British consumers buying less, adds to signs the economy is losing momentum – ONS

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 14th Nov 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers, whose spending has helped the economy through the Brexit crisis, cut back on their shopping in October, according to official data that adds to signs the economy is losing momentum.

An unexpected fall in sales in October pushed retail growth over the last three months to its weakest since April 2018, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

The downbeat news follows official figures earlier this week that showed the economy as a whole grew at its weakest annual rate since 2010 in the third quarter of this year, while the number of people in work dropped sharply.

A strong job market and solid consumer spending have helped keep Britain’s economy afloat since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as businesses have cut investment and manufacturers have suffered more recently from the U.S.-China trade conflict.

“These latest ONS figures are symptomatic of the challenges facing the retail sector after a year fraught with uncertainty,” said Lynda Petherick, head of retail at management consultants Accenture.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called an early election for Dec. 12 in an attempt to get a large enough majority to pass Brexit legislation before a new deadline of Jan. 31, something he hopes will restore business confidence.

However, many economists fear that even if he gets his way, the risk of serious disruption to Britain’s trade ties with the European Union will soon be back on the agenda, due to his aim of moving to new trading arrangements by the end of 2020.

The Bank of England warned last week it may need to cut interest rates if global trade conflicts and Brexit uncertainty do not end, and two of its policymakers have already voted to loosen policy.

Thursday’s data showed retail sales volumes unexpectedly fell by 0.1%, and annual sales growth held at 3.1%, bucking average forecasts for a pick-up to 3.7%.

In the three months to October sales rose just 0.2% compared with the previous three months, an 18-month low.

Measures that exclude spending on motor fuel – which some economists think give a truer picture of underlying consumer demand – were weaker still, and fell below all forecasts in Reuters’ poll of economists.

The only retailers to do well in October were department stores, which the ONS said benefited from sales promotions and an earlier introduction of Christmas lines.

Supermarket group Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) said last week that it expected to trade well in the run-up to Christmas but feared a consumer hangover in early 2020 if Brexit was unresolved.

Baby products retailer Mothercare (MTC.L) is set to close its British stores with the loss of at least 2,500 jobs under the weight of the pressures plaguing the retail sector, including online competition.

Reporting by David Milliken and William Schomberg

British Steel set to announce rescue deal with China’s Jingye Group

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 11th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

British Steel is set to announce a rescue deal with China's Jingye Group, which could safeguard up to 4,000 jobs in the UK.

Jingye Group has agreed in principle to buy British Steel for £70m.

It is understood that the government will help in the form of loan guarantees and other financial support.

British Steel has been kept running by the government via the Official Receiver since May, when the company went into liquidation.

As well as employing 4,000 people at its Scunthorpe and Teesside sites, British Steel supports an additional 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Another 1,000 jobs are based in France and the Netherlands – those are included in the deal too.

It is expected that an agreement will be signed, but that the company will continue to be run by the Official Receiver for at least a month before being transferred.

Why is this news so important?

Gareth Stace, director general of industry lobby group UK Steel, told BBC Radio 4's Today that the business being bought was a “significant asset to our country” as it makes up a third of UK steel production, mostly from Scunthorpe.

He said that there was a need for “very significant investment” in the Scunthorpe works and that was why the expected announcement from Jingye was “really welcome”.

“Jingye are looking to make significant investment, are in for the longer term and therefore it isn't about keeping this site going for a year or two or a couple of years. To me, what I understand about the company, it's about looking to the future, so we're not going to be back in here in three years, five years, in 10 years' time.”

The firm had previously been in rescue talks with Ataer, which is a subsidiary of Turkey's state military retirement scheme Oyak.

What is in it for Jingye?

Analysis: By Dominic O'Connell

What does a steel maker from Hebei province, south-west of Beijing, see in a struggling plant in Scunthorpe? It is difficult to know, particularly when we know so little about the buyer of British Steel, Jingye Group.

There is little publicly available information – certainly no set of accounts – but the organisation's Facebook page extols its rapid rise to become a big player in steel in just 20 years.

In the process, it has “laid an extraordinary road of development with wisdom and perspiration”, the voiceover of one of promotional video says, with ranks of identically overalled workers smiling on the steps of its rather grand headquarters.

On the face of it, the Chinese buyer will be interested in the products that British Steel makes that it does not. British Steel is a specialist in railway tracks, “long products”, a catch-all term for girders used in construction, and the high-quality steel wire used in car tyres and dozens of other industrial applications.

Jingye does not appear to make the first two, so the purchase of British Steel should bring it some valuable technology and new product lines. That plus has to be set against the need for investment at Scunthorpe; if, as reported, Jingye wants to increase production, blast furnaces and coke ovens will have to be refurbished at a price tag estimated at £500m.

What British Steel workers will fervently hope is that the Jingye commitment is long-term and that this is not another false dawn.

Presentational grey line

According to Mr Stace, British Steel's output complements Jingye. He says both British Steel and Jingye make wire rods, but there is one crucial difference.

“Actually British Steel makes rail, high-quality rail and heavy sections, ie girders, which Jingye doesn't make. [So it] not only increases the amount of different products that Jingye could make but also, much more importantly, secures a foothold in the UK.”

Will British Steel now turn the corner?

Mr Stace said he believed the steel industry in the UK could now compete globally and he was publishing a manifesto with ideas for change.

“But the problem we have is we have a uncompetitive business landscape in the UK. government can change that,” he added.

“I'm talking about energy costs, business rates, procurement – the government buying more steel from the UK – free and fair trade, and even much more support for R&D [research and development], which we are going to lose when we fall out of the EU.”

He said: “What government needs to do is give us that business landscape. We can thrive on the global market and generate highly paid, highly skilled jobs for the UK economy.”

What happens now?

It is expected that the employees will be briefed on the latest developments this morning as they come to work. A formal announcement is due later on Monday morning or early afternoon.

In the long term, it is believed that while Jingye Group has promised to increase production, it has also warned costs may need to be cut.

The Chinese group is reportedly aiming to increase production at Scunthorpe from 2.5 million tonnes per year to more than three million.

Jingye's chairman, Li Ganpo, recently visited British Steel's sites and met Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin and Andrew Percy, representative for the Brigg and Goole constituency.

Mr Percy told the Grimsby Telegraph he had been given assurances over the company's future.

What are trade unions saying?

Community, a UK trade union which absorbed the old Iron & Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) body, said: “If this is confirmed, then we welcome this positive step towards securing British Steel under new ownership,

“The fact that there has been ongoing interest from both Ataer and now Jingye rightly demonstrates that potential buyers believe that British Steel can have a sustainable future.”

Meanwhile, Ross Murdoch, national officer for the GMB union, said: “On the face of it, we cautiously welcome this sale, which finally provides some light at the end of the tunnel for 4,000 British Steel workers.

“GMB also met with Chairman Li and his senior team in Scunthorpe on 30 October. We were impressed with the passion and enthusiasm from the Jingye team.

“However, due diligence on this sale was completed very quickly and the devil will be in the detail.”

The UK industry has been struggling for a number of years amid claims that China has been flooding the market with cheap steel. In 2016 the EU imposed tariffs of up to 73.7% on Chinese steel after an influx of cheap imports from Asia forced European manufacturers to cut jobs and lower prices.

Who is Jingye Group?

Jingye has 23,500 employees and as well as its main steel and iron making businesses, but also engages in tourism, hotels and real estate.

It has total registered assets of 39bn yuan (£4.4bn). According to its website, Jingye Group ranked 217th among the top 500 enterprises in China in 2019.

The firm sells its products nationwide and exports them to more than 80 countries and regions.

Jingye's products have been used in major projects such as Beijing Daxing International Airport and the underground system in Shijiazhuang.

Royal Mail seeking High Court injunction to stop Xmas postal strike

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 8th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Royal Mail is seeking a High Court injunction to stop a postal strike, claiming that the ballot of workers had “potential irregularities”.

The company said it would make a formal application on Friday that the strike ballot “was unlawful and, therefore, null and void”.

A strike threatens to disrupt postal voting in the run-up to the general election as well as Christmas post.

The Communications Workers Union says it “refutes” Royal Mail's claim.

The ballot of 100,000 Royal Mail staff was held over job security and terms. No dates for a strike have yet been set.

Members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) last month voted by 97% in favour of a nationwide strike, saying the company had failed to adhere to an employment deal agreed last year. Royal Mail rejects this, which is why there are no grounds for industrial action, it says.

In the company's statement on Friday, Royal Mail said it had evidence of CWU members coming under pressure to vote “yes” in the ballot.

This included, the company claimed, union members “being encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them as ‘yes', with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them doing so, before posting their ballots together at their workplace postboxes”.

Royal Mail's procedures state employees cannot open their mail at delivery offices without the prior authorisation of their manager.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “It will be clear to all our members and everybody connected with Royal Mail and this dispute, that the chief executive and his board will go to any lengths to deny the democratic mandate of our members to stand together and fight for their future and the very future of UK postal services.”

He said the CWU had made it clear to Royal Mail that it was willing to talk, including through this weekend.

A High Court hearing into Royal Mail's application for the injunction is expected to be heard early next week.

Royal Mail has previously told the union that if it removed the threat of industrial action for the rest of 2019, the company would enter talks without preconditions. But the CWU called Royal Mail's offer a “stunt” which the union would not fall for.

Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with frequent unofficial strikes breaking out.

The CWU has said the result of the ballot, held between 24 September and 15 October, represents the largest “yes” vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.

The union claims that up to 50,000 jobs are at risk at Royal Mail and Parcelforce, under plans to separate Parcelforce from the postal business. Shane O'Riordain, Royal Mail's managing director of regulation and corporate affairs, described this as “unfounded speculation”

London’s Crossrail project delayed until 2021 as costs increase

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 8th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The opening of London's Crossrail project will be delayed until 2021 as Europe's biggest infrastructure scheme is set to go another £650m over budget.

The route, to be known as the Elizabeth Line, was originally due to open in December 2018.

Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said services would be delayed to allow time for more testing.

He also said the cost of the project could reach £18.25bn, an increase of £650m on the previously agreed total.

The budget was originally set at £15.9bn for the scheme, which will connect major landmarks such as Heathrow Airport and the Canary Wharf business district.

However, Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Government and Transport for London (TfL) had since agreed a figure of £17.6bn.

Bosses said in April that services would begin between October 2020 and March 2021.

Announcing the latest delay, Mr Wild insisted services would begin “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.

He added: “The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.

“We will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open early in 2020.”

The delay will allow more time to complete software development and allow safety systems to be tested.

Analysis

Tom Edwards, BBC London Transport Correspondent

Just weeks ago I spoke to businesses up and down the Crossrail line and there was very little confidence with anything they were being told by the company.

Well they were right. We are getting a drip drip of delay and uncertainty.

Crossrail's hopeful “opening window” of between Oct 2020 and March 2021 just got slammed shut. Now it'll open “as soon as possible in 2021”.

This has gone beyond embarrassing into the ridiculous.

And then there's the extra cost. I suspect that will again come from London businesses through the precept, which was meant to be earmarked for other transport projects like the second phase of Crossrail.

Yes, this will be an incredible project when it's finished. But at the moment businesses will despair.

The line will make use of some existing track, but involves 26 miles of new tunnels connecting Paddington and Liverpool Street stations to improve rail capacity crossing the capital.

Mr Khan said he was “deeply frustrated” by the new delay.

A spokesman for the Mayor said “Further work is taking place immediately to assess Crossrail's latest cost estimates.

“TfL and the Department for Transport, as joint sponsors, will continue to hold the Crossrail leadership to account to ensure it is doing everything it can to open Crossrail safely and as soon as possible.”

An estimated 200 million passengers will use the new underground line annually, increasing central London rail capacity by 10% – the largest increase since World War Two.

Crossrail says the new line will connect Paddington to Canary Wharf in 17 minutes.

In May, Crossrail was criticised by the National Audit Office for running late and over budget, suggesting that bosses had clung to an unrealistic opening date.

‘No shortcuts'

A TfL spokesman called the delay “disappointing”.

In a statement TfL said: “It is only over the last year that the new Crossrail leadership has established the full complexity of finishing the software development and signalling systems, while getting the necessary safety approvals to complete the railway.

“Full testing is due to get underway next year and there can be no shortcuts on this hugely complex project.”

Uk business minister Nadhim Zahawi welcomes Spirit AeroSystems’ purchase of Bombardier’s Belfast site

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 31st Oct, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British business minister Nadhim Zahawi on Thursday welcomed Spirit AeroSystems’ (SPR.N) purchase of Bombardier’s (BBDb.TO) plant in Belfast as great news for workers and a welcome investment in the United Kingdom.

Canada’s Bombardier said on Thursday it had agreed to sell its aerostructures business to Spirit for more than $700 million in cash and debt, including the Short Brothers Belfast plant which is the largest high-tech manufacturer in Northern Ireland with a workforce of around 3,500.

“I’m pleased that Spirit AeroSystems is boosting its investment in the UK,” Zahawi said in a statement.

“This will be great news for Short Brothers and its highly skilled and dedicated workforce, at one of the most important aerospace facilities in the country. I look forward to seeing this successful and ambitious business continue to go from strength to strength.”

Reporting by Kate Holton

UK house prices have registered their lowest October rise since the 2008 financial crisis

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 21st Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Rightmove says sluggish market and Brexit uncertainty are putting potential sellers off

UK house prices have registered their lowest October rise since the 2008 financial crisis as Brexit uncertainty continues to take its toll, according to the property website Rightmove.

Its data also showed that some parts of London are continuing to see asking prices fall, in some cases by £15,000 or more in a month.

The price of property coming to market at this time of year usually experiences an “autumn bounce,” with an average rise of 1.6% recorded in the month of October over the last 10 years – but this year saw a “more sluggish” monthly rise of 0.6%, which was the lowest since October 2008.

The current state of the housing market combined with the ongoing political uncertainty from Brexit appears to be putting off many would-be sellers. Rightmove’s average number of new house sale listings per week has fallen to just over 24,000 – its lowest at this time of year since October 2009. This is down 13.5% on the same period a year ago.

By contrast, many buyers “seem undeterred”, with the number of sales being agreed virtually unchanged on a year ago, according to the site, whose latest data was based on the asking prices of more than 122,000 properties put on sale between 8 September and 12 October.

Miles Shipside, a Rightmove director, said: “With upwards pricing power now pretty flat, some sellers who are motivated by maximising their money seem to be holding back. They may be waiting for more certainty around both achieving their price aspirations, and also the Brexit outcome.”

Marc von Grundherr, at the estate agent Benham & Reeves, said that while the sector was more subdued than usual, “the UK property market is yet to disappear down the Brexit abyss”.

Rightmove’s detailed data paints a mixed picture for London, with some boroughs seeing sizeable price falls and others experiencing price growth.

The average price of a home in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, has fallen by more than £17,000 in a month – from £605,000 in September to £587,000 in October. Wandsworth in south London recorded a typical £16,000 price fall. But in other boroughs, including Britain’s most expensive area, Kensington and Chelsea, average prices continued to climb.

By Rupert Jones

Employment sharpest decline blamed on Brexit jitters

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 15th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Economists and business groups say the latest employment figures betray growing Brexit nerves among UK employers.

The number of people in work suffered its sharpest decline for more than four years in the three months to August, according to official figures.

Economists and business groups pointed to Brexit uncertainty, coupled with the US-China trade war-led global slowdown, for the drop.

The decline, which is the largest since May 2015, was led by falling numbers of people aged under 25 not in work.

It was among several more downbeat pieces of news for the UK jobs market that has been largely resilient since the vote to leave the EU in 2016 with employment levels hitting record levels this year.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed employment falling by 56,000 to 32.69 million over the three months.

The jobless total rose – from a 45-year low last month – by 22,000 to 1.31 million. That helped push the unemployment rate up slightly to 3.9%.

There was also weaker wage growth, the ONS said, with total pay excluding bonuses slowing to a rate of 3.8% from 3.9%.

ONS deputy head of labour market statistics, Matt Hughes, said of the figures: “The employment rate is still rising year-on-year, but this growth has cooled noticeably in recent months.

“Among the under-25s, the employment rate has actually started to fall on the year.

“Pay growth continues to outstrip inflation, as it has done for over eighteen months now.”

Separate official data has suggested that the economy, while enduring a slowdown, will avoid recession this year as growth picked up in the third quarter following a contraction between April and June.

Strong employment and household spending power – a consequence of wages rising faster than prices – usually bodes well for the economy.

But surveys have shown growing nerves about the Brexit outcome among both consumers and businesses.

Earlier this month, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that employers were delaying or cancelling hiring plans amid continued Brexit uncertainty.

Its director of policy, Tom Hadley, said of the ONS data: “Our prosperity depends on businesses creating jobs and opportunities for people to progress through work.

“Employment is still high, underlining the fundamental resilience of our jobs market. However, today's figures flag some warning signs as Brexit uncertainty bites.”

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “The disappointing numbers are not a blip but the consequence of a steady deteriorating trend seen over the course of 2019 so far.

“What's more, the business surveys indicate that the job market continued to weaken in September, hinting that the rate of job losses likely accelerated.”

Chancellor Sajid Javid Sets Date for Budget

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 14th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

The Budget has been announced for 6 November, with Chancellor Sajid Javid saying it will be “the first budget after leaving the EU”.

“This is the right and responsible thing to do – we must get on with governing,” he said.

It will be Mr Javid's first Budget since he became chancellor in July.

The Budget date is normally announced in September. Mr Javid said the Budget would detail the government's plans to “shape the economy for the future”.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the full Budget would be delayed and the 6 November announcement would be “a simple economic statement”.

Understand if there is No deal, then Budget will be delayed for several weeks – and Nov 6 will just be an economic statement.

The government's independent financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which produces economic forecasts for the Budget would normally get ten weeks notice to prepare.

The OBR said it was able to prepare some information in advance, but that its forecasts would be based on the UK securing a Brexit deal.

It said since the EU referendum, its forecasts had been based on “broad brush assumptions for a relatively smooth [Brexit] outcome”. The OBR said that approach would continue “in the absence of any specific information”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he expected the Budget to be “an electioneering stunt rather than a Budget to rebuild our stalling economy and reset the direction of our country”.

The Budget is the government's yearly announcement on its plans for tax and spending for the coming financial year, which starts in April 2020.

There are expectations that the chancellor could relax the government's borrowing rules to give him more spending power.

The rules state that borrowing should remain below 2% of national income, at about £46bn.

Mr Javid has already suggested he is prepared to borrow more to take advantage of current record-low borrowing costs, and has previously said he plans to review the borrowing rules.

In August's spending review, Mr Javid declared the government had “turned the page on austerity, announcing its largest increase in spending for 15 years.

Analysis: Faisal Islam


Naming the date of a Budget is a sign from the chancellor to communicate that at least some Treasury business continues as normal.

But there is nothing routine about a government yet to win a vote in the Commons, trying to pass a Budget.

In theory there will be measures to boost infrastructure, spending and some taxes.

But if there is a no-deal Brexit, the Treasury will instead turn its focus on giving immediate support to the economy, businesses and households.

So, in that case, there would be a delay to the Budget.

In a no-deal scenario, there might be some extra scope for a cut to VAT which could be part of a general fiscal stimulus package for the economy.

Whatever happens, a new set of Budget numbers and economic forecasts is being prepared by the government's independent financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility. The Bank of England too will be preparing its new forecasts for the 7 November Inflation Report, and any implications for interest rates.

The Treasury will also reveal its new self-imposed constraints on borrowing – “fiscal rules”- designed to help create more space for spending and tax cuts.

And if there is a Budget a week after a Brexit deal has passed the Commons, there could be a chance that the government could get support for its fiscal measures too.

Or rather it could be part of the pathway to a general election next month.

The Pound had its biggest two-day rally against the dollar as hopes of Brexit deal rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 11th Oct, 2019) London, Uk – –

Sharpest rise in sterling’s value since EU referendum follows Boris Johnson-Leo Varadkar meeting

The pound had its biggest two-day rally against the dollar since the Brexit vote as hopes rose that a deal could be struck before the deadline later this month.

Sterling climbed to the highest level in three months against the US currency, briefly hitting $1.27, amid mounting optimism in the City, after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said talks could progress to the next phase.

The pound has risen four cents against the dollar since Thursday, when Boris Johnson and the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, agreed there was a “pathway to a possible Brexit deal”. That is the sharpest two-day rise in the pound since the EU referendum more than three years ago.

While several pitfalls remain, the pound also hit a near five-month high against the euro of €1.1465.

Oliver Harvey, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, said: “We cannot recall a time during the Brexit process of the last year at which the Irish government raised expectations to this extent.”

The surge in the pound on Friday pushed it back above $1.26 for the first time since Boris Johnson became leader of the Conservative party.

Dean Turner, economist at the Swiss bank UBS, said a Brexit extension and general election was still probably the most likely outcome. He said the pound would trade between $1.25-$1.29 under such a scenario, but could soar to $1.35 if an eleventh-hour deal was struck, or tumble should talks break down.

“The news will have cheered sterling investors, but we recommend they remain nimble with much still uncertain as the sand in the Brexit hourglass continues to run down,” he said.

The pound still remains heavily down from its level before the Brexit vote, by around 15%, in a reflection of the lingering risks posed by leaving the EU and the broader weakness in the UK and global economy.

Shares in UK-focused companies also surged on Friday, on hopes that a disorderly Brexit could be avoided.

Bank shares led the rally, with Lloyds Banking Group jumping 12% and Royal Bank of Scotland up 11.4%. Housebuilders also posted sizeable gains, with Persimmon closing 10.8% higher. Holiday firm Tui, high street chain Next and DIY chain Kingfisher all closed around 9% higher.

“The optimism surrounding Brexit has given British banks a boost as UK government bond yields have ticked up, bank’s lending margins usually improve in an environment of higher bond yields, hence why RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBS are higher today,” explained David Madden of CMC markets.

“The fear of a disorderly Brexit has been hanging over the property sector,” he added.

The domestically focused FTSE index, which contains many medium-sized UK firms, surged by 4.2% on Friday, its biggest one-day jump since May 2010.

By Richard Partington and Graeme Wearden

Facebook’s UK arm under fire over ‘outrageous’ UK tax bill

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 11th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Facebook's UK arm paid £28.5m in tax in 2018 as revenues hit a record £1.65bn on the back of strong advertising growth.

The social media firms's latest UK accounts show that profits last year jumped by 54% to £96.6m.

Facebook's total tax charge on those profits almost doubled to £30.4m, but was reduced due to adjustments.

Tax campaigner and MP Margaret Hodge said such a low bill was “outrageous”, but Facebook said it pays what it owes.

Gross revenues from advertising and other activities rose 30% in 2018, a year when the Cambridge Analytica affair was at its height and the company was facing heavy criticism.

The UK division spent £356m on research, development and engineering in the UK last year, the accounts filed at Companies House showed.

Steve Hatch, the company's vice president for Northern Europe, said: “The UK is now one of Facebook's most important hubs for global innovation. We continue to grow and invest heavily in the UK and by the end of the year we'll employ 3,000 people here.

“Businesses across the country use our platforms to grow and revenue from customers supported by our UK teams is now recorded here so that any taxable profit is subject to UK corporation tax.”

Facebook said it complies with tax laws in all jurisdictions and pays what is legally due.

But Ms Hodge, a former chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, and who now leads an all-party parliamentary group looking into the tax system, tweeted that it was “still outrageous” that big tech firms were not paying their fair share into society.

Last month, Amazon came under fire for paying £14.7m in UK corporation tax last year, despite reporting sales of £2.3bn. Google has faced similar criticism.

Earlier this week, the Organisation for Economic and Development (OECD), proposed tax changes aimed at making global firms pay more tax.

The proposals would give governments more power specifically to tax big technology firms such as Apple, Facebook and Google.

Companies that do business in more than one country have long been a challenge for tax authorities, because they can structure their business in a way that minimises their tax bills.

The OECD's proposal includes new rules on where tax should be paid and on the proportion of their profits that should be taxed in each country.

UK budget deficit likely to double to 100 billion pounds in No-deal Brexit – IFS

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 8th Oct, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s budget deficit is likely to more than double to around 100 billion pounds if the country leaves the European Union without a deal, quickly requiring a return to austerity, a leading think-tank said on Tuesday.

Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is determined to do so despite parliament ordering him to seek a delay if he cannot negotiate an acceptable transition agreement before then.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted borrowing would rise to 92 billion pounds – equivalent to 4% of national income – by 2021/22 under a “relatively benign” no-deal Brexit scenario, in which there are no major delays at borders.

Even then, the economy would still enter recession in 2020, the IFS said in an annual assessment of the public finances.

If the government undertook enough fiscal stimulus to stop the economy contracting – roughly 23 billion pounds of extra spending in 2020 and 2021 – annual borrowing would peak at 102 billion pounds

“A no-deal Brexit would likely require a fiscal short-term stimulus followed by a swift return to austerity,” IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said.

In the 2018/19 financial year Britain’s budget deficit was 41 billion pounds or 1.9% of GDP, its lowest since 2001/02, following years of efforts to reduce the deficit from a peak of 10.2% during the depths of the financial crisis in 2009/10.

In the longer term, a no-deal Brexit would mean less money to spend on public services – or higher tax rates – than staying in the EU or leaving with a deal, the IFS said.

Even without Brexit, Britain was likely to have to raise tax rates to fund the cost of pensions and public healthcare for an ageing population, it said.

Finance minister Sajid Javid announced 13.4 billion pounds of extra spending on health, policing, schools and other areas last month – putting borrowing on course to overshoot a cap of 2% of GDP targeted by his predecessor, Philip Hammond.

“The outlook for borrowing has worsened dramatically since March,” Emmerson said.

Javid is due to set out fresh borrowing plans an annual budget before the end of 2019, possibly before an early election as Johnson seeks to regain a working majority in parliament.

The IFS said the government’s budget targets had lost credibility and it was now set to spend almost as much on day-to-day public services as planned by the opposition Labour Party before an election in 2017, promises which drew criticism from the ruling Conservative Party.

It also said the government should wait until the outlook for Brexit was clearer before setting long-term budget goals, and avoid income tax cuts of the type that Johnson suggested when he campaigned to become Conservative leader.

Reporting by David Milliken

UK jobs via agencies fell at the fastest pace in more than three years in August -recruiters’ survey

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 6th Sept 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of workers hired for permanent jobs via recruitment agencies in Britain fell at the fastest pace in more than three years in August as the Brexit crisis deepened, a survey showed on Friday.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG said hiring of temporary workers rose but remained close to its slowest pace in 75 months while permanent placements fell for the sixth month in a row as employers postponed hiring.

“Brexit uncertainty continues to take its toll on the jobs market,” James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG, said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took office in July, has said he will take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a transition deal to smooth the economic shock, unless Brussels gives in to his demands for concessions.

But this week, lawmakers rushed to approve a bill which would require Johnson to ask for an extension of the Brexit deadline, prompting him to demand an early election.

“The first priority should be avoiding a damaging no-deal Brexit and giving some stability back to British businesses, so they can drive the prosperity of the whole country,” REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry said.

August saw the smallest increase in job vacancies since January 2012, the survey showed.

Starting salaries of permanent staff rose at the weakest pace since December 2016 as a squeeze on candidates eased – the availability of staff fell at the most moderate pace for over two-and-a-half years.

Britain’s labour market has strengthened since the Brexit referendum in 2016, bringing unemployment down to its lowest rate in more than 40 years and pushing up pay. The Bank of England is watching pay growth closely as it tries to work out what to do next with interest rates.

Reporting by Makenzie Katz

Bank of England: The negative impact of a no-deal Brexit not as severe as originally thought

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 5th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

The Bank of England updates analysis on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on the economy as Mark Carney goes before MPs.

The negative impact of a no-deal Brexit will not be as severe as originally thought because of improved planning by the government, businesses and the financial sector, the Bank of England has said.

Governor Mark Carney told the Treasury select committee that the Bank now believes GDP will fall by 5.5% in the worst-case scenario following a no-deal Brexit – less than the 8% contraction it predicted in last November.

The Bank's revised assessment of the possible scenarios also says unemployment could increase by 7% and inflation may peak at 5.25% if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

While he warned that there would still be an economic impact, with food bills likely to rise, Mr Carney said preparations for no-deal since the end of last year had informed the improved picture.

These include work undertaken at Dover and Calais to reduce disruption to cross-Channel trade, the government's proposed tariff regime, and work to reduce disruption in the financial markets.

In a letter to the committee, Mr Carney said: “Advancements In preparations for a No Deal No Transition scenario mean that the Bank's assessment of a worst case No Deal No Transition scenarios has become less severe.”

Giving evidence to the committee, he said that while risks of economic disruption remain, the work undertaken to reduce delays at Dover and Calais had been significant.

These include the automatic registration of UK companies to trade with the EU, simplified customs procedures and a temporary waiver on security checks at the border.

The government's own assessment of disruption, set out in the Operation Yellowhammer documents leaked last month, is that between 40% and 60% of freight trade will be disrupted, less than the 75% previously predicted.

Mr Carney said the Bank's forecast was based on less than half of freight being disrupted, with every 5% of freight traffic processed equating to about 0.25% of GDP.

The announcement of a no-deal tariff regime that would see 87% of imports by value eligible for a tariff-free increase, and work to reduce disruption to UK and European derivative markets, has also improved the worst-case scenario.

Mr Carney said: “There's real progress on the ground, there's real progress in the financial system and that has some positive knock on effect on confidence on financial markets as a whole. All of that adds up to 2.5% to 3% of GDP that we would not otherwise lose.”

“It is likely that food bills will rise in the event of a no-deal Brexit, that is almost exclusively because of the exchange rate impact. Movements are quickly translated onto the shop shelf, and domestic prices, imperfect substitutes, also increase. That impact has lessened because of the new tariff regime the government has put in place.”

By Paul Kelso

Chancellor Sajid Javid set to unveil government spending plans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 4th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Sajid Javid is set to unveil the government's spending plans for the coming year on Wednesday.

The statement will set departmental budgets for just one year rather than the usual three years, due to uncertainty over the impact of Brexit.

Mr Javid will announce a further £2bn of Brexit funding for the government, as well as confirm additional funds for health, schools and the police.

The extra spending will be funded by borrowing rather than tax rises.

Independent think-tank the Institute for Government (IFG) says the government is likely to favour vote-winning measures ahead of a “potentially imminent” election.

But it argues the government should be prioritising other areas of spending, such as social care and prisons which it says are the services most in need of extra money.

Here we look at each of the public services, and which needs the most funding, according to the IFG's report.

It has graded services, according to need based on which are able to keep up with demand: amber for some concerns and red for significant concerns.

Health

What has already been announced? Theresa May's government announced that annual funding would rise by £20 billion by 2023. Boris Johnson also announced a one-off injection of £1.8bn, but not all of that is agreed to be new money.

Spending on hospitals and GP services in England has risen since 2009-10, although more slowly than in the past.

IFG estimates suggest that the workload of GPs has risen faster than spending, meaning they have had to do more for less.

Despite practices increasing the number of telephone consultations and pooling resources, patients have been waiting longer for appointments.

This suggests that GPs, despite becoming more efficient, have not been able to keep up with demand.

However, the amount of work hospitals do has risen faster.

While hospitals have made efficiencies, hospitals have not been able to keep pace with the growing cost and demand for care, according to the IFG.

The result has been financial deficits and longer waiting times for treatment.

Analysis: By Nick Tiggle

The frontline of the NHS knows what its budget is until 2023-24: it was given a five-year settlement last summer.

The rises, an average of 3.4% a year, are generous compared to what the rest of the public sector can expect and reflect the fact the health service is constantly among the top priorities for voters and facing rising demand from the ageing population.

But there are still question marks around more than £13bn of funding that goes to things like staff training, buildings and healthy lifestyle initiatives, such as stop smoking.

Schools

What has already been announced? The government has announced that funding will rise by £2.6bn in 2020-21, £4.8bn in 2021-22 and £7.1bn in 2022-23.

Schools in England have not faced the same financial pressures as many other public services, according to the IFG.

However, after a rise in spending per pupil in most years since 2009-10, since 2014-15 the growth in pupil numbers has outpaced spending growth, meaning the per-pupil spending has fallen in both primary and secondary schools.

On top of this, schools have increasingly been paying for services that would have been previously provided by local authorities – such as educational psychology and extra support for special educational needs – following cuts to local authority budgets.

There are also signs that this increased workload is putting pressure on the workforce, with schools finding it harder to recruit and retain teachers, the IFG says.

But overall, schools have become more productive, it adds, with more pupils per teacher and pupil attainment increasing – particularly in primary schools.

Analysis: By Branwen Jeffreys

School funding in England had become a political headache and vote loser for the government, with both headteachers and parents campaigning. Rising costs such as national insurance and teachers pensions, as well as running costs such as utility bills, have contributed to an 8% real terms reduction in money spent in schools since 2010.

The extra money promised for 5-to-16 year-olds' education will almost reverse that squeeze by 2023. But that leaves financial pressures in England in other areas such as early years, and despite some extra cash for colleges educating 16-19 year-olds, an historic legacy under many governments of relative underfunding of further education.

Police

What has already been announced? The government has promised 20,000 extra police officers over three years at a likely cost of £0.5 billion next year but has not yet confirmed how this will be funded.

Spending on the police in England and Wales has fallen sharply since 2009-10, says the IFG.

The number of police officers has also declined, with total police reserves now 9% lower in real terms than they were in 2009-10.

“Victim-reported crime has fallen over this period, but police-recorded crime has increased,” the IFG says.

“Overall police performance – as judged by inspection reports – has improved, although other indicators – such as public confidence in the police and the length of time taken to bring charges – have deteriorated.

“There is evidence that the police are struggling to maintain performance with current levels of spending.”

Analysis: By Dominic Casciani

The strength of policing reached a record high at the end of the Labour government that left office in 2010 – and then fell back by 21,000 as older officers left and cuts restricted recruitment.

The prime minister's pledge to re-recruit 20,000 officers in the coming three years is a huge task, because natural loss means forces may need to recruit more than double that number to hit the target.

Prisons

What has already been announced? £0.1 billion pledged to boost security; promise of 10,000 extra prison places, but funding arrangements unclear

Prisons have experienced large spending cuts and a reduction in staff numbers since 2009-10.

This means prison safety has declined dramatically since 2012-13, according to the IFG.

Violence has risen and prisoners are less likely to have access to learning and development activities.

The 2016 Autumn Statement saw an injection of extra cash to tackle these safety issues and spending has risen again recently.

As a result, staff numbers are starting to rise again.

The IFG hailed a pilot programme to curb violence and drug use in 10 prisons, undertaken last year by the then Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart.

“This was largely successful, but replicating it across the whole prison system will require extra spending in every future year,” the IFG says.

Analysis: Dominic Casciani

The Ministry of Justice was one of the first big spending departments to settle with the Treasury in 2010, when the then Chancellor, George Osborne, demanded major cuts to public spending. Today, it has 25% fewer staff than back then.

The departure of experienced prison officers under the cuts coincided with a rise in smuggling of new psychoactive drugs into jails, leading to an increase in violence that the remaining prison officers struggled to control.

Adult social care

What has already been announced? In a Sunday Times interview, Boris Johnson said he would give councils £1bn for adult social care, but no formal announcement has yet been made.

Spending on adult social care in England fell between 2010-11 and 2014-15, but has since seen a rise.

The number of adults receiving publicly funded care packages has decreased, according to the IFG, even though an ageing population would suggest that demand is increasing.

Local authorities, responsible for providing adult social care, have driven down the price of care commissioned from private and voluntary sector providers following cuts to funding.

However, this has not enabled them to meet demand, the IFG says, and unpaid care – such as by family, friends or neighbours – has partially filled the gap.

In his first speech from Downing Street, Boris Johnson promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.

However, the IFG says there are no signs that plans to do so will be unveiled in the Spending Review.

Analysis: By Nick Tiggle

Not only has adult social care lost out in terms of funding, the long-awaited reform of the system has also been dodged.

Care services for the elderly and disabled simply do not have the profile of the NHS, although that is beginning to change a little as the problems worsen. But the challenge remains what to do about money.

Only the poorest and neediest get support from the state. But that means four-fifths of older people who need care go without, rely on family and friends or pay for it themselves.

Each of the areas covered by the IFG's report are devolved: the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland run their own services.

So announcements on Wednesday will effect England (or England and Wales for policing and justice).

The devolved governments will receive extra money proportionate to the increases in spending, but they will decide how that money is spent.

Since 2010, the Westminster parliament has increased health spending faster and cut education and local government spending faster than the devolved governments.


No-deal Brexit ‘could hit house prices’ – KPMG

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 2nd Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

UK house prices could drop by 6.2% next year if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October, according to accountants KPMG.

However, if a deal is reached, KPMG predicts that house prices will rise by 1.3%.

London will probably see a fall in prices with or without an exit deal this year and next, it said, with sharper declines if no deal is reached.

However, the low supply of new housing stock could prop up prices over time.

“Overall, while a no-deal Brexit could dent property values in the short term, it may make less impact on one of the fundamental factors driving the market: the stock of regional housing,” said the report.

“Housebuilders are expected to reduce the supply of new housing in some regions in the short term as a response to a deteriorating economic outlook.

“So, while there will be fallout from the initial economic shock following a no-deal Brexit, the market is expected to recover most ground in the long run,” it said, assuming the economy recovers.

With the housing market hard to predict, KPMG said prices could drop in a no-deal scenario by as much as 10-20%.

“Transactions volumes will likely fall much more than prices – making government housing delivery targets impossible to achieve and slowing new building across the sector,” said Jan Crosby, UK head of housing at KPMG.

Assuming no agreement is reached, KPMG says Northern Ireland will be the hardest hit next year, with average price declines of 7.5%, followed by London at 7%. The least-hit will be Wales and the East Midlands, with 5.4% declines apiece.

This year, most regions will see changes of less than 2%, KPMG says, with the exception of London, down 4.8%, and Northern Ireland, down 2.2%.

If a deal is struck, prices in London and Northern Ireland are still predicted to fall this year, by 4.7% and 1.2%, while most other regions will be largely unchanged. Scotland and the North West will see gains of 1.4% and 1.6%.

And next year, all regions will gain aside from London's predicted 0.2% slide. The average increase will be 1.3%.

KPMG noted that the UK housing market is healthier than it was at the time of the last housing crash – when prices fell by 15% in 2008. House prices are lower as a percentage of earnings in most regions outside London and the South East.

In addition, compared with the aftermath of the 1991 recession – when housing prices dropped 20% over about four years – mortgages are much cheaper. Back then, the Bank of England's base rate was about 14%.

UK’s reliance on electricity imports climbs to a record high

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 2nd Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Reliance on European power would bring extra costs after no-deal Brexit, say experts

The UK’s reliance on electricity imports has climbed to a record high amid fears that homes and businesses could face higher energy bills if the UK crashes out of Europe.

The latest government figures, released just weeks before Britain’s exit from the EU, show that the UK’s net electricity imports reached their highest ever level in the first quarter of this year.

The four high-voltage power cables linking the UK to Europe’s energy markets imported a sixth more electricity than the year before, after a new interconnector opened in January.

In total, European electricity imports made up almost 7% of the UK’s total demand, and the government hopes to increase imports to about 20% by 2025.Advertisement

Although this is a small share of the UK’s electricity, experts have warned that higher import prices could lead to higher energy bills.

The government’s leaked no-deal planning report, Operation Yellowhammer,predicted a marked increase in energy prices for homes and businesses if the UK crashes out without a deal.

The market price for electricity could climb because of a fall in the value of the pound against the euro, but also because of potentially costly complications of severing ties with EU energy markets.

Gas and electricity bills rose by £2bn in the year after the 2016 referendum result because of the plummeting value of the pound, according to a report from University College London.

This translated into an average household’s bill increasing by £35 for electricity and £40 for gas, and researchers predicted bills would climb by a further £61 every year in the years following the referendum.

A report commissioned by National Grid before the referendum predicted that energy bills could climb by £500m every year by the 2020s if the UK left the EU’s internal energy market.

Kristian Ruby, the head of pan-European trade association Eurelectric, said a no-deal exit could mean the UK faces third-party costs to use the power lines connecting Britain to European power markets, which would raise the overall cost of the energy.

Ruby said the UK might also find it more difficult to trade if it were left out of the complex pan-European trading system, and this could place a “risk premium” on UK prices.

“When you throw all rules up in the air at the same time, this lack of clarity, predictability and rule of law is what is very concerning for us,” he added.

A spokesperson said the government had taken steps to make sure energy trading continued and that energy laws “work effectively and provide value for money”.

The Guardian understands that a pan-European network of energy system operators has agreed a plan for the UK to remain within the internal market on a voluntary basis which would offer the same commercial terms.

A spokesman for National Grid, which runs the UK’s power cables, said it was “not anticipating any additional charges for interconnectors in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

However, the plan has not been agreed by the European commission and could be cast in doubt if the UK leaves without an agreement or without paying the £39bn exit fee.

Alexander Temerko, a major Conservative party donor, said he feared electricity market prices could jump by almost a third if the UK does not remain part of the EU’s internal energy market after a no-deal Brexit.

The Ukrainian-born billionaire, who is planning to build a new electricity cable between the UK and mainland Europe, said the price hike could mean higher bills and negative consequences for UK business.

Temerko publicly dropped his support for Boris Johnson during the Conservative leadership campaign earlier this year over fears he could steer Britain towards a no-deal Brexit.

“If we have a no-deal Brexit all existing regulations for the transmission of electricity will be terminated with immediate effect. I don’t know how quickly, or how high, the price of electricity would jump. My expert opinion is that prices could jump by 30%. But there are no scenarios for this. We are not ready,” he said.

By Jillian Ambrose

British Steel unit sold to Systra saving hundreds of jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com–Fri, 30th Aug 2019) London, Uk – –

The French group's purchase of York-based TSP Projects will be announced by the Official Receiver on Friday, Sky News learns.

Hundreds of jobs at a British Steel subsidiary will be saved on Friday when a French engineering giant confirms the acquisition of TSP Projects, an infrastructure design consultancy.

Sky News has learnt that Systra, which has been engaged in talks to buy TSP for three months, has clinched a deal to buy the business, along with its £70m-plus pension liabilities.

The agreement is expected to be announced by Systra and the Official Receiver, which has been managing British Steel since it collapsed into compulsory liquidation in May.

A much larger transaction involving the sale of British Steel's wider business, including its vast steelworks in Scunthorpe, remains subject to several weeks of due diligence by Ataer Holding, a subsidiary of Turkey's military pension fund.

Confirmation of the deal between Systra and TSP will make it the first British Steel division to be sold to new owners since the group's collapse in the wake of a government decision not to provide further state funding.

Sky News revealed last week that the sale of TSP was being held up by the need for a secured lender to agree to the transaction.

The lender, PNC, agreed to do so earlier this week, according to insiders.

The sale safeguards the interests of roughly 500 pension scheme members and 400 TSP employees, many of whom are based at its York headquarters.

TSP has contracts to work on railway systems at Gatwick Airport‎ and broader infrastructure design in aviation, construction, energy and security.

Its biggest clients include Network Rail, Siemens and Costain.

Systra is owned by the French state railway SNCF, RATP and a consortium of French banks.

The company counts Andrew McNaughton, the former chief executive of Balfour Beatty, among its top management.

Its attempt to buy TSP Projects has drawn the attention of the UK's Pensions Regulator because of the roughly £70m deficit in its retirement scheme.

TSP Projects' pension scheme has only 14 active members, about 400 deferred members and 133 members who are receiving pensions from the company, according to information circulated to bidders.

British Steel's collapse into insolvency came just weeks after Greg Clark, the then business secretary, handed a £120m government loan to the company to help it meet its obligations under an EU scheme for industrial polluters.

A further support package was due to be given to British Steel but was withdrawn at the 11th hour amid concerns that it would breach state aid rules.

Sky News revealed earlier this month that ministers had signed off a support package worth around £300m to aid Ataer's efforts to buy British Steel.

Systra could not be reached for comment.

By Mark Kleinman, City editor

British households expectations for inflation rise to highest since 2013 – Citi/Yougov

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 30th Aug 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British households’ expectations for inflation in the year ahead rose in August to their highest level since 2013, possibly reflecting the rising chance of a no-deal Brexit, a survey from U.S. bank Citi and pollsters YouGov showed on Friday.

The public expects inflation over the next 12 months to rise to 3.2%, up from 2.9% in July.

“Such high levels have previously usually been associated with high energy prices,” economists at Citi said in a research note.

“However, in the absence of those at the moment, the increase could be driven by rising chances of a rupture with the EU on Oct. 31, which could lead to higher consumer prices via tariffs, supply disruptions and weaker sterling.”

Reporting by Andy Bruce

Pound falls more than 0.70% against the euro and US dollar as Queen asked to suspend Parliament

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 28th Aug 2019) London, Uk – –

The value of the pound has fallen following news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to suspend Parliament on 9 September.

The move is expected to prevent opposition leaders from passing a law to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The pound is down more than 0.70% against the euro and US dollar. So £1 is now worth €1.10 and $1.22.

The FTSE 100, largely made up of stocks that could benefit from a devaluation of the pound, was up 0.34% at 7,113.47.

That is because many of those firms book much of their earnings in foreign currencies and benefit from a weak pound.

But the FTSE 250, a stock index that is seen as more representative of the UK economy, has fallen by 0.5%.

Pound falls below $1.22

Firms that are exposed to the domestic economy such as house builders and airlines were hit: Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon and Barratt Developments were down between 2% and 2.3%.

Meanwhile, British Airways owner IAG fell 1.7% and easyJet dropped 3.2%.

‘Sterling under pressure'

“As far as the markets are concerned, there's a fair bit of bad news already baked in to the pound,” according to David Cheetham, an analyst at currency trader XTB Online Trading.

“It is telling that after the knee-jerk move lower in recent trade, the selling we've seen is far from panic stations.”

Sterling drops below €1.10

Discussing the prime minister's decision to suspend parliament, Mr Cheetham said: “This seems like a pre-emptive strike from [Mr Johnson] against those seeking to block a no-deal Brexit and once more it seems that the opposition are in danger of fluffing a big opportunity to have an impact.

“If the government is successful in this, then a no-deal Brexit wouldn't be taken off the table until the 11th hour at the earliest and this keeps a significant downside risk to the pound in play.”

And Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC, said: “Sterling is under pressure as a consequence of the prospect of a no-deal Brexit increasing, while the FTSE 100 has jumped higher.

“Overall, though, this appears part and parcel of the ongoing battle between the various caucuses of MPs who want to block a no-deal Brexit at all costs, and those who want to retain the option as part of the ongoing attempts to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.”

The government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament just days after MPs return to work in September – and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Boris Johnson said a Queen's Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

But it means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

UK bank mortgage approvals hit nearly 2-1/2-year high in July – UK Finance

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 28th Aug 2019) London, Uk – –

British banks last month approved the most mortgages since February 2017, adding to signs that the housing market has picked up from its recent pre-Brexit slowdown, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Banks approved 43,342 mortgages in July, up from 42,775 in March and 10.6% higher than a year earlier, according to seasonally-adjusted figures from industry body UK Finance.

Net mortgage lending rose by 2.947 billion pounds last month, the biggest increase since March 2016 and up from an increase of 1.764 billion pounds in June.

Britain’s housing market slowed sharply in the run-up to the original March Brexit deadline but there have been signs that buyers and sellers are taking advantage of the delay to act ahead of the new Oct. 31 deadline.

Consumer spending has remained solid, sustaining the economy since the 2016 Brexit referendum while businesses have cut investment spending due to uncertainty.

UK Finance said consumer lending rose 4.3% year-on-year in July, the strongest increase since February 2018.

Lending figures from the Bank of England, which cover a broader section of Britain’s finance industry, are due on Friday.