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News Brexit - Press releases

Monday's Business and Politics round-up

21 Jan 2019

Person reading the news on their smartphone on a train

Good morning!

The Prime Minister will this afternoon set out her Plan B for Brexit, following last week's defeat on the withdrawal deal in the House of Commons.

Theresa May had been seeking to build some cross-party consensus over the weekend, however reports suggest that these efforts have so far not yielded fruit.

As a result, it appears that the aim will now be to adjust the Irish border backstop in the current Withdrawal Agreement, which has raised the ire of Brexiteers and the DUP. The Daily Telegraph suggests that this may involve seeking some form of amendment to the Good Friday Agreement, something that Number Ten sources have apparently denied.

Today also sees the beginning of the third phase of testing of the Government's settled status registration system for EU citizens in the UK. Founder of campaign group the3million raised concerns over the process, highlighting previous failures involving the Windrush generation.

Meanwhile, airlines have been called out for failing to warn passengers tickets could be cancelled in the event of a no deal Brexit. Which? Travel's editor Rory Boland said the lack of warning is 'alarming' as up to five million tickets could be affected. 
  

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Party (for) activists

The Times business section leads on the story that activist investors may be lying in wait for UK companies whose share prices have dipped alongside Brexit uncertainty.

One warning comes from Lazard Asset Management's head of UK equities, Alan Custis, who said: "We could see an influx of activist interest in UK companies in 2019. Several large companies are trading at significant discounts to overseas peers and a difficult Brexit will not help matters."

Meanwhile, his counterpart at Premier Asset commented, "Brexit uncertainty has left markets very polarised," adding, "domestic UK consumer cyclicals are friendless and valuations have started to look very cheap."

In other news, Sky News reports that Mike Ashley has made a bid to buy HMV. The music chain went into administration last month, however administrators KPMG did not comment on the reports.

Ashley's Sports Direct has taken control of retailers including House of Fraser and Evans Cycles in recent months, as he expands his footprint on the UK's high streets.

What next?

Over the weekend, IoD members' views on Brexit hit the front page of the Sunday Times business section, as a poll of 1,200 underlined the frustration at the lack of political progress made.

When asked about their preference for what should happen next, 45 per cent proposed some form of second referendum, while under a third wanted the government's Withdrawal Agreement to be amended in order to gain parliamentary support, with greater commitment to alignment more popular as a potential amendment than changes to the backstop. 

A 'no deal' scenario was preferred by 23 per cent, while the prospect of a general election attracted only 2 per cent.

The survey also emphasised the effect political indecision is having on firms' Brexit preparations. Over half of those who were engaged in some form of contingency planning said that the failed Withdrawal Deal vote has made them more likely to activate their plans.

Commenting on the figures, IoD Director General Stephen Martin said that "Businesses are deeply frustrated our political leaders seem intent on wasting the little time remaining...trying to fulfil political objectives.”

"As a result," he added, "many business leaders now seem willing to contemplate other solutions to break the impasse, including a referendum. This route is fraught with uncertainty of its own, and the fact that some business leaders are prepared to consider it reflects poorly on the efforts of parliament to bring the country together.”

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