Brexit withdrawal; interest rates up; more transatlantic business

Brexit: politics

The U.K. government has tabled a European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill, which sets March 29, 2019, as the date for the U.K.’s departure, and aims to turn EU laws into U.K. laws. The aim: a smooth transition. But politically it is proving more challenging.

For example, the bill gives the government the right to make subsequent amendments without parliamentary scrutiny (some EU laws cannot be simply transferred). And the range of issues covered by EU law is enormous, around 80,000 items.

This has set the scene for charged debate, and while the bill has passed a first round, it has further to go before the final vote.

Brexit: negotiations

Meanwhile, U.K.-EU negotiations on the shape of Brexit itself continue, focusing on the rights of citizens, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the cost of the departure settlement. Progress will be reviewed at a December 14-15 leaders’ summit, when it will be decided whether to expand discussions to other issues, e.g., the trading relationship. The clock is running down quickly. The halfway point between referendum and departure date passed on November 10 (as of writing there are 500 days to go).

U.K. economy

The Bank of England made its first interest rate rise in 10 years, by 0.25% to 0.5%, with more expected to follow in 2018 (albeit to a cap of 1% by 2020). The move was made largely in an effort to manage inflation, which after a post-Brexit referendum rise has recently remained steady at 3%. Third-quarter GDP growth was 0.4%. Although the U.K. economy has performed better than expected since the referendum, the U.K.’s Office for Budget Responsibility predicts growth might slow through 2017 and 2018 with ongoing uncertainty and pauses in investment decisions.

Transatlantic business

Air miles were stacked up through the fall, with business travel in both directions across the Atlantic. B.C. companies attended a range of major shows in Europe, including Defence and Security Equipment International in London, European Utility Week in Amsterdam, Anuga (for agri-food) in Cologne and, in life sciences, Bio-Europe in Berlin and Medica in Duesseldorf. In the other direction, 10 London-based software and gaming companies visited Vancouver (and Seattle) as part of the London Mayor’s International Business Programme (MIBP). MIBP is an international growth accelerator for top high-growth U.K. startups. Companies are selected based on market traction and interest in future expansion. More is to come before Christmas, with Invest in Canada and the Consider Canada City Alliance leading an investment mission to Zurich, Amsterdam and Paris. 

Rupert Potter is a U.K.-based writer, speaker and diplomat who has worked in Jordan, Bahrain, Sweden and Canada. His career has included work with the U.K. government. He currently runs an independent consultancy.