No to doom and gloom – when it suits you
Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond delivered his first and last Autumn Statement this week, which included predictions by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that the UK would need to borrow £122 billion extra until 2020-2021. It is also expected that the UK’s debt will reach almost £2 trillion by 2019-2020.
These figures were of course not welcome by Brexiteers, who were quick to denounce the predictions of the OBR as overly pessimistic. Although it’s true that, with the exception of the sharp drop in the Stirling’s value, not much else has yet happened to the economy, this could well be due to the fact that nothing has happened on the Brexit front except Theresa May’s announcement that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March.
Should I stay or should I go?
Rumours have been circulating for a while over what the London banking sector might do in the face of Brexit. Politico reported this week that Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are already planning to remove parts of their operations to Dublin and Frankfurt, with the derivatives teams the first to go. These are of course currently portrayed as contingency plans, with the banking sector on standby. It is true that banks love London. It is also true, however, that business means business (to paraphrase a familiar line) and will prompt further concerns amongst British ministers for the future of the prized financial services sector. Meanwhile, financial hubs like Paris and Frankfurt will be jostling to position themselves as the obvious location should the banking powerhouses decide it’s time to relocate to continental Europe.
Brits to stay in Brussels?
There were reports this week that a deal on residence rights for British expats living in other Member States post-Brexit was under consideration. Such a deal would be reciprocal and it is definitely positive that Theresa May has said this week that she would like an early agreement on the matter to end the uncertainty generated since Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
The promotion of a British civil servant working in the European Commission has prompted a furious reaction from Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro, who called the promotion “a scandal”. Simon Mordue, currently working as a Director in DG Enlargement, will become Deputy Director General in the Commission’s migration department, effective from 1 December. Mr Giro’s response is a sign that British representatives are falling out of favour – and risk becoming persona non grata – in the European Institutions, following calls by some MEPs to have UK representatives removed from influential positions in key European Parliament committees.
The Blair comeback project
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appears to have a renewed appetite for politics, giving a wide-ranging interview in the New Statesman on matters ranging from Brexit to Donald Trump. It had also been previously reported that he was considering setting up a pressure group to fight against Brexit. The interview was a clear sign that Mr Blair is keen to be somehow involved in public life once again on matters ranging from Brexit to the revival of what he calls “progressive centre or centre left”. Any comeback is likely to be heavily divisive as Mr Blair continues to generate both hatred and admiration, depending on who you ask and where you stand. Leaving the Iraq War aside, Blair was either a reformer who delivered improved public services, while not snubbing a free market approach, a Tory-lite Labour Leader or the Head of a government that oversaw a drastic increase in the country’s deficit and debt. Nevertheless, rumours of his return to British politics (he’s already met with Lib Dem EU spokesman Nick Clegg, although was snubbed by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron) will give a powerful voice to Remainers who continue to demand answers over what the British negotiating position will be.