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CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|With just two months to go before Brexit, 1,500 finance jobs have been shifted or created overseas. Big financial firms surveyed by Reuters in January said that figure would likely rise to nearly 2,000 by the end of March 2019.
London (CNN Business) Brexit hasn’t happened yet but it’s already shrinking the United Kingdom’s financial services industry.
Banks and other financial companies have shifted at least £800 billion ($1 trillion) worth of assets out of the country and into the European Union because of Brexit, EY said in a report published Monday. Many banks have set up new offices elsewhere in the European Union to safeguard their regional operations after Brexit, which means they also have to move substantial assets there to satisfy EU regulators. Other firms are moving assets to protect clients against market volatility and sudden changes in regulation.
The consultancy said the figure represented roughly 10% of the total assets of the UK banking sector and was a “conservative estimate” because some banks have not yet revealed their contingency plans.”Our numbers only reflect the moves that have been announced publicly,” said Omar Ali, head of financial services at EY.
“We know that behind the scenes firms are continuing to plan for a ‘no deal’ scenario.”EY has tracked 222 of the biggest UK financial services companies since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
Although it can be difficult to sit through an entire episode, Question Time is a great chance to gauge the opinions of the nation outside of the Westminster bubble.
A perfect example of this occurred on Thursday night where audience members in Derby, first applauded the journalist Isabel Oakeshott for suggesting that a no deal is the only option left for Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.
Just moments later Anand Menon, the director of the Brexit thinktank UK in a Changing EU, made a brilliant point about how bad a no deal would be for the UK and won even more praise for this short explanation.
I think it is very, very important to be clear about a no deal. No deal isn’t like buying something.
It isn’t like going to a shop and if you don’t find anything you don’t like you walk home again. You don’t end up back where you started.
No deal with the European Union means all the laws that govern our interaction with the EU, whether you can fly, whether you can trade, whether you can shop, whether you can travel, cease to exist.
I don’t know what people voted for when they voted to leave, the voted for lots of different reasons and they were told by the leave campaign that a deal would be easy and I don’t believe all of them voted for no deal.
If you think no deal is fine, that’s great but be aware of what it means. It means severe disruption and from the EU’s point of view, you are absolutely right, a no deal will hurt the Europeans in Calais, in Belgium, in Amsterdam.
One of the reasons the EU has remained united is that some member states don’t trade with us so they’ve got better things to worry about but no deal will hit is far worse than it will hit them.
The clip has already been viewed over 62,000 times on Twitter and people have been showering praise on Menon for his simple breakdown of what no deal would constitute.
You might have thought the correct response would have been the other way around, but no, markets are betting that Theresa May’s crushing defeat makes a no-deal Brexit less likely, and either a much softer Brexit – Norway Plus – or no Brexit at all, the overwhelming odds-on end game.
Those advocating a clean-break on WTO terms of trade have shot their bolt. Their time in the sun is over, and they are heading for a defeat just as bad as that of Theresa May’s ritual humiliation. Their principled rejection of her deal, in unholy alliance with hardline Remainers and an opportunistic Labour Party, is about to backfire spectacularly. If the gamble was to run down the clock to the default Brexit position of departure with no deal, it is very unlikely to succeed against a parliamentary majority determined to thwart it.
Here’s the thinking. Obviously, May’s deal is now dead in the water. After such an overwhelming defeat, the sort of tweaking that Brussels might be prepared to consider would fail to do the trick. Essentially, it’s back to the drawing board. What might be acceptable to Parliament that could also be agreed with Brussels?
When all is said and done, the only plan that might command a parliamentary majority would be Norway Plus, or basically Labour’s declared position of remaining in both the single market and the customs union. This is “Brexit in name only” (Brino), and therefore a continuation of the status quo in economic terms. To agree it, Theresa May or whoever succeeds her would have to reach out to Labour and others, leaving rebellious Brexit hardliners on the Tory backbenches to slink off into the political wilderness to lick their wounds and regroup.
It would also mean agreeing free movement – another of May’s redlines crossed – but the political weather has changed on this front. Immigration is no longer the issue it was, declining, according to opinion polls, from the top of voters’ list of concerns to the position of also ran.
Politically, perceived betrayal of the Brexit dream may also be easier to pull-off than it was. YouGov polling suggests a big change in sentiment over the last year; those who think the referendum decision was the wrong one now substantially outnumber those who continue to believe it was right.
Of course, the polls could be wrong. And we can all point to examples of people who voted Remain but have had their sinews stiffened, as it were, by subsequent debate and would now much rather leave. Yet the direction of travel is clear enough: observing the current political mess, there is growing buyers’ remorse.
Labour’s objective is obviously only that of bringing the Government down. Forget any higher, national interest, purpose. But it will lose the no-confidence vote, and once it realises that another general election is for the moment off the table, it will be forced to agree any government plan for Brexit that meets its own, incoherent, objectives. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, admitted as much in a TV interview last night.
This coming together of Tory centrists with Labour might seem to spell the end of party politics as we know it, with the breakup of the Tory party then inevitable, but I wouldn’t be so sure. The Conservative Party is a mighty powerful brand electorally, with fierce tribal, cultural and ideological loyalties. Neither wing of the party is likely to give up access to this electoral powerhouse by storming out.
And so to the economy. If we are heading for a much softer form of Brexit, or no Brexit at all, then much of the current uncertainty in the business environment lifts. A stronger pound also makes consumers better off by reducing the price of imports, providing a further boost to already rising real wages.
Two to three months ago, markets were pricing in at least two rate rises from the Bank of England this year. But with the chances of a no deal Brexit rising, and the global economy slowed, those expectations shifted markedly, with markets judging there to be only a 50pc chance of any rate rise at all. That judgement is now changing again.
If no deal is now off the table, the economy can proceed without risk of damage, confidence ought to return, and the Bank of England can return to the strategy of gently nudging interest rates higher. That was the other reason the pound rose. As I say, the thinking might be seen as unduly sterile and cynical by Brexit idealogues, but it is hard to argue with the logic of the analysis.
What of the anger that Brexit betrayal will engender, dividing the country in renewed civil war? Well, anger dissipates over time, and if the politicians could for a change start to focus on the real issues facing the UK economy, from poor productivity to technological revolution, rather than the distractions of Brexit, then there is some chance of things getting back onto an even keel. Brexit was an expression of these discontents, but in itself, scarcely an answer to them.
Why it matters: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s unsettling weekend statement that the big banks have enough liquidity clearly didn’t calm anyone down.
Flashback: 82 days ago, the Dow closed at a record high — 26,828 — on a day where this newsletter focused on the Khashoggi coverup and the power shift driven by #MeToo.
Driving the news: “Mnuchin convened a call [today] with top regulatory officials … to discuss coordination efforts to assure normal market operations. Regulators on the call said that markets were functioning normally…” [WSJ]
Prudential Financial strategist Quincy Krosby: “We’ve gone through situations before where it’s absolutely normal for the secretary of Treasury to reach out to the private sector… But what’s bad is this made the papers, and says the government is very worried.” [WSJ]
What they’re saying:
Trump: “The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch – he can’t putt!”
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi: ‘”It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos. The stock market is tanking and the president is waging a personal war on the Federal Reserve…”
Be smart: We’ve transitioned from a glass half-full bull market to a glass half-empty environment. This is much different than earlier this year when no amount of bad news could shake the market. Now it’s the opposite: good news isn’t as powerful as it used to be.
The bottom line: “The markets going down will eventually create an economic problem… People who spend money as consumers, if they have stock exposure, they’re reconsidering if they’re going to buy a $1,000 present — they’ll buy a $200 one.” [Bloomberg]