Uk employment pay growth slows to its weakest in six months


Tim Tabor/flickr

( via — Tue, 17th July 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British workers’ pay growth has slowed to its weakest in six months despite record employment, challenging the Bank of England as it considers whether to raise interest rates next month for only the second time since the financial crisis.

Average weekly earnings rose by 2.5 percent on the year in the three months to May, slowing from the previous three month period when they grew by 2.6 percent and the weakest since the three months to November, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

Pay growth excluding bonuses, which the BoE says sometimes gives a better picture of the underlying trend, slowed by a similar amount, to 2.7 percent. Both readings were in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

There was little immediate market reaction to the data, which economists said was unlikely to dissuade the majority of the BoE’s policymakers from raising rates on Aug. 2 after their next meeting.

“There’s next to nothing here that will make the BoE more cautious with regards to an August hike,” said David Cheetham, chief market analyst at brokerage XTB.

Britain’s economy appears to be picking up after a slow first three months of the year, when unusually heavy snow hurt demand, and the central bank worries it is bumping up against the speed limit that would start to push up inflation.

Tuesday’s data showed the unemployment rate remained at its joint-lowest since 1975 at 4.2 percent while the proportion of people in work rose to a record high of 75.7 percent after 137,000 jobs were created over the three months to May.

But economic growth since 2016’s Brexit vote has been weak by historic standards due to high inflation and business uncertainty, and on Monday the International Monetary Fund cut Britain’s growth forecast for 2018 to 1.4 percent.


Moreover, the BoE has been repeatedly surprised over the years as the labour market has tightened but wages have risen less than expected – a pattern seen to a slightly lesser degree in most other advanced economies in recent years.

Pay growth is one of the pieces of data the Bank of England looks at most closely for signs that domestic inflation pressures are rising strongly enough for inflation to be at risk of breaching its 2 percent target over the medium term if the BoE does not raise rates in the immediate future.

BoE Governor Mark Carney said at the start of the month that both the economy as a whole and pay were growing as the central bank had forecast in May, smoothing the way for an August rate rise.

But last week one of his deputies, Jon Cunliffe, who opposed November’s rate rise, said pay growth did not seem to be breaking out of its recent 2.5-3.0 percent range and heading towards the 3 percent growth rate that the BoE predicts for the end of the year.

Britain had seen numerous “false dawns” for pay growth in the past, and there could be more spare capacity in the labour market than the central bank thought, he added.

“Low unemployment is yet to generate serious wage pressures and Brexit uncertainties continue to reign,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at accountants Deloitte. “The case for raising interest rates in August may have strengthened, but is hardly compelling.”

By David Milliken



Donald Trump: Brexit plan ‘will probably kill’ US trade deal

( via – – Fri, 13th July 2018) London, Uk – –

Donald Trump has said the UK will “probably not” get a trade deal with the US, if the prime minister's Brexit plan goes ahead.

He told The Sun the PM's plan would “probably kill the deal” as it would mean the US “would be dealing with the European Union” instead of with the UK.

Downing Street has not yet reacted to Mr Trump's remarks.

Theresa May has been making the case for a US free trade deal with Mr Trump, on his first UK visit as president.

She said Brexit was an “opportunity” to create growth in the UK and US.

Mr Trump also said that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who disagrees with the PM on Brexit and resigned this week – would make a “great prime minister”, adding “I think he's got what it takes”.

In his interview, he renewed his criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan over last year's terror attacks in the capital, saying he had done “a terrible job”.

The president and his wife were given a red carpet reception at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire on Thursday evening.

They were at a black-tie dinner with Mrs May as news broke of his interview with the newspaper, which said it was conducted while he was in Brussels.

After it was published, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the president “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much”, adding that he had “never said anything bad about her”.

Mr Trump – who has been a long-time supporter of Brexit – told The Sun newspaper that the UK's blueprint for its post-Brexit relations with the EU was “a much different deal than the people voted on”.

He said the Brexit proposals Mrs May and her cabinet thrashed out at the PM's country house Chequers last week “would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”



“We have enough difficulty with the European Union,” he said, saying the US was “cracking down” on the EU because “they have not treated the United States fairly on trading”.

‘I told May how to do it'
He also said he had told Mrs May how to do a Brexit deal, but: “She didn't agree, she didn't listen to me.”

“I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. She wanted to go a different route,” he said.

Tom Newton Dunn, the Sun journalist who interviewed Mr Trump, said the US president seemed “sensitive” and knew about the “Trump baby” inflatable.

“He's really quite stung by the criticism he's been getting,” said Mr Newton Dunn. “He knew all about the baby blimp. I think it hurt him.”

The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said Mr Trump's interview had “driven a bulldozer” through Mrs May's claim that the UK would be able to get decent trade deals with the wider world, while sticking to the EU rules.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said things had “moved on” since Mr Trump's interview – which was carried out before he arrived in the UK – and it was “very early days for the detailed negotiations of any trade deal”.

He said the mood at Thursday night's Blenheim Palace dinner was “fantastically positive and it did indeed focus a lot on trade”.

The government does not see Mr Trump's behaviour as “rude”, Sir Alan said, adding: “Donald Trump is a controversialist. That's his style.”

Responding to Mr Trump's criticism of his response to terrorism, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was “interesting” that the US president “is not criticising the mayors of other cities” which have also experienced terror attacks.

He defended his decision to allow the giant Trump baby inflatable to fly over London, saying: “The idea that we limit the right to protest because it might cause offence to a foreign leader is a slippery slope”.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the PM had done “everything she could to be nice to him and he has slagged her off in the press”.

“This is not the way to behave and then what does she do, she holds his hand again,” she said, adding: “She should be standing up to him.”

Mr Trump's comments came on the same day the UK government published its proposal for its long-term relationship with the EU.



The plan is aimed at ensuring trade co-operation, with no hard border for Northern Ireland, and global trade deals for the UK.

But leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and David Davis resigned from the cabinet days after ministers reached agreement on the plan at Chequers a week ago. Mrs May said the plan “absolutely delivers on the Brexit we voted for”.

At Thursday's dinner, Mrs May said that more than one million Americans work for UK-owned firms, telling Mr Trump there was an unprecedented opportunity for a trade deal which creates jobs and growth in the UK and US.

As Mr Trump arrived in the UK, protesters gathered outside the US ambassador's residence in Regent's Park, London, and an estimated 1,000 of them demonstrated near Blenheim Palace itself, the birthplace of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

On Friday, Mrs May and Mr Trump are due to watch a joint counter-terrorism exercise by British and US special forces at a military base.

The pair will then travel to Chequers – the PM's country residence in Buckinghamshire – for talks with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Extra security is in place to police protests planned for the second day of Mr Trump's visit.

The president and first lady will travel to Windsor on Friday afternoon to meet the Queen, before flying to Scotland to spend the weekend at Mr Trump's Turnberry golf resort. This part of the visit is being considered private.


British economy picked up slightly as Bank of England nears rate decision


Flickr/James Stringer

( via — Tue, 10th July 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’ economy picked up a bit of speed in May after slowing in early 2018, according to official figures that are likely to give the Bank of England more confidence about raising interest rates next month.

A new monthly reading of gross domestic product showed the world’s fifth-biggest economy grew by 0.3 percent in May from April.

That was up from growth of 0.2 percent in April and in line with the forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, marking the strongest growth since November, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

Sterling fell against the dollar after the data, which showed a mixed picture of the economy. Growth came mostly from the dominant services sector while factory output disappointed.

But Cathal Kennedy, an economist at RBC Capital Markets, said the figures should support expectations that the BoE would raise rates in August.

“The gradual momentum into May really backs up what the Bank has been saying of late. We have seen a bounceback from the first quarter,” he said.



BoE Governor Mark Carney and other top officials at the central bank opted not to raise rates in May because of the early 2018 slowdown.

Instead, they decided to wait for signs the weakness was temporary and caused by unusually cold winter weather rather than a sign of broader problems before Britain’s exit from the European Union next year.

However, upheaval in the government of Prime Minister Theresa May — battling to keep her grip on the ruling Conservative Party, which is split over Brexit — could yet affect confidence among employers, a potential new hurdle for the BoE.

Britain’ economy grew by 0.2 percent in the three months to May, as expected, after stagnating in the three months to April.

In annual terms, the economy was 1.5 percent bigger than in May last year, the ONS said.

The BoE’ rate-setting committee is expected to raise rates by 25 basis points to 0.75 percent — only its second rate increase in more than a decade — on Aug. 2, according to a Reuters poll of economists.


The ONS said the warm weather and spending around the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle helped the economy.

Britain’s services industry grew 0.3 percent month-on-month in May, slowing from an upwardly revised 0.4 percent in April.

Over the three months to May, growth in services — which makes up 80 percent of economic output — picked up speed to 0.4 percent from 0.2 percent.

But industrial output fell unexpectedly in May by 0.4 percent on the month, hit by the shutdown of the Sullom Voe oil and gas terminal.

Manufacturing growth also disappointed, rising only 0.4 percent on the month — less than half the growth rate expected in the Reuters poll.

May capped the weakest three months for British factories since December 2012.

There was better news from construction, which had struggled in the bad weather of early 2018. Output jumped 2.9 percent in May, far exceeding expectations and marking the first growth in the sector since December.

Separate data showed Britain’s deficit in goods trade during May was broadly unchanged from April at 12.362 billion pounds ($16.37 billion).

By Andy Bruce, William Schomberg
Editing by Larry King



China blames U.S. for ‘largest-scale trade war’ in month long conflict

( via — Fri, 6th July 2018) London, UK —

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and China slapped tit-for-tat duties on $34 billion worth of the other’s imports on Friday, with Beijing accusing Washington of triggering the “largest-scale trade war” ever in a sharp escalation of their months-long conflict.

Hours before Washington’s deadline for the tariffs to take effect, U.S. President Donald Trump upped the ante, warning that the United States may ultimately target over $500 billion worth of Chinese goods, or roughly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year.

China’s commerce ministry, in a statement shortly after the U.S. deadline passed at 0401 GMT on Friday, said that it was forced to retaliate, meaning $34 billion worth of imported U.S. goods including autos and agricultural products also faced 25 percent tariffs.

However, an ensuing three-plus hour delay before Beijing confirmed that it had implemented retaliatory tariffs sowed confusion in markets.

“After the United States unfairly raised tariffs against China, China immediately put into effect raised tariffs on some U.S. goods,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily media briefing on Friday afternoon.

China’s soymeal futures fell more than 2 percent on Friday afternoon before recovering most of those losses, amid market uncertainty over whether China had implemented tariffs on a list of U.S. goods, including soybeans.

Some Chinese ports had delayed clearing goods from the United States, four sources said on Friday. There did not appear to be any direct instructions to hold up cargoes, but some customs departments were waiting for official guidance on imposing added tariffs, the sources said.

Ford Motor Co said on Thursday that for now, it will not hike prices of imported Ford and higher-margin luxury Lincoln models in China.

An analysis of over four dozen imported U.S products facing higher duties showed that prices were little changed on Friday afternoon versus earlier in the week. The products, all sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms, ranged from pet food to mixed nuts and whiskey.

While Chinese state media have slammed Trump’s protectionism and on Friday likened his administration to a “gang of hoodlums,” the trade conflict has gained little traction on China’s tightly controlled social media, not cracking the 50 top-searched topics on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

The dispute has roiled financial markets including stocks, currencies and the global trade of commodities from soybeans to coal in recent weeks.

Chinese shares, which have been battered in the run-up to the tariff deadline, reversed earlier losses to close higher, but the yuan remained weaker against the dollar. Asian equities wobbled but also managed to end up.

In the run-up to Friday’s tariff implementation, there was no sign of renewed negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials, business sources in Washington and Beijing said.

“We can probably say that the trade war has officially started,” said Chen Feixiang, professor of applied economics at Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Antai Colege of Economics and Management.

“If this ends at $34 billion, it will have a marginal effect on both economies, but if it escalates to $500 billion like Trump said then it’s going to have a big impact for both countries,” Chen said.

China’s commerce ministry called the U.S. actions “a violation of world trade rules” and said that it had “initiated the largest-scale trade war in economic history.”

Trump has railed against Beijing for intellectual property theft and barriers to entry for U.S. businesses and a $375 billion U.S. trade deficit with China.

“You have another 16 (billion dollars) in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200 billion in abeyance and then after the $200 billion, we have $300 billion in abeyance. Ok? So we have 50 plus 200 plus almost 300,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.

Throughout the escalating conflict, China has sought to take the high road, positioning itself as a champion of free trade, but state media ramped-up criticism of Trump on Friday.

“In effect, the Trump administration is behaving like a gang of hoodlums with its shakedown of other countries, particularly China,” the state-run China Daily newspaper said in an English language editorial on Friday.

“Its unruliness looks set to have a profoundly damaging impact on the global economic landscape in the coming decades, unless countries stand together to oppose it.”

While the initial volley of tariffs was not expected to have major immediate economic impact, the fear is that a prolonged battle would disrupt makers and importers of affected goods in a blow to global trade, investment and growth.

“For companies with supply exposure to tariffs, they will move sourcing country of origin if they can; if they can’t, they’ll pass on as much of the tariff cost as they can, or see a cut in margins,” said Jacob Parker, vice president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council in Beijing.

A China central bank adviser said the planned U.S. import tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods – $34 billion plus a planned follow-on list worth $16 billion – will cut China’s economic growth by 0.2 percentage points, although the overall impact would be limited, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.

“This is not economic Armageddon. We will not have to hunt our food with pointy sticks. But it is applying the brakes to a global economy that has less durable momentum than appears to be the case,” Rob Carnell, chief economist at ING, said in a note.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials were due to collect 25 percent duties on a range of products including motor vehicles, computer disk drives, parts of pumps, valves and printers and many other industrial components.

China’s tariffs on hundreds of U.S. goods include top exports such as soybeans, sorghum and cotton, threatening U.S. farmers in states that backed Trump in the 2016 U.S. election, such as Texas and Iowa.

By Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI, Michael Martina, Christian Shepherd, Dominique Patton and Elias Glenn in BEIJING, David Lawder and Jeff Mason WASHINGTON; Writing by Tony Munroe;



Jaguar Land Rover warns of risk to plant closures over Brexit

( via– Thur, 5th July 2018) London, Uk – –

Ahead of a critical cabinet meeting, the country's biggest carmaker joins BMW and Airbus in a warning to government over Brexit.

UK plants and at least 40,000 jobs are at risk if the country leaves the European Union without a free trade deal, Britain's biggest carmaker has warned.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has told the government that, while its “heart and soul” are in the UK, a bad Brexit could force a re-think, with a “no-deal” scenario forcing it out of the UK because of an expected £1.2bn surge in tariff costs.

JLR exports 80% of its cars worth £18bn annually.

Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive of JLR, said: “We, and our partners in the supply chain, face an unpredictable future if the Brexit negotiations do not maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU and unrestricted access to the single market.

“We urgently need greater certainty to continue to invest heavily in the UK and safeguard our suppliers, customers and 40,000 British-based employees.”

There are also a further 260,000 jobs connected to the company's supply chain.

Dr Speth added: “A bad Brexit deal would cost Jaguar Land Rover more than £1.2bn profit each year.

“As a result, we would have to drastically adjust our spending profile.

“We have spent around £50bn in the UK in the past five years, with plans for a further £80bn more in the next five.

“This would be in jeopardy should we be faced with the wrong outcome.”

He was more specific on a potential exit from the UK in comments to the Financial Times when he said: “If I'm forced to go out because we don't have the right deal, then we have to close plants here in the UK and it will be very, very sad.

“This is hypothetical, and I hope it's an option we never have to go for.”

His words follow similar warnings from BMW and Airbus.

Airbus said in June that it was making plans to leave the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which could lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

BMW also weighed in – its customs manager Stephan Freismuth warning the company “cannot” manufacture its products in the UK if Brexit means its supply chain is disrupted.

The intervention by big business in the Brexit debate has strained relations with the government ahead of Theresa May's meeting of cabinet ministers at Chequers on Friday to decide a strategy for exiting the EU.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has described, what he sees as, threats from firms as “completely inappropriate” while Boris Johnson, a leading Brexiteer on the top table of government, has not denied saying “f*** business”.

In his response to JLR's latest warning, the business secretary Greg Clark tweeted: “JLR is a great British success story. We are determined to make sure that it can continue to prosper and to invest in Britain.”

The PM has also insisted firms are being listened to.

The British Retail Consortium became the latest to warn of the consequences of any cliff-edge Brexit in March 2019 by warning that consumers in the UK and EU food producers would lose out if there was no deal to allow the free movement of goods.

Its chairman, Richard Pennycook, said: “Frictionless trade is essential if the industry is to continue to provide the level of choice and value in shops that UK consumers are used to seeing.

“It is now of the utmost importance that the UK Government proposes a workable solution to the backstop that gets the withdrawal agreement over the line and allows for a smooth transition.

“We need the EU to be flexible and creative in negotiation and recognise what is at stake for exports to the UK.”


Theresa May warned lack of Brexit clarity causing businesses to lose patience

( via– Tue, 3rd July 2018) London, Uk – –

A leading business lobby group appeals for government in-fighting over Brexit to stop and focus instead on the national interest.

Theresa May is being warned that businesses are running out of patience on the lack of Brexit clarity, more than two years after the vote to leave the EU.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged politicians to cast aside “squabbling” and work in the national economic interest to remove uncertainty over tax, tariffs, customs and regulation.

The lobby group intervened in the debate as the PM prepares to host a key cabinet Brexit meeting at Chequers on Friday at which key negotiating positions are expected to be agreed.

The BCC's frustration echoes that expressed by Airbus and BMW last week – companies which then faced criticism for speaking out from ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox.

Boris Johnson reportedly said “f*** business” in response.

:: Johnson defends Rees-Mogg as Brexit in-fighting intensifies

Sky News reported on Monday how the government had since moved to smooth relations with business through an invitation for top companies to hold talks with the Brexit Secretary David Davis.

BCC director-general, Adam Marshall, warned that a lack of decisions had resulted in a significant slowdown in business investment.

He said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient.

“We have supported the Government's drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy.

:: MPs request Bank and Treasury Brexit analysis

“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.

“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.

“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.

“It's time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first.”

The BCC argued that firms had clarity on only two of 23 key Brexit questions it had compiled.

The government said it was confident of getting a deal to ensure trade would remain “as free and frictionless as

A spokesperson added: “Ministers continue to work closely with business to understand their concerns and by successfully negotiating the implementation period with the EU until December 2020, companies can carry on trading with confidence on the same terms as they do now”.

By James Sillars



7,000 estate agency firms at risk of triple whammy from online competition

( via – – Mon, 2 July 2018) London, Uk – –

High street operators face triple whammy of internet competition, falling prices and fee cuts

More than 150 estate agency firms went insolvent last year and as many as 7,000 are at risk as high street operators face the triple whammy of online competition, a sagging property market and cuts to letting fees.

A study by accountants Moore Stephens found that 153 estate agency firms went insolvent in the year to May 2018, a small increase on the 148 the year before.

But it found that more than 7,000 estate agents “currently show signs of financial distress”.

Last week, shares in Britain’s biggest estate agent, Countrywide Properties, plunged 25% after it issued its fourth profit warning in eight months and called on shareholders to raise fresh funds to cut its debt.

Countrywide, the company behind Hamptons, Bairstow Eves, Taylors and Gascoigne-Pees, has been hit hard by a downturn in the housing market in London and the south-east, a botched revamp of the business and growing competition from new online firms such as Purplebricks.

Estate agents focused on the Brexit-hit London property market have been among the worst affected. Earlier this year Foxtons reported a 65% fall in profits.

Moore Stephens said government plans to ban letting fees charged to tenants may narrow the profit margins of some estate agents even more, as fees from tenants currently contribute significantly to the bottom line.

Estate agents rely on transaction activity rather than rising house prices to earn commission, and have been hit hard by the 20% fall in the number of property sales in the London area since 2014.

The extra stamp duty surcharge of 3% of the value of a buy-to-let home introduced in April 2016 has also added to the woes of estate agents, with some buy-to-let investors choosing not to add to their portfolios.

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Chris Marsden, restructuring partner at Moore Stephens, said: “Insolvencies of high street estate agents are increasing as online competitors continue to chip away at their sales.

“With the ban on letting fees stated to come into force in 2019, estate agents will struggle to pass those fees on to landlords.”

“Some areas in the UK are appear to have an excess capacity of estate agents, which could mean there is not enough business to spread around as property transactions stagnate.”

By Patrick Collinson



Uncertainty Over Brexit Halves New Investment In Uk Car Industry

( via — Tue, 26 June, 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Uncertainty over Brexit has halved new investment in the British car industry and Prime Minister Theresa May should urgently change tack and keep the world’s fifth largest economy in the EU’s customs union, the country’s main car lobby group said.

Public announcements of fresh investments into new plant, machinery, models and model development fell to 347.3 million pounds between January and June 21, down from 647.4 million pounds in the first half of 2017.

“There is growing frustration in global boardrooms at the slow pace of negotiations,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

“Government must rethink its position on the customs union,” Hawes said, referring to the May’s position that Britain will leave the customs union which groups EU members in a duty-free area where there is a common import tariff for non-EU goods.

With only nine months left until Britain is due to leave the EU, little is yet clear about how trade will flow as May, who is grappling with a rebellion in her party, is still trying to strike a deal with the bloc.

In a sign of just how worried big business is getting about Brexit, Siemens, Airbus and BMW have publicly cautioned Britain in the past week that their businesses will be hurt by a disorderly Brexit.

When asked about business worries by ambassadors, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was reported by The Daily Telegraph newspaper to have quipped: “F*** business”. A spokesman disputed that he had used bad language.

Under the current timetable, both London and Brussels hope to get a final Brexit deal in October to give enough time to ratify it by Brexit day in March 2019, though few diplomats expect the deal to be struck until months later.

The nature of the future relationship with the world’s biggest trading bloc remains unclear and there is deep concern in boardrooms about the prospect of Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal or with a deal that would silt up the arteries of trade.

Even a small increase in paperwork or customs checks after Brexit, for example, could lead to spiralling costs for big manufacturers who depend on vast supply chains that stretch across Europe and the globe.

Supporters of Brexit admit there may be some short-term pain for Britain’s $2.9 trillion economy but that long-term it will prosper when cut free from the EU which they cast as a failing German-dominated experiment in European integration.

The average car has about 30,000 parts.

The world’s biggest car makers including Toyota, BMW and Ford have urged Britain to ensure that they can import and export without hindrance after Brexit.

At stake is the future of one of Britain’s few manufacturing success stories since the 1980s: a car industry employing over 800,000 people and generating turnover of $110 billion. Much of the industry is owned by foreign companies.

Around 52 percent of Britain’s total $1.1 trillion trade in goods last year was with the EU so May wants to sign a free trade agreement and negotiate an as yet relatively undefined customs arrangement to ensure as frictionless trade as possible.

SMMT chief Hawes said the British government’s current position – leaving the EU single market and the customs union – would hurt the industry.

“The current position, with conflicting messages and red lines goes directly against the interests of the UK automotive sector which has thrived on single market and customs union membership,” he said.

“There is no credible ‘plan B’ for frictionless customs arrangements, nor is it realistic to expect that new trade deals can be agreed with the rest of the world that will replicate the immense value of trade with the EU.”

By Sarah Young, Guy Faulconbridge



Scorching weather offers supermarkets increased sales of gin and hay fever remedies

( via – – Tue, 26 June, 2018) London, Uk – –

A run of scorching weather buoyed supermarket sales in recent months as shoppers stocked up on gin, tonic water, soft drinks and hay fever remedies.

Britain’s grocers clocked up combined revenues of £27.1bn in the 12 weeks to June 17, 2.1pc higher than in the same period last year, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

Spending on spirits grew by 6pc as shoppers bought an extra 1.7m litres of gin, and soft drinks sales were up 7pc.

Last month was the hottest May since records began, with maximum average temperatures hitting 17 degrees and a record 245.3 hours of sunshine.

Kantar Worldpanel’s Fraser McKevitt said: “Consumers are also feeling some seasonal downsides – sales of hay fever remedies are up 19pc year-on-year… reflecting Met Office predictions of record pollen levels.”

Morrisons led the way among the “big four” supermarket chains with sales rising 1.9pc, boosted by demand for “wonky” fruit and vegetables, which are now bought by 12pc of its customers.

Asda and Tesco notched up growth of 1.8pc and 1.4pc respectively, but Sainsbury’s sales went into reverse, down 0.2pc. All four lost market share, however, as Aldi, Lidl and online grocer Ocado continued to grow ahead of the sector.

Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK & Ireland, said: “The sun came out in May and our sales trends suggest that the British public decided to take advantage of the fantastic weather, with our most popular items ranging from our fresh British barbecue offer to our gardening tools and bedding plant range.”

Separate figures from Nielsen showed grocery sales were up 1.5pc in the last four weeks, with sales of gin and tonic water up 46pc and 21pc respectively.

By Jack Torrance



Airbus warns on leaving the UK in the event of “no-deal” Brexit


( via– Fri, 22 June, 2018) London, Uk – –

The aeronautical company employs 14,000 people at several sites including Bristol, Stevenage and Portsmouth.

Airbus is making plans to leave the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, which could lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

The company employs 14,000 people directly at several sites including Bristol, Stevenage, Portsmouth and north Wales, but 110,000 jobs are also vulnerable at firms supplying the aircraft maker.

In one of the most significant interventions by a major manufacturer since the referendum two years ago, it published a “risk assessment” on its website saying it would “reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country” if Britain left the single market and customs union without a transition agreement.

It also said the current planned transition period to 2020 was too short for businesses to reorganise supply chains.

Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said: “In any scenario, Brexit has severe negative consequences for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular.

“Therefore, immediate mitigation measures would need to be accelerated.

“While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively.

“Without these, Airbus believes that the impacts on our UK operations could be significant.

“We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success.

“Far from ‘project fear', this is a dawning reality for Airbus.

“Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus's future in the UK.”

The report has drawn swift reaction from politicians, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeting: “If proof was needed that the PM's Brexit red lines need to be abandoned (and fast), this is it.”

If Airbus did leave the UK, production would be moved to the US, China or elsewhere in Europe.

The risk assessment paints a gloomy picture for UK high-tech manufacturing if agreement cannot be reached with the EU.

It says: “A no-deal Brexit must be avoided, as it would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments in the UK and at large its dependency on the UK.

“Given the ‘no-deal/hard Brexit' uncertainties, the company's dependence on and investment in the flagship Wing Of Tomorrow programme would also have to be revisited, and corresponding key competencies grown outside the UK.

“This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic.

“It would impair our ability to benefit from highly qualified British resources, it would also severely undermine UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, while developing high-value jobs and competencies.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said the UK had made “significant progress” in negotiations to “to ensure trade remains as free and frictionless as possible, including in the aerospace sector”.

They added: “We're confident of getting a good deal that is mutually beneficial.

“Given the good progress that we are continuing to make in the negotiations we do not expect a no-deal scenario to arise.

“The government is working closely with companies to understand their concerns ahead of leaving the EU and alongside industry will invest almost £4 billion by 2026 to ensure the UK remains a world leader in civil aerospace.”



Philip Hammond gives Bank of England £500bn in preparation for Brexit

( via – – Fri 22 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Bank will have extra £500bn to provide to economy as Britain prepares for Brexit

The Bank of England will be allowed to provide more than £500bn in lending to the economy without seeking the Treasury’s permission, in a move that reinforces the strength of the UK financial system as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Announcing the plan at the annual Mansion House dinner for bankers in the City of London on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said the changes would help to improve the resilience of the central bank. It would also help with its “ability to meet its monetary and financial policy objectives in the future”, he said.

Hammond said the government would give the Bank £1.2bn, a sum that would underwrite the £500bn lending pot, but the move would not impact public borrowing because the money would remain in the public sector. The half a trillion pound fund could be accessed by commercial banks for funding, including during credit crunch-style financial crises.

The move also gives Threadneedle Street greater autonomy in lowering interest rates to zero and providing more money to commercial banks during times of stress, without requiring Treasury permission. Despite its independence from the Treasury, the Bank has needed to approach the government in order to expand its support to the economy – including when it announced an emergency funding scheme for banks in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Speaking alongside the chancellor at his penultimate Mansion House dinner before stepping down next year, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said the additional capital would significantly increase the amount of money the central bank could lend without seeking financial backing from the Treasury. Although at first it will amount to more than half a trillion pounds, it could rise to over three-quarters of a trillion pounds.

He said the changes could also help the government to strike new deals with emerging markets to facilitate the growth of the UK financial sector, which could increase from 10 times the size of the British economy at present to 15 times by 2030.

“We now have a balance sheet fit for a new world order with greater reliance on markets in a wider range of reserve currencies,” he said.

As part of the changes, the Bank of England will see the emergency funding programme launched straight after the Brexit vote, known as the term funding scheme – which provides banks with cheap finance during times of stress – become part of the Bank of England’s balance sheet rather than the Treasury’s.

By Richard Partington



UK government borrowing down more than expected

( via – – Thur, 21 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Public sector borrowing fell to £5bn in May, down £2bn from a year earlier, official figures show.

The fall was bigger than expected and brings borrowing for the financial year to date to £11.8bn, £4.1bn less than in the same period in 2017.

At the same time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised down its figure for government borrowing in 2017-18 to £39.5bn.

The total was the lowest annual level of borrowing in 11 years.

The figures come as Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares to reaffirm his promise to reduce public debt, despite Prime Minister Theresa May's promise of increased spending on the NHS.

In a speech later on Thursday, Mr Hammond will say that taxes must rise, although increases will be implemented in a “fair and balanced way”.

Public sector net debt, excluding public sector banks, was £1,781.4bn at the end of last month, equivalent to 85% of GDP, the ONS said.

That is £44.7bn higher than a year earlier, but 0.4 percentage points lower as a percentage of GDP.

“May's public finances figures not only confirmed that the new fiscal year got off to a good start, but revealed that borrowing in 2017-18 was also a little lower than previously thought,” said Andrew Wishart, UK economist at Capital Economics.

“It's early days yet, but if this is sustained, borrowing would undershoot the [Office for Budget Responsibility's] 2018-19 forecast by £9bn or so over the year as a whole.

“What's more, if the economy holds up as we expect, borrowing is likely to undershoot the OBR's forecast by a more significant margin in subsequent years.

“This would allow the chancellor to deliver the recently promised £15bn increase in health spending over the next five years while still meeting his fiscal target.”



U.S. readies second wave of duties as trade war with China looms

( via — Fri, 15 June 2018) London, UK —

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has nearly completed a second list of tariffs on $100 billion (75.44 billion pounds) in Chinese goods, as President Donald Trump prepares to enact an initial round of duties that is expected to trigger an in-kind response from Beijing, several sources said.

The second wave of products has been cued up as Washington prepares to announce on Friday a list of about $50 billion of goods to be targeted. They are part of Trump’s decision to go forward with “pretty significant” tariffs, an administration official said on Thursday.

The $100 billion list will be subject to the same public comment and hearing process as the $50 billion list, so it could take 60 days or more to put into effect, three sources familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking on tariff plans told Reuters.

The list is intended to minimise the impact on U.S. consumers and businesses by selecting goods where there are ample alternative supplies from other countries. Eliminating any impact may be impossible.

“There’s no question, that to get to $100 billion you’re going to hit consumer products coming in from China,” a person briefed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters.

This person also said Ross had said the list would take aim at products for which China supplied 33 percent or less of total U.S. imports in individual product categories, making it easier to shift to other countries’ supplies.

The person, like the other sources familiar with the administration’s thinking, declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

A Reuters analysis of U.S. Census Bureau import data in April showed that there were about 7,600 consumer and industrial goods still available for tariffs with a combined value of $101 billion in which China accounts for 40 percent or less of U.S. imports.

Another person familiar with the administration’s thinking said it could be difficult to reach $100 billion with a 33 percent threshold.

Press officials at the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative’s office declined to comment on the tariff list plans.

Trump has pledged to enforce fair and reciprocal trading relations with China, with the U.S. bilateral trade in goods deficit having reached $375 billion last year, and amid long-running complaints of what foreign companies see as forced technology transfers and market restrictions.

On Thursday, China reiterated its preference for dialogue to resolve differences, but said it was ready to respond if Trump moved forward with tariffs.

Speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said there were two choices when it came to trade.

“The first choice is cooperation and mutual benefit. The other choice is confrontation and mutual loss. China chooses the first,” Wang told reporters. “We hope the U.S. side can also make the same wise choice. Of course, we have also made preparations to respond to the second kind of choice.”

China has published its own list of threatened tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods, including soybeans, aircraft, and autos, and has said it would hit back if Washington followed up with further measures.

By Michael Martina in BEIJING and David Lawder



Fall in UK wage growth reduces pressure for interest rate rise on BoE

( via – – Tue, 12 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Workers’ pay packets still increasing slowly despite fresh fall in unemployment

Pressures has eased on the Bank of England to raise interest rates after the latest official figures showed a fall in wage inflation despite a fresh drop in unemployment.

Both measures of earnings growth – including and excluding bonuses – edged lower in the three months to the end of April, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Bank’s latest quarterly inflation report signalled that the fall in unemployment to its lowest level since the 1970s would lead to stronger earnings growth and necessitate a gradual increase in borrowing costs from 0.5%.

As a result, financial markets have been gearing up for an August increase in interest rates to coincide with the publication of the next inflation report.

The ONS’s report on the state of the labour market said unemployment had dropped by 38,000 in the three months to April, leaving the jobless total at 1.42 million.

The unchanged unemployment rate of 4.2% was the lowest since 1975, while the proportion of the population of 16- to 64-year-olds in work – 75.6% – was the highest since modern records began in 1971.

Even though the economy barely grew in early 2018, the ONS said there were 146,000 more people in work between February and April than in the previous three months.

Despite the healthier jobs outlook, however, earnings growth including bonuses dipped by 0.1 points to 2.5%, while earnings growth excluding bonuses dipped by a similar amount to 2.8%.

Although earnings are rising slightly faster than prices, the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Wage growth is stuck in the slow lane. At this rate pay packets won’t recover to their pre-recession levels for years.

“We need to speed things up. Extending collective bargaining would boost living standards and help workers get a fairer share of the wealth they create. Ministers must allow unions the right to go into every workplace.”

Jeremy Thomson-Cook, the chief economist at WorldFirst, said: “The juxtaposition of today’s increase in the employment rate to a record 75.6% and yesterday’s news of lay-offs at both Poundworld and Jaguar Land Rover will be lost on nobody and we think that today’s jobs report could soon be revealed as a high water mark for job creation.”

By Larry Elliott



Government criticised by farmers worried over post-Brexit plans ‘lack of detail’

( via– Wed, 6 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Farmers are nervous following a government consultation that they believe lacks ‘clarity on funding, delivery and timing'.

The government has been criticised for providing “a notable lack of detail” when it comes to its plans to support farmers post-Brexit.

MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee have called for “more clarity on funding, delivery and timing” in its report entitled The Future Of Food, Farming And The Environment.

It follows a government consultation published on February, which should have provided reassurance about what will replace the current direct payment system for farmers after the country leaves the European Union.

Instead it left farmers like Tim Pratt, from Wantisden Hall Farms in Suffolk, feeling nervous.

“We are a big business. We need to plan machinery, we need to plan labour and we need to know what's going on and the uncertainty is the issue at the moment,” he said.

The committee has called for ring-fenced funding, new support mechanisms for farmers and a commitment to ensuring welfare standards are maintained on products entering Britain.

Farmers currently receive payments based on the amount of land they farm as part of the EU's common agricultural policy.

Instead they will be rewarded for increasing biodiversity, creating new wildlife habitats, reducing flood risk and improving air quality.

But the chair of the select committee, Neil Parish MP, wants more detail on how food production will be protected.

“We have got to make sure we have got a proper agriculture and environment policy as we move forward because it's strong on the environment but not so strong on food and farming,” he said.

The National Farmers' Union are also worried.

President Minette Batters said: “We absolutely embrace the government ambition that every farming business should be able to have access to world-class environmental delivery.

“I think it's a very important area, but ultimately we need profitable, thriving, food-producing businesses.”

A Defra spokesperson said the UK leaving the EU provides “a historic opportunity to design a fresh approach to farming that works in the national interest”.

They added: “We have committed to match the £3bn in farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022, followed by a longer agricultural transition period to give farmers time to adapt.

“We had more than 44,000 responses to our consultation which we are analysing before bringing forward an agriculture bill later this year.”



Under-30s trade union membership falls despite wage stagnation

( via – – Mon, 4 June 2018) London, Uk – –

The number of people under the age of 30 who are members of a trade union has fallen significantly since 2001.

Figures from the Trades Union Congress provided to the BBC reveal membership levels among the under-30s have fallen from 20.1% in 2001 to 15.7% in 2017.

In the private sector, which employs more than 80% of 21 to 30-year-olds, the figure fell from 12.6% to to 9%.

It comes despite the pay gap between younger and older workers rising by more than half in the past 20 years.

Younger people are also much more concerned about “insecure work” and their financial position.

Pay gap

Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, admitted the union movement had “a problem” in reaching young people.

And it needed to show the under-30s that unions are still relevant in an era when higher-educated young people have actually seen average earnings drop over the last 20 years.

On average, being a member of a union means your pay is higher – although that is often to do with the sector worked in and the size of the employer.

A new report from the TUC to mark the 150th anniversary of its foundation in Manchester in 1868 revealed that over-30s are now paid 21.9% more than under-30s, compared with 14.5% in 1998.

That means that on average, young people are earning £2.81 an hour less than older people, up from £1.51 an hour less in 1998.

Although it would be expected that older people earn more than younger people, the slower pace of wage growth among the young has increased the gap.

Older people are on average earning £5,884 a year more than younger workers, compared with £3,140 a year in 1998.

Ms O'Grady said many young people felt they were in insecure employment in sectors such as health care or retail sales, but were not turning to the unions for support.

Many employers also made it difficult for people to become a member of a union, she said.

She also admitted that unions had to “earn the right” to represent people at work.

We know we've got a problem,” Ms O'Grady told me.

“We know that young people overwhelmingly are sympathetic to our vision and our values. The problem is that many of their employers, especially in the private sector, make it hard for us to organise them.”

Of employees of all ages, 23.2% are a member of a union, itself the lowest figures since records of the percentage figure began in 1995.

Zero-hour contracts
The overall membership of trade unions – at 6.9 million – is well below its peak above 13 million in the late 1970s.

“If you think about where young people are working in hospitality or retail care industry, often on temporary or zero-hour contracts, often in franchise organisations that are hard to organise, the model that we have isn't working for them,” Ms O'Grady said.

“We've got to fix it, and we've got a chance, we're in the 21st Century, we can use 21st Century tools like digital to organise young people in new ways that suit them and give them what they need.”

The TUC report revealed that younger people were now more concentrated in lower-paid sectors such as private social care or hotels and restaurants.

A survey of 1,500 young people suggested that a quarter had struggled with living costs and that 41% had put off buying or moving home because of concern about finances.

Just a third believed that their job made the best use of their skills.

“What young people are telling us is that they feel stuck, they're stuck in low-paid insecure employment, they don't know how to get out or get on,” Ms O'Grady said.

“What they really want is an online shop steward, an online coach, who will support them in getting the skills and the opportunities they want to make a life for themselves.”

‘Male, pale and stale'
She admitted the trades union movement needed to do more on diversity.

“I want us to look like modern Britain, a little less of the male, pale and stale and a bit more of the diversity of Britain,” Ms O'Grady said.

“Our leadership looks a lot better than most of the leaderships you would find in the boardroom, or indeed in politics, but that's not good enough for me.

“We've got to look like the people that we aim to represent – including young people.”

By Kamal Ahmed


Trump imposes steel tariffs as trade war looms

( via – – Fri, 1 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Europe, Canada and Mexico are planning retaliatory moves after President Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to the US.

The European Union issued a 10-page list of tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to food products.

It also plans to challenge the move at the World Trade Organization.

Mr Trump claimed the tariffs would protect US steelmakers, which were vital to national security.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Mr Trump to tell him the tariffs were “illegal” – a term echoed by Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament's international trade committee.

The MEP hoped a trade war could be avoided but warned that Mr Trump's action demonstrated the US president was “not willing to stick to the rules”.

Germany's Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, hoped a decisive EU response would make Mr Trump reconsider his decision.

UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the 25% levy on steel was “patently absurd”, adding: “It would be a great pity if we ended up in a tit-for-tat trade dispute with our closest allies.”

Barry Gardiner, the Labour shadow trade secretary, told the BBC's Today programme the US measures were “based on a lie”, adding the UK should not be “bullied by the president … we believe in a rules-based system and Trump doesn't”.

Gareth Stace, head of trade body UK Steel, said the tariffs were “no way to treat your friend” and called on the government to safeguard the industry's 31,000 jobs.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, said the US move was “totally unacceptable” and rejected the claim that his country posed a national security threat to America.

Canada plans to impose tariffs of up to 25% on about $13bn worth of US exports from 1 July. Goods affected will include some American steel, as well as consumer products such as yoghurt, whiskey and coffee.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said his country was planning new duties for imports of steel, pork, apples, grapes, blueberries and cheese from the US.

Opposition to the tariffs was also voiced by prominent Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most influential Republican in Congress, said the move “targets America's allies when we should be working with them to address the unfair trading practices of countries like China”.

What do the US tariffs mean?

Mr Trump first announced plans for the tariffs in March, but granted some exemptions while countries negotiated.

On Thursday, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said talks with the EU, Canada and Mexico had not made enough progress to warrant a further reprieve, meaning tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium have now come into effect.

They apply to items such as plated steel, slabs, coil, rolls of aluminium and tubes – raw materials that are used extensively across US manufacturing, construction and the oil industry.

Mr Ross said the president had the authority to lift the tariffs or alter them at any time, leaving room for “flexibility”.

“We continue to be quite willing and indeed eager to have discussions with all those parties,” he said.

Canada, Mexico and the EU together exported $23bn (£17bn) worth of steel and aluminium to the US in 2017 – nearly half of the $48bn of total steel and aluminium imports last year.

European firms have said they fear lower US demand for foreign steel will divert shipments to Europe.

Analysts at IHS Markit expect the effects to be distributed across a wide range of markets, limiting the effect on steel prices outside the US.

That leaves America to bear the brunt of the economic impact, which economists say will appear in the form of higher prices and job losses – as many as 470,000 by one estimate.

Steel prices in the US have already risen due to the uncertainty and may increase as the tariffs hit imports.

Consumers outside the US could see prices of some goods fall, while those in America may end up paying more.



Hot weather help “Big Four” supermarkets clocked up sales defying downturn


( via – – Wed, 30 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Supermarkets defied a downturn sweeping the retail industry as hot weather, the royal wedding and the FA Cup final encouraged shoppers to splurge on food and drink.

The grocery market grew 2.7pc to £27bn in the 12 weeks to May 20, according to Kantar Worldpanel, as all of the “Big Four” supermarkets clocked up rising sales.

Morrisons did particularly well, outstripping the market with growth of 2.9pc, as it pulled in more than 300,000 extra shoppers in the period.

Asda also managed to hang on to its market share with growth of 2.8pc but Tesco and Sainsbury’s lost ground to fast-growing German discounters Aldi and Lidl despite managing to grow sales by 2.2pc and 1pc respectively.

The figures were buoyed by a hike in prices, as inflation reached 2.1pc in the period.

The May heatwave inspired shoppers to fire up their barbecues, driving a 39pc surge in burger sales and 12pc growth in sausages and the grocers also sold 64pc more sun cream than in the previous year.

Kantar Worldpanel’s Chris Hayward said: “The Friday before the day of the wedding and the FA Cup Final experienced a particularly noticeable spike in sales, with grocers clocking in £415m over the 24 hours.”

The strong performance stands out from the wider retail sector, which has suffered a wave of insolvencies in recent months as shops have struggled with higher costs and lower footfall because more consumers are choosing to shop online.

Separate data from Nielsen said the market grew by 5pc over the last four weeks, with sales of ice cream up 41pc and alcohol up 12pc.

Nielsen’s Mike Watkins said: “We can expect many of the trends we have seen in the last few weeks to continue throughout the summer. The World Cup in June should be another chance to attract more visits and to boost shopper spend.”

By Jack Torrance



Uk retail sales rose by 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending



Tim Tabor/flickr

( via – – Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending after unseasonably cold weather earlier in the year.

Petrol sales surged 4.7% after falling 6.9% in March after widespread snow disruption, official statistics show.

Only department stores reported a decline, with sales volumes down 0.9%.

However, Rob Kent-Smith of the Office for National Statistics said the retail sector remained subdued, with sales in recent months largely unchanged.

“Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Retail sales fell by 1.8% in March and posted their biggest quarterly fall in seven years as the prices of everyday goods continued to rise.

‘Lacklustre' performance
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the April rise reflected a recovery from snow-induced weakness in March, rather than robust spending momentum.

“We continue to expect retail spending to increase only at a glacial rate this year. Consumers' confidence has weakened and savings intentions have picked up,” he said.

“The sharp rise in oil prices to nearly $80 will filter through to petrol pumps over the next three weeks, hitting petrol sales volumes and squeezing the amount of money households have left for discretionary consumption.”

Ben Brettell of Hargreaves Lansdown said the underlying trend for retail sales remained “pretty lacklustre” and the figures were little incentive for the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“Growth is anaemic at best, and retail sales look insipid. But with inflation falling back towards target and real wages finally growing, albeit only slowly, there's little cause for alarm either,” he said.



Royal wedding 2018: Who’s footing the bill?


( via – – Sun, 20 May, 2018) London, Uk – –

From choosing the cake to the flowers and even the chair-covers, anyone who's ever planned a wedding knows it can be eye-wateringly expensive.

But when it comes to royal weddings – with all the VIPs, security and extra extravagance – the bill runs into millions.

So what do we know about the expected cost of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, and how much will the taxpayer be paying towards it?

Security cost

The wedding will be held in Windsor. And crowds in excess of 100,000 people are expected to descend on the town.

Invitations have been sent to 600 guests, with a further 200 invited to the couple's evening reception

On top of that, 1,200 members of the public will attend the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Managing these sorts of numbers requires substantial planning.

And security will almost certainly be the biggest single cost.

The Home Office wouldn't comment when Reality Check contacted it, saying revealing policing costs could compromise “national security”.

Likewise, when we rang Thames Valley Police, it said: “We aren't going to give you any data I'm afraid – even though we know you love numbers.”

However, we do know £6.35m was spent by the Metropolitan Police (ie the taxpayer) on security for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding.

That's based on a Freedom of Information request released to the Press Association.

But it's difficult to draw a direct comparison with Prince Harry and Ms Markle's wedding – the location and guest numbers are different.

Other costs

Kensington Palace hasn't released any details of what it plans to spend on the wedding.

That's not really a surprise given that the official cost of Prince William and Catherine's wedding has never been revealed.

That leaves us with unofficial estimates and as such they need to be treated with some caution., a wedding planning service, says the total cost of the wedding could be £32m – including the cost of security.

It put the cost of the cake at £50,000, the florist at £110,000, the catering at £286,000, and so on and so on.

Reality Check contacted the company's owner, Hamish Shephard, to ask about the methodology used to arrive at the estimate.

He said the £32m figure had been based on the assumption that the Royal Family had paid for everything at market rate.

But in the absence of any official data, this is still guesswork – however well informed.

For example, we don't know if suppliers would offer a substantial discount for the privilege of providing their services for a royal wedding.

Who pays?

The cost of security for the wedding will be met by the taxpayer.

Initially, Thames Valley Police will have to absorb the cost itself.

But the force will be eligible to apply for special grant funding from the Home Office after the event in order to claim back some of the costs.

Special grant funding is a separate pool of money forces can apply for if they have to police events outside their usual remit.

As for the rest of the total, the Royal Family has said it will be paying for the private elements of the wedding.

Every year the Royal Family gets a chunk of money from the annual Sovereign Grant, paid directly by the Treasury.

The grant is calculated on a percentage of the profits from the Crown Estate portfolio, which includes much of London's West End.

This year it's worth £82m.

Some members of the Royal Family benefit from additional income.

For example, Prince Charles gets money from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, a portfolio of land, property and financial investments.

But it's not clear which “pots” the palace will choose to fund the wedding from.

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, and claims the overall cost of the monarchy is far higher than £82m, has submitted a petition against taxpayers' money being spent on the wedding.

By Reality Check team