnson’s and Emmanuel Macron’s leadership styles and foreign policy ambitions that deserve a closer look.
 
So far this year, the UK prime minister and French president have staged a series of rows over, variously, Brexit fishing rights, cross-Channel migration, the supply and safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.
 
President Macron’s political character rests upon an unflagging commitment to European integration and a markedly Bonapartist style. His approach to the EU is diametrically opposed to Johnson’s, who owes a big part of his success in the Conservative leadership race and subsequent general election to his strong views on the bloc and Brexit.
 
Interestingly enough, this fundamental fault line between the world views of both leaders stems from a very similar, if not the same, source of ambition: imperial nostalgia. For the prime minister, this translates into a so-called global Britain that looks beyond its most immediate, that is, its European neighbours. For the French president, on the other hand, it means a stronger and more integrated EU with France at the helm.
 
Analysts as well as diplomats on both sides have consistently blamed the tense relationship between Johnson and Macron on their very different personal styles of practising politics and ironing out policy details. As it happens, the UK prime minister’s “broad brush” approach to diplomacy has a particularly exasperating effect on French officials.
 
In spite of these basic misapprehensions, at the end of the day neither Macron nor Johnson can be conflated with France or England – and much less so with the UK, in the latter case. The two countries still revert to cooperation and pragmatism on certain issues such as defence.
 
Yet, as things stand, certain differences seem almost insurmountable and recriminations have done nothing but escalate in the past few months. If the relationship continues to deteriorate, it will take a different type of leadership on either or both sides of the Channel to recalibrate Anglo-French relations.

News

Boris Johnson is facing criticism after he said Margaret Thatcher gave Britain a “big early start” in its battle against climate change when the former prime minister closed coal mines in the 1980s. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, condemned Johnson’s remarks in a tweet, saying that “communities in Scotland were utterly devastated by Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry (which had zero to do with any concern she had for the planet).”
 
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expelled two Belarusian coaches for allegedly attempting to force athlete Krystina Timanouskaya to leave the Olympic Games in Tokyo and return to Belarus. The IOC said it had removed the accreditations of the two coaches “as a provisional measure” while an investigation into Timanouskaya’s case is under way.
 
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, is set to announce today the country’s move to coronavirus alert level zero, which will see all businesses allowed to open and the removal of all legal limits on meeting people indoors from Saturday. Drakeford has nonetheless warned that the step, which is Wales’ biggest easing of restrictions since the pandemic began, “does not mean the end of restrictions and a free-for-all”.

Business and economy

The Bank of England expects inflation to peak at four per cent this year, against a previous prediction of 2.5%, as it said some “modest tightening” of monetary policy is likely to be needed to cool cost pressures in the medium term. However, the Bank has insisted that rising prices would only be a temporary measure as it kept interest rates on hold for now.
 
CNN has sacked three employees who violated the company’s “zero tolerance policy” by coming to work despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19. In a memo sent to staff, the media corporation’s president, Jeff Zucker, said that vaccines were mandatory for all staff if they report to the office or are out in the field where they come into contact with other employees.
 
Amazon has delayed the return of its US corporate and tech staff to the office until January 2022 as Covid-19 continues to spread. The big tech company, which had previously asked employees to work from home until 7 September, said some staff based abroad would also be affected, although it did not specify where.

Columns of note

Writing in the Financial Times, author Tim Harford ponders the question of why some inventions take so long to arrive. He writes that most ideas are not as straightforward as they appear, people don’t always make the right connections for innovation to happen, and some are pushed away from the world of innovations. At the end of the day, Harford concludes, perhaps the simplest explanation of all is that innovation does not come naturally. (£)
 
Ana Palacio argues in Project Syndicate that EU leaders will need to start taking clear stances on important issues after Angela Merkel stands down as German chancellor later this year. Under Merkel, she opines, the bloc has been kept more or less intact, but the German-led strategy of “waiting until desperate times enable desperate measures” has often been to the benefit of rule-breakers and autocrats.

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in a mixed state on Thursday, with the FTSE 100 ending the session down 0.05% at 7,120.43, while the FTSE 250 was 0.68% higher at 23,506.11. Meanwhile, sterling was stronger both against the dollar by 0.32% at $1.39 and versus the euro by 0.26% at €1.18.
 
In the US, Wall Street stocks hit record highs after weekly data suggested employment was beginning to stabilise. The blue-chip S&P 500 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq climbed 0.6% and 0.8% respectively.
 
In company news:
 
Frasers Group fell 0.24% after the retail group confirmed plans for Mike Ashley to step down as chief executive and reported a drop in full-year profit and revenue as a result of Covid-related closures.
 
Centamin lost 3.21% after the gold miner posted a 39% decline in first-half pre-tax profit.
 
Rolls-Royce was 5.87% firmer after reporting an interim profit as it continued to cut costs and looked to turn cash-flow positive during the second half of the year.
 
WPP surged 2.74% after the advertising group upgraded its outlook and boosted shareholder returns as it swung back to profit in the first half of 2021.
 
Savills rallied 7.76% after the estate agent lifted annual guidance and reported a rise in first-half profits on the back of a booming UK property market.

What’s happening today?

Interims
ContourGlobal
Hikma Pharmaceuticals
Renewables Infrastructure Group

AGMs
Cake Box Holdi.
Gstechnologies

UK economic announcements
(08:30) Halifax House Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
(13:30) Unemployment Rate (US)
(13:30) Non-Farm Payrolls (US)
(15:00) Wholesales Inventories (US)
(20:00) Consumer Credit (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

All the universe’s hydrogen and most of its helium were produced in the first 20 minutes after the Big Bang. (source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

Scottish parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess until 30 August.

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