LONDON, August 20 -- Asking prices for London homes showed their first annual increase since 2017 this month, as the Brexit-battered market started to show signs of life.
New seller prices were up 1.3 per cent from a year earlier, property website Rightmove Plc said in a report published Monday. They eased just 0.1 per cent on the month, the smallest decline for any August since 2006. Rightmove said a shortage of supply is helping to underpin prices, with the number of new sellers down almost 11 per cent on the year. Meanwhile, sales agreements jumped in what is normally a slow month, suggesting buyers and sellers alike are now taking the plunge after years of waiting for Brexit to be resolved. “It’s been three years since the vote and Brexit fatigue has kicked in,” Chris Osmond, sales director at London-based estate agent JOHNS&CO, said in a comment accompanying the report. “After all, life goes on and you can only put plans on hold for so long. We’ve also seen the number of vendors wanting to cash in on long-held investments increase.”
August also saw the largest number of sales nationwide in four years. Rightmove Director Miles Shipside said that uncertainty ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline had potentially encouraged homeowners to sell earlier in the year than normal. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is mulling stamp duty reforms for U.K. home sellers as part of a budget due later this year, he told The Times in an interview published Saturday. While the newspaper reported that tax burden would be shifted from home buyers to sellers to give larger tax bill for those who have benefited from rising property prices, Javid later said he won’t support that in a tweet. Nevertheless, “we need bold measures on housing,” he said. The property market has struggled in the recent years, with the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union weighing on prices. London has been particularly badly affected. A separate report by Acadata found house prices in the capital barely rose in the year through June, with several areas losing more than 10%. Across the country, the picture is mixed. Asking prices were lower than a year earlier in the southeast and the southwest, while northern England, Scotland and Wales -- regions where house prices are cheaper on average -- showed solid increases, according to Rightmove.
LONDON, August 15 -- Parliament will block a no-deal Brexit if unelected people behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson try to wrench Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without agreement, former finance minister Philip Hammond (pictured) said on Wednesday.
The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc in 77 days time without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate a Brexit divorce. After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November. Hammond, who served as May’s finance minister for three years, said unelected people in Johnson’s Downing Street office were setting London on an “inevitable” course towards a no-deal Brexit by demanding the backstop be dropped. “The people behind this know that that means that there will be no deal,” Hammond told the BBC. “Parliament is clearly opposed to a no-deal exit, and the prime minister must respect that.” The former minister’s first public intervention since resigning indicates the determination of a group of influential lawmakers to thwart Johnson if he goes for a no-deal Brexit. Hammond said he was confident parliament, where a majority oppose a no-deal Brexit, would find a way to block that outcome.
It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the 800-year-old heart of British democracy to prevent a no-deal Brexit on 31 October – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most consequential move since World War Two. Opponents of no deal say it would be a disaster for what was once one of the West’s most stable democracies. A disorderly divorce, they say, would hurt global growth, send shock waves through financial markets and weaken London’s claim to be the world’s preeminent financial center. Brexit supporters say there may be short-term disruption from a no-deal exit but that the economy will thrive if cut free from what they cast as a doomed experiment in integration that has led to Europe falling behind China and the United States. Heading towards one of the biggest constitutional crises in at least a century, Britain’s elite are quarreling over how, when and even if the result of the shock 2016 referendum will be implemented. Part of the problem is that Britain’s constitution, once touted as a global model, is uncodified and vague. It relies on precedent, but there is little for Brexit. The House of Commons speaker John Bercow told an audience in Scotland that lawmakers could prevent a no-deal Brexit and that he would fight any attempt to prorogue, or suspend, parliament “with every bone in my body”. “We cannot have a situation in which parliament is shut down – we are a democratic society,” the Telegraph quoted Bercow as saying at an event on the sidelines of the Edinburgh Festival. “And parliament will be heard and nobody is going to get away, as far as I am concerned, with stopping that happening,” added the 56-year-old who says he voted ‘Remain’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Johnson, who replaced May after she failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament, has refused to rule out proroguing the House of Commons and Brexit supporters have vociferously encouraged him to do so if necessary.
Hammond said the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum did not tout no deal as a likely option, so to leave under those conditions would be a betrayal of the referendum that would reduce the nation to an “inward-looking little England”. The United Kingdom, he said, would be under threat with referendums likely on Scottish independence and a united Ireland. Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, has reportedly said he could delay calling a general election until after Oct. 31, even if he lost a no confidence motion, allowing for a no-deal Brexit while parliament is dissolved. Clearly with him in mind, Hammond said there were people “who are pulling the strings in Downing Street, those who are setting the strategy.”
FRANKFURT, August 6 -- More and more fierce critics go to the European Central Bank: The low interest rates ruined allegedly Germany savers. Behind this is fundamental mistrust of the common currency.
For a while it had become quiet around the European Central Bank (ECB) and its president Mario Draghi. But three events have recently ensured that the furor of the public or published opinion on the ECB's low-interest-rate policy rages again with full force. Draghi's implicit announcement to re-launch the Federal Reserve's controversial bond-buying program and increase the penalty rates commercial banks must pay when they park money with the ECB. The early end of the era of the Italian and the inauguration of the former IMF head Christine Lagarde, who comes from France, where they allegedly do not have so with solid finances. Lawsuits against banking union and bond purchase program before the Federal Constitutional Court, which make the monetary policy of the ECB on the topic in the evening news. Those who read business press these days, can not avoid the impression that the ECB and Draghi had conspired against all the banks and savers in Germany shortly before his retirement, so that they would keep him in as bad a memory as possible. Sometimes it is said that the ECB, which is by definition independent, needs the Constitutional Court "urgently to take a shot at the bow" - whatever that means.
Elsewhere there is talk that the penalty interest "felt" meet all 83 million people in the country - knowing that so far only about 30 of the approximately 1800 German banks have introduced penalty interest on call money or checking accounts, and that only for wealthy with deposits 100,000 euros or even higher. The newspaper "Börsenzeitung", as the central organ of the financial center of Frankfurt, even states that under Draghi a "brutal redistribution" from private to state took place and the ECB had "released the commercial banks". In fact, the assets of the Germans in Draghi's term has grown dramatically to now more than six trillion euros - and not as insinuated shrunk. Moreover, most banks still generate profits that are sufficient enough to pay their executives significantly above-average salaries, which applies not only to Deutsche Bank, but also to the German savings banks, which are widely pampered in Germany.
LONDON, July 26 -- Boris Johnson has clashed with Brussels over his call for the EU to drop its opposition to a new Brexit deal and return to the negotiating table.
In his first statement to MPs as British prime minister, Mr Johnson said he would work "flat out" to secure a new agreement on Britain's withdrawal from the EU. But Brussels responded swiftly, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker using his first phone call with the new prime minister to say the existing Withdrawal Agreement was "the best and only" deal possible. Mr Johnson said the British government was "turbocharging" preparations for a no-deal break on October 31 if the EU refused to engage. In Brussels, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Mr Johnson's demands were "unacceptable" and accused him of using "combative" language to put pressure on the remaining EU27. A European Commission spokesman said Mr Juncker "listened to what Prime Minister Johnson had to say, reiterating the EU's position that the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only agreement possible". He said he would be prepared to "analyse any ideas put forward by the United Kingdom, providing they are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement". The two politicians exchanged mobile phone numbers and agreed to remain in touch "should the United Kingdom wish to hold talks and clarify its position in more detail".
Mr Johnson appeared in the Commons chamber to cheers from Tory MPs, still reeling after his brutal purge of Theresa May's cabinet which saw 17 ministers sacked or quit their jobs. He underlined his determination to take Britain out of the EU by the end of October, warning that failure to do so would lead to a "catastrophic loss of confidence" in the political system. Despite the fears of many MPs he is setting Britain on course for a no-deal break, Mr Johnson insisted he would still prefer to leave with a new agreement in place. However he said Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement – rejected three times by MPs – was "unacceptable" and that the Northern Ireland backstop had to go. "No country that values its independence, and, indeed, its self respect, could agree to a treaty which signed away our economic independence and self government as this backstop does," he said. The comments from Brussels echoed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who said Mr Johnson's claims he could get a new deal by October 31 were "not in the real world".
Mr Johnson, who earlier chaired the first meeting of his new cabinet, insisted the UK side was ready to meet and talk with the EU, "whenever they are ready to do so". "I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal. I would much prefer it. I believe that is still possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen," he said. "For our part, we will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in the spirit of friendship. "And I hope that the EU will be equally ready and that they will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement." At the same time he said he had ordered Michael Gove, the new chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in charge of no-deal preparations in the cabinet office, to "turbocharge" efforts to get the country ready for any eventuality. As well as a major public relations campaign, Mr Johnson said there would be an "economic package" to boost business including changes to tax rules to incentivise investment in capital and research. And he further sought to raise the stakes with the EU, saying he would not nominate a new UK commissioner - although he insisted that this was not intended to prevent the formation of the new commission due at the start of December. However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Mr Johnson was overestimating the ability of his "hastily thrown together... hard-right cabinet" to deliver a new Brexit deal. "No-one underestimates this country but the country is deeply worried that the new prime minister overestimates himself," he said. "People do not trust this prime minister to make the right choices for the majority of the people in this country when he's also promising tax giveaways to the richest of big business - his own party's funders." However Mr Johnson drew cheers from Tory MPs with an attack on the Labour leader, accusing this "long-standing Euro-sceptic" of "metamorphosing" into a Remainer. He also brushed off a call by the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford for an immediate general election. "The people of this country have voted in 2015, 2016, 2017 –- what they want to see is this parliament delivering on the mandate they gave us, including him," he said.
LONDON, July 25 -- Boris Johnson oversaw one of the most brutal cabinet culls in UK political history tonight, replacing a string of big-name MPs with some of his closest supporters.
Within hours of arriving in Downing Street Johnson had appointed Sajid Javid as chancellor, Dominic Raab as foreign secretary, Priti Patel as home secretary, and Liz Truss as international trade secretary. Supporters of his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt were the first to be ousted, with Brexiters Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt sacked. Hunt will also return to the backbenches after turning down the job of defence secretary, which will be taken by Ben Wallace. Former City lawyer Nicky Morgan returns to the government as culture secretary, opening up the chair of the Treasury Select Committee – largely seen as Westminster’s leading financial watchdog. Andrea Leadsom was appointed business secretary, replacing Greg Clark.
Former leadership contender Michael Gove, with whom Johnson fell out during the 2016 race to replace David Cameron, was made chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, while Gavin Williamson returns to the government as education secretary and Amber Rudd takes the work and pensions brief. Her predecessor Esther McVey becomes housing minister. Another leadership contender, Matt Hancock, who backed Johnson after dropping out of the race, remains health and social care secretary. Theresa Villiers is the new environment secretary, while Grant Shapps becomes transport secretary, replacing Chris Grayling. Hardline Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg was appointed leader of the House of Commons, and Rishi Sunak was made chief secretary to the Treasury. Earlier in the day prominent MPs – including Theresa May, Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke and David Lidington – confirmed they were leaving the government. Around 20 ministers have left their posts. As well as making sweeping changes to the Cabinet, Johnson has also installed new faces in Downing Street, with former Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings given a role alongside a slew of other names who worked with Johnson during the 2016 EU referendum. Conservative MP Nigel Evans said: “It’s not so much a reshuffle as a summer’s day massacre”. Ahead of the switch-up, Johnson said he would take personal responsibility for a range of improvements he wanted to see to the UK.
“Never mind the backstop, the buck stops here,” he said. With his new Downing Street team looking on, Johnson argued that should the UK leave the EU without an agreement, it would be the fault of Brussels. He said: “I am convinced we can do a deal without checks at the Irish border because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks and get rid of that antidemocratic backstop.” “It is of course vital that at the same time we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate and we are forced to come out with no deal, not because we want that outcome, of course not, but because it is only common sense to prepare [for] it.” Johnson also vowed to withhold all the money agreed in the financial settlement in the event of no deal, saying the amount – in excess of £30bn – would be “extra lubrication”. Aside from Brexit, Johnson made a raft of domestic policy announcements. He pledged an extra 20,000 police on to the nation’s streets, reducing waiting times for people wanting to see a GP, and 20 new hospital upgrades. On social care, the issue which sparked the unravelling of Theresa May’s 2017 general election campaign, Johnson made a firm pledge.
“My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared,” he said.
LONDON, July 23 -- A prominent British think-tank said on Monday that economic prospects for the UK are deteriorating as a new prime minister is about to be installed in Westminster.
The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) warned there is a one-in-four chance the country has already entered a technical recession, and a disorderly no-deal Brexit in October could lead to a "severe downturn" in the economy within the next six months - and with it, a fall in living standards. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to officially step down on Wednesday.
The name of the new prime minister - elected by 160,000 members of the Conservative Party - will be announced on Tuesday. It is widely expected to be former mayor of London and ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is running against his successor, Jeremy Hunt. Both Johnson and Hunt have promised to renegotiate May's deal with the European Union, particularly the controversial backstop protocol of the withdrawal agreement, aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Both have promised to take the UK out of the EU without a deal by the new October 31 deadline should EU officials insist the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation, as they have done so far. The recently elected president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, restated this position last week, while conceding the EU would remain open to considering a further Brexit delay "for a good reason". In its latest quarterly forecast, NIESR predicted even if a no-deal Brexit is avoided, the UK economy will see a one percent growth in 2019 and 2020, revised down from the 1.5 percent figure it predicted earlier this year as the March Brexit deadline loomed. An orderly no-deal scenario - involving temporary contingency measures aimed at minimising disruption - would lead to a stall in growth in 2020.
LONDON, July 23 -- Boris Johnson is expected to be elected leader of Britain's governing Conservative Party and the country's next prime minister on Tuesday, tasked with following through on his "do or die" pledge to deliver Brexit in just over three months' time.
Mr Johnson and his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have spent the last month criss-crossing the country seeking to win over the less than 200,000 Conservative Party members who will choose Britain's new leader. Voting closed at 1600 GMT on Monday (midnight Singapore time) and the result is due to be announced on Tuesday morning (Tuesday evening Singapore time). The winner will formally take over as prime minister on Wednesday afternoon, succeeding Mrs Theresa May, who stepped down over her failure to get Parliament to ratify her Brexit deal. Mr Johnson, a former London mayor who resigned as foreign minister a year ago over May's Brexit plans, is the clear favourite to replace her, with several polls putting him on course to win with around 70 per cent. He will inherit a political crisis over Britain's exit from the European Union, currently due to take place on Oct 31.
Mr Johnson must persuade the EU to revive talks on a withdrawal deal that it has been adamant cannot be reopened, or else lead Britain into the economic uncertainty of an unmanaged departure. The only deal on the table has been rejected three times by Parliament and many lawmakers - including pro-EU rebels in the Conservative Party - are also vowing to block Mr Johnson trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
LONDON, July 21 -- British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said on Sunday he would make a point of resigning before Mr Boris Johnson became prime minister, saying he could never agree to his Brexit strategy.
Mr Johnson is widely expected to win the governing, centre-right Conservative Party's leadership contest on Tuesday and be named as prime minister once Mrs Theresa May resigns the premiership on Wednesday. Mr Hammond has become an increasingly fierce critic of Mr Johnson's Brexit strategy - leaving the European Union with or without a deal on Oct 31 - and would never have expected to remain as chancellor of the Exchequer in a Johnson government. But the fact that the second-most senior figure in the government is making a point of resigning rather than wait to be moved on in the incoming prime minister's reshuffle is a significant gesture - and an indicator of the opposition Mr Johnson could face in pursuing his Brexit strategy. "I'm sure I'm not going to be sacked because I'm going to resign before we get to that point," Mr Hammond told BBC television. "Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on the 31st of October. "That is not something that I could ever sign up to. "It's very important that the prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy, and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday."
Mrs May will head to Buckingham Palace in London on Wednesday to see Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state, and relinquish her office. Mr Johnson's rival for the premiership is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has said that Britain should prepare for a no-deal Brexit if a deal seems unlikely by the end of September. Mr Hunt would be prepared to delay Britain's departure date if a deal seemed within reach, but is also prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal. Mr Hunt has not said who he wants running the Treasury should he win the leadership contest.
LONDON, July 19 -- The new laws make it harder for Johnson to suspend Parliament to ensure the UK exits the EU by the end of October.
Members of Britain's parliament moved to stop the next prime minister forcing the country out of the European Union without an agreement. It was a clear warning to Boris Johnson, the favorite to become premier, that he will have a fight on his hands if he tries to deliver a no-deal Brexit. The pound rose after a mass rebellion from at least 30 Conservative MPs defeated the government and passed measures designed to prevent the next leader closing down Parliament to force through a no-deal split against their wishes.
LONDON, July 15 -- The UK is far less prepared to deal with the consequences of a recession now than in 2008, the think tank Resolution Foundation said.
The risk of a UK recession is at its highest level in more than a decade, according to the Resolution Foundation. Using yields on government bonds as a measure, the think tank sees the greatest likelihood of a deep slump since just before the financial crisis.