Luxembourg: BREXIT: A Vision

Last Updated: 23 September 2016
Article by Stephen Nye

Most Read Contributor in Luxembourg, July 2019

It's 2025. BREXIT has been hard.

Transitional arrangements to ease the UK's departure from the EU have ended. The UK's final agreement with the EU 27 could be categorized as Switzerland minus: a limited agreement covering specific areas of access to the free market for goods, but not services. Several free trade agreements beyond the EU 27 will be finalized soon according to the government and will bring new opportunities. However the macroeconomic situation triggered by real BREXIT has made negotiating these agreements even tougher. The pound has slumped to its lowest ever level against the major currencies and continues downwards. The economy is stagnant and the Bank of England seems to have run out of tools to stimulate growth. The UK's goods are now so cheap outside the UK that cars and other products are streaming out to the continent and beyond. The only limitations on the UK's exports are the restricted capacity of the UK's factories, the high cost of imported spare parts and machine tools and a critical shortage of skilled workers. Investment from abroad into UK manufacturing is growing from a high level during the BREXIT process. Unskilled salaries are stagnant due to high unemployment and the impact of automation so, despite the high cost of imported components, returns are attractive.

Imports to the UK have fallen drastically. Fewer people can afford to buy products from abroad, especially premium items such as German cars. Tariffs have increased on some imported goods but this is a minor issue compared to the huge impact of the decline in sterling on the cost of imports. Any hopes that German manufacturers would help the UK to obtain a better deal with the EU to maintain access evaporated as the Germans realized that the price of their cars in the UK would rise to generally unaffordable levels. As with the Japanese, their focus switched to investing to maximize output and efficiency of their existing UK plants.

The outlook for the logistics sector is mixed. Manufacturing is booming, especially for export. Supply chains have become far more complex post-BREXIT enhancing demand for the skills of dedicated logistics specialists. Yet this positive effect is offset by the significant fall in consumer demand. Shops and retail parks are suffering. Consumers limit themselves more and more to avoiding non-essential items. So there are fewer goods and produce to shift around the country. E-commerce is also plateauing as people hesitate to buy new or unnecessary gadgets. Outstanding consumer credit has reached record levels so the banks are reluctant to lend more to sustain domestic demand.

London is as ever a separate story. Hotels, restaurants and the shops of Oxford, Bond and Regent Streets, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden are packed with tourists. Trophy hotels remain trophies. Move east from the buzz of the West End and one finds a very different situation in the City of London and Canary Wharf districts. Banks can no longer passport their services into the EU so continue to move employees to new bases within the EU 27. In particular US and Japanese banks with no historical ties to the UK and upset that their warnings were ignored have been actively moving their operations outside the UK. The boom in the City since the 1980s, built on deregulation, ease of doing business and, above all, easy EU access, seems over.

Outside London the general situation is rather gloomy. People with skilled jobs in manufacturing or the public sector are the lucky ones. As the City of London hollows out, the UK government's tax revenues decline and it can't maintain historical levels of state support. Schools, hospitals and local infrastructure struggle to maintain services and standards. The major post-2016 state-sponsored infrastructure projects are reaching their conclusion and there's no certainty about future projects to replace them. The government has drastically reduced the number of visas available for international students and, as university numbers decline, the once buoyant student housing asset class continues to suffer. Foreign tourists do also venture outside London and more and more Brits are taking their holidays at home so the tourist and related sectors remains one bright spot.

Welcome to Britain in 2025. Will this be the reality?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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