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Over the weekend, long-held policy positions fell like dominoes in Berlin. Having already blocked his country’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, Olaf Scholz committed to two new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipping terminals and a review of Germany’s anti-nuclear power policy. He is decoupling his economy from Russian gas.
Rishi Sunak’s Mais Lecture last week was filled with references to all the people one might expect from a Conservative Chancellor. From Adam Smith to Thatcher, it was a who’s who of free-market luminaries.
The world was shocked this week by a barbaric and unprovoked full-scale attack on a sovereign, European and most importantly, peaceful member of the community of nations. Ukraine had already been a victim of Russia’s aggression since 2014. Now the Kremlin wants to finish the job, although its leadership might have severely underestimated the type and strength of the resistance it would meet.
The last week has been an important one for the City and UK financial services.
First, the European Union extended its self-imposed limit on EU banks and other financial institutions being able to clear trades through the City, beyond next summer.
All domestic Covid restrictions in England will end today, marking an important milestone as we emerge from an exceptional period of crisis. The macro-economic response to the pandemic understandably focused on damage limitation and maintaining employment, which has had a significant impact on the public finances. The painstaking work of supply-side reform has either taken a backseat or simply been overtaken by events.
Before 2017, almost no one unlawfully entered the UK in a small boat. The numbers have since risen – to over 530 persons in 2018, then to about 1,800 persons in 2019, about 8,500 in 2020, and well over 28,000 in 2021. Many tens of thousands more are likely later this year.
The Beijing Winter Olympics and Geopolitics: the Games provide a physical representation of the strategic challenges facing Britain today
When discussing geopolitics sporting events rarely feature in conversation. There are a litany of historic occasions when politics collided with sports on the world stage. More often than not, these momentous occasions are written up in the history books as a force for good. Whether it’s the legendary 1914 Christmas Truce football match in No Man’s Land between opposing German and British troops or since 2016 the Refugee Olympic Team enabling 68.5 million displaced people to be represented by a team competing in the games, international sporting events serve as a reminder of the world’s humanity. Sport has the ability to transcend divisions among nations. International sporting events afford at least a temporary opportunity for countries to put aside their differences, or move on from a troubled history, and engage in a healthy form of competition between world-class athletes representing their nations.
Winston Churchill used to say that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. His adage could well apply to the GDP statistics released today, which, depending on which number you choose, tell conflicting stories.
The headline GDP number is strong, with the UK economy posting a 7.5 percent growth rate to December, the fastest since ONS records began. It also outstrips other G7 economies. This on its face may sound impressive, but it’s worth reflecting on a few things that mean steering the UK economy will require serious choices in the years ahead.
Policies, not parties, is the focus of attention of the foreign exchange markets, as they look at the UK. It raises the question: what will happen to sterling this year?
The thinking at the beginning of the year was that it will strengthen, but more than a handful are worried about how the UK economy will cope with imminent policy tightening, and whether a weaker pound or even a sterling crisis may be the ultimate outcome.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is under fire in the House of Lords. Some of the criticism is misconceived, as a recent Policy Exchange paper argues. However, much of the criticism directed at clause 9 of the Bill is warranted. This clause would make it lawful for the Home Secretary to deprive someone of their British citizenship without notifying them – or even attempting to notify them – of the decision to this effect. The clause does not change the grounds on which citizenship can be removed and, pace John Major, does not remove the right to appeal against removal, although of course if notice is not given that right of appeal will be difficult to exercise. Nonetheless, the clause is unjustified and should be removed from the Bill or at least sharply amended.