Manuel Valls’ elimination from France’s Presidential race meant one certainty in an unpredictable election: on 7th May voters will choose a ‘change’ candidate. It may mean the ‘new politics’ promised by Emmanuel Macron, eschewing left/right party structures. It may be the ‘new economy’ promised by François Fillon, with radical structural reforms. Or it may be the ‘new social model’ offered by Benoît Hamon, guaranteeing a Universal Basic Income. But the most immediate change could be a more coherent and assertive foreign policy, driven by a refreshed relationship with Berlin.
It would appear that Macquarie’s status as preferred bidder for the Green Investment Bank, a UK government owned renewable energy investor, is under threat. While the sale was supposed to have been finalised at the end of 2016, Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd confirmed on Wednesday that the government has not taken a final decision on the structure of the sale or whether Macquarie’s bid satisfies the criteria initially set out when the sale was announced. The sale is now being pulled into the UK’s renewed industrial strategy debate.
Yesterday in Wiesbaden, Bank of England Governor and Financial Stability Board (FSB) Chair Mark Carney gave the clearest articulation yet of how financial regulators are weighing the future of fintech. While at pains to predict a “shining future” for financial disruption, he put both innovators and incumbents on notice. The speech gave us three clues about what he and the FSB might conclude when they report to the G20 on fintech in July.
There has been quite a lot of media coverage of the recently finalised negotiations between the EU and the US Department of Treasury and Federal Insurance Office on a “covered agreement” for (re)insurance services. Notable features of the deal include the national, uniform treatment of collateral requirements, exchange of regulatory information between leading supervisors and mutual recognition of financial oversight regimes. This last point in particular couldn’t be more topical.
As the Davos elite gather in the shadow of the Trump inauguration, much of the talk is of uncertainty over the future of globalisation. Davos sessions with titles such as ‘Climate change: COP out?’ highlight the very real fears that the new mood could see politicians privilege the national and local at the expense of the multilateral and global, with damaging impacts on future climate policy.
Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech has provided much needed clarity about the British approach to Brexit. It has reset the baseline for the negotiation by taking the UK out of the single market. This is a hard concession for Europhiles in Britain to swallow, but one that was inevitable. By conceding the point early, the UK will avoid being put on the defensive immediately and will therefore find itself in a better negotiating position.
The upcoming Dutch parliamentary elections on 15 March are the first test in a year that will see populist parties perform strongly in elections in France, Germany, and probably Italy as well. Earlier this week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ruled out any coalition with Geert Wilders, leader of the populist right Party of Freedom (PVV). Wilders’ agenda goes further than Marine Le Pen’s by unequivocally pushing for EU withdrawal and a ban on all Muslim migration. While Rutte’s statement on the PVV may come as a relief for many in the European mainstream, the key lesson from the Netherlands will be that populists can have an impact on the political process and debate even when they are unable to enter government.
UK immigration minister Robert Goodwill’s comments were very rapidly dismissed by his prime minister this week when he floated the idea of extending the proposed £1,000 a year charge on skilled migrant workers to workers from the European Union after the UK has left the EU. Aside from the now familiar sight of ministers being put back in their boxes after speculating on life after Brexit, this usefully drew attention to the big question of what a UK government might be tempted to do to reduce pressure on migration.
There was some comment this week about the fact that the UK’s largest financial services advocacy body TheCityUK has self-consciously ceased to advocate the retention of passporting rights for UK-based financial services businesses after the UK has left the EU. This was presented as a concession of ambition, but it is also a form of tactical retreat.