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Will Brexit leave UK economy in a lurch?



UK economy

The UK economy is likely to witness better times, and emerge as one of the best performers in stock markets in 2019, says Fidelity’s Bill McQuaker. However, the manager of the Fidelity Multi-Asset Open range of funds said that medium term investors are not off the mark to tread with care.

On Thursday, FTSE 100 had the biggest one-day drop since the EU referendum poll, resulting a drop of 3.2% of 6,685 due to concerns that revolved around the vulnerability of ceasefire in US-China trade war. This might pose a threat to the UK economy.

Notwithstanding the political drama in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the UK stocks nosedived, with FTSE 100 dipping over 5% since the start of the week.

However, McQuaker is not worried about the mid-cap FTSE 250 outperforming its blue-chip counterpart, because he is confident that there are numerous aspects that could impact the UK stocks.

The UK economy is readying for a softer Brexit, as per McQuaker. Investors haven’t been showing a lot of interest in UK equities. This could be a blessing in disguise, for “if there is going to be a deterioration in market conditions, people won’t be selling the UK because they’ve sold out of it already,” he quipped.

If it actually goes the way McQuaker says it will, there will be some short-term upside to the Sterling. This could make the FTSE 250 outperform, as compared to the FTSE 100, as the latter is quite dependent on US dollar denominated revenues.

Talking about how Brexit would pan out in the next decade, he says, “When I look at the environment that I think we’re likely to face in the medium term, I’d say that’s where I get a bit more depressed, quite frankly.”

“We’re not going to get the benefits of staying in the EU, and we’re not going to get the benefits of Brexit,” McQuaker points out.

This is true indeed, for the world will not be interested in investing in a country that’s going to be in a limbo for the next 10 years. Does this mean Brexit will leave the UK economy in a lurch?


Ford’s Bridgend Closure to affect employment rate in the UK




On Thursday, the American multinational automaker Ford announced to close its Bridgend plant in South Wales in 2020, due to the lowering demands for some of its automobile’s engines. The step taken by the company is a big challenge for its workers, as they risk losing their jobs with the closure.

Ford’s Bridgend engine plant, which is a manufacturing facility of Ford in Europe -selling automobiles and commercial vehicles, once provided innumerable jobs to the workers in the country. It also built around 2.7 million automotive engines in 2018. However, analysts have anticipated that its closing would make about 1,700 people jobless.  

As a turnaround of its European operations, Ford would promote closure of many other plants along with the discontinuation of loss-making vehicle lines. In the same context, due to lowering demands, Ford has decided to end its production of 1.5-litre petrol engine by February 2020.

The expected pre-tax amount to cover the closing of Bridgend plant is approximately 650 million US dollars. The move has attracted criticism from trade union that has largely rejected the idea of the closure. The members have blamed the company for involving such extreme measures that could adversely affect the lives of the workers. They united in an effort to stop the closure, whilst taking the matter to the Welsh Assembly.

In the past two years, there has been a continuous decline in the sales of Ford cars, which has further affected its output and investment throughout the Europe.

Observing the future disadvantages of Bridgend plant, considering the current situations, Ford’s Europe President Stuart Rowley said, “Changing customer demand and cost disadvantages, plus an absence of additional engine models for Bridgend going forward make the plant economically unsustainable in the years ahead.”

As a result, Ford is in process of making some profits in other countries to reverse the losses in deteriorating European markets.

People who have been working hard to produce hybrid technology and electric vehicle components alongside manufacturing of third party vehicles to identify new opportunities have not been successful.

Due to the declining demands, the Closure of Bridgend plant also brings in more confusion for other automobile companies. Jaguar Land Rover and Honda have claimed that approximately 9,000 jobs would be lost if they close their British Plant in 2021, depreciating car sales and employment rate in the country.

Closing of the Bridgend’s Ford plant is expected to bring further downfall to the sales of cars in the country. Amid the Brexit crisis, the automobile companies have feared that a no-deal Brexit would definitely bring tariffs and customs checks to the vehicles, engines, and components, which would further raise costs and investments amid the decreasing demands.

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Are Continuous Brexit Delays Behind Weakened Pound Sterling?



Pound Sterling

Continuous Brexit delays have severely affected the pound sterling. Furthermore, the European Parliamentary elections in the country and the rising threats of a no-deal Brexit have raised concerns among few British officials.

A no-deal Brexit followed by the fall in the value of the pound would only add to the woes of the country. In addition, the battle to succeed Prime Minister May has made the existing situation even more complex as the economists believe that May’s resignation from her post on June 7 would rather ruin the British economy.

As per recent records, the British currency lost about three percent of its existing value earlier this month. The economists are of the opinion that the Prime Minister’s inability to find a proper solution over the Brexit deal with the opposition party is one of the main reasons behind the current downfall.

Pound slipped 0.13 percent to $1.2657, becoming as low as $1.2605 last week. In comparison to the US dollar and the euro, the British currency has fallen for three consecutive weeks.  

As a result, the prime-ministerial candidates have been under immense pressure to provide a more resolute solution for the Brexit deal. Though Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has signalled that a no-deal Brexit would lead to worst consequences, many contenders have fully prepared themselves for the situations of no-negotiations that could occur over the withdrawal agreement.

In the recent European elections, Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party performed its best by winning around 31 percent of the votes and 29 UK seats in the Parliament. The overwhelming results in the elections indicated that the new Brexit Party was ready for all sorts of conflicts arising amid the no-deal risk.

The strategists in the country believe that the probability of a no-deal Brexit remains around 15 to 20 percent and the then-prime minister of the country would have to face a no-confidence vote for choosing that path. Since the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, the real deal is yet to start.

The ongoing political uncertainty in the country has disadvantaged the trading of pound, limiting the currency’s exchange rate and making it a much weaker currency in the present time. It appears that the rise in the British pound might highly be influenced by the next Prime Minister’s rule.  

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Bill to Mitigate Money Laundering Needs Amendments, Lawmakers Claim



money laundering

As the joint parliamentary committee met on Monday, they raised their voice over the proposed anti money laundering bill that fails to prevent or restrict foreign buyers from using trusts to launder money in the UK.

The bill is supposed to be a major move by Prime Minister Theresa May to prohibit convicts and fraudulent foreign authorities from altering the sources of money in the UK.

The MPs from the committee of 12 members, comprising members from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords oversaw the bill. They claimed that the bill if enacted would fail to frame an appropriate structure to corroborate and administer the reliability of property-owners’ filings. They also pressed concerns on the fact that the anti money laundering bill does not pressurise the owners from foreign country to reveal their proper entities in the country.

According to the report of the joint committee on the draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, properties of worth £180 million were investigated between 2004 and 2015, under the pretences of criminal investigation.

While 160 properties with worth of more than £4 billion, purchased by highly corrupt individual came under the scrutiny, 86,000 properties in England and Wales were recognised as the properties of “tax havens”. The report also mentions that approximately £90 billion is transferred illegally from the UK every year.

Along with Edward Faulks, Conservative chairman of the joint committee, the lawmakers from the House of Commons and House of Lords have raised concerns regarding the bill to minimise money laundering.

Faulks, in relations with the bill and its limitations said, “We welcome this much-needed legislation as one of the vital tools required to create a hostile environment for money launderers who want to use the UK property market to hide unlawful funds.”

“The legislation is well drafted, but there are still some loopholes in the draft bill which, if unaddressed, could jeopardise the effectiveness of this important piece of legislation,” he added.

The lawmakers in regards with bill said, “The UK is valued for its democratic political environment, its independent legal system and its rigid protections. While these advantages have made property in this country popular among legitimate investors, they also appeal to those, such as money launderers, who may wish to use property to conceal illicit funds.”

To minimise money laundering some countries like New Zealand, India, Thailand and Switzerland have prohibited foreign individuals from owning property in the country. The report of the joint committee also asserts that the objective to develop a “hostile environment” for the corrupt individuals is at the prospect of jeopardy due to a lack of “teeth”.

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Will Four-Day Week Policy be Accepted by Britons?



Four-day week policy

Last updated on May 20th, 2019

Ed Whiting, strategy director at the Wellcome Trust – a large biomedical research foundation in London – first came up with the idea of a four-day week policy at workplaces. The leaders of Trade Union and the citizens have been talking about introducing this policy at their workplace since then.  

“Could we improve both the productivity and well-being of Wellcome staff and at the same time improve the overall impact we have as a charity?” said Whiting.

Recently in a tweet, Labour politician John McDonnell wrote that his party has commissioned Robert Skidelsky to begin an inquiry into the Shorter Working Time. He said that Skidelsky’s recommendations would help in deciding whether the reduction in the work time would prove useful.

Lured by the four-day week policy, people in the country asserted that shorter weeks can make an individual less ill, less prone to mistakes, more productive and stress free.

Taking a note of the positive effects brought by the policy, several smaller companies have already shifted to four days a week. But, the policy posses a great challenge to the large non-profit organisations in the country. Without any backup, the policy would bring a significant drop in the larger businesses.

As detailed by Whiting, many of the Wellcome workers were excited with the four-day week policy, while there were others who worried that they would have to finish their five days work in four. He added that some of the part timers at the Trust were concerned that a new working week would mess up with their routine and the other groups believed that four days a week would distract the charity from its focus.

Amidst the arguments about policy’s favour and opposition, it is evident that shorter working weeks cut out huge carbon emissions. However, the policy has been receiving a mixed response from the people across the globe.

Almost three years ago, Glasgow’s Pursuit Marketing firm switched to a four-day week policy without cutting its employees’ salary. Following the shift, the company noticed an increment in productivity by 30 percent, with additional number of people wanting to work for them.

Due to the wide controversies related to the four-day week policy, the Wellcome Trust has planned to make better arrangements for its 800 employees. In addition, there is a need for the government to look into alternative ways to bring flexibility for the working class. Though, it has been largely noticed that a stress free environment brings more productivity, leading to business gains.

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Court Revives Walter Merricks’ Claims against MasterCard




The Court of Appeal on Tuesday revived Walter Merricks’ claim, which was initially brought against the MasterCard Corporation on behalf of millions of consumers in the country. The court’s ruling stated that the Competition Appeal Tribunal had applied the wrong legal test in making its final decision against the claim made two years ago and thus they must reconsider the case.  

Merricks, former financial ombudsman, had claimed that around 46 million people in the country have paid higher prices while making purchases through a MasterCard. This was because of unlawfully imposed high card fees. Merricks asserted that the claim followed the European Commission’s decision of 2007, which stated that MasterCard’s interchange fee was in breach of competition law.

Thus, £14 billion damage claim was brought against the corporation as a legal action, on behalf of the people who claimed to be the victims. If it becomes successful, then every adult in the country would be liable for a payout of £300 from MasterCard.

The critics insisted that over the past few years, MasterCard has broken the law several times by imposing excessive card transaction charges, which has left its consumers in a total loss.

Representatives from MasterCard have continuously disagreed with the basis of the claim, and in response to the court’s ruling argued, “This decision is not a final ruling and the proposed claim is not approved to move forward; rather, the court has simply said a rehearing on certain issues should happen.”

While the revival of Walter Merricksrejected claim pleased everyone in the country, the firm said that it would seek permission to appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court. Merricks’ solicitor Boris Bronfentrinker, from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, called the court’s decision a “landmark day for all UK consumers that Mr Merricks seeks to represent”.

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