UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from Breakingviews:

UK’s strong GDP has a soft centre

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Fly the flag. The headlines will be about the solid milestone. The UK finally replanted its flag on its 2008 GDP growth peak, three years after Germany and the United States reclaimed theirs and after a mere five years of ultra-low interest rates. But the landscape – the details of the second-quarter GDP – has its uncomfortably rocky side.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will see some grounds for concern. The 0.8 percent growth from the first quarter was generated almost entirely by the dominant services sector, which sprinted up by 1 percent. The rate of growth of industrial production slipped from 0.7 percent in the first quarter to 0.4 percent - equivalent to a meagre annualised rate of just 1.6 percent. Construction output contracted by 0.5 percent, bad news in a country needing houses.

The UK’s ascent, as in the past, is a straggling one, with services showing signs of leaving industry and manufacturing lagging behind. The UK’s close-to-record external current account deficit of over 4 percent of GDP is more evidence of that. Weak international competitiveness still looks like a big British growth-inhibiting problem, not helped by the fast recent rise in the pound.

from Breakingviews:

UK banks have much to fear from latest probe

By Chris Hughes

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The latest competition review of UK banking should aim to be the last. An antitrust probe in 2000 led to limited price controls after concluding that British lenders made excess profit. There were two more big investigations after the financial crisis. Yet concerns about market inefficiencies persist. That suggests the Competition and Markets Authority should do something radical this time.

from Breakingviews:

London real estate at an inflection point

By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Most real estate valuers in London think property prices in the UK capital are about to fall. That prediction has been easy to make and easier to get wrong in the last five years. This time, the evidence that global investors’ favourite housing market has peaked is looking credible.

from John Lloyd:

The UK’s paradox of faith

When David Cameron recently proclaimed in the Church Times -- the organ of the Church of England -- that he was a Christian, that his faith helped guide him through life and work and that Britain is a Christian country and should be proud of it, he was met with a wall of disapproval.

When a European leader says he's a Christian and that he lives in a Christian country, he's asking for trouble. The approved political position in Europe is that religion should be commended for its sterling values when it cares for the poor and condemned when it is used as a rationale for terrorism. Otherwise, politicians should steer clear and leave it to the clergy.

from Hugo Dixon:

Independent Scotland won’t keep the pound

An independent Scotland will not keep the pound. That’s despite this being the express wish of the Scottish government, which is campaigning for independence in September’s referendum. The reason is that it’s hard to see the rest of the UK agreeing to such a deal – except on terms that would affront Scotland’s amour propre.

One can understand why Edinburgh is keen not to change its monetary arrangements. If Scotland had its own free-floating currency, it would be less economically integrated with the rest of the UK. Given that 60 percent of its exports and 70 percent of its imports are with the rest of the UK, such a separation would hit hard.

from Breakingviews:

Why the UK is growing and the euro zone isn’t

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

British growth is forging ahead of the euro zone’s. UK austerity has been more effective, the pound is cheap, the housing market suddenly all too lively. But British simplicity also helps. A Germanically strong euro weighs heavily on a still systemically challenged zone.

from Hugo Dixon:

The City has huge scope to expand

Finance has rightly been in the sin bin for the last six years. And the cleanup job isn’t finished. But Mark Carney, the new Bank of England governor, is correct to stress how a large and expanding City of London is good for Britain, Europe and the world – provided it is properly organised.

Carney’s comments, in a speech last week, will seem heretical to many – maybe even to his predecessor, Mervyn King, who showed a barely disguised disdain for financiers. Would it really be healthy, for example, for the balance sheets of British banks to reach nine times GDP, double the current ratio – as Carney projected they could by 2050?

from Hugo Dixon:

Brexit process would be messy

Imagine the British people vote to quit the European Union in the referendum David Cameron has promised to hold by 2017. What happens next? What, if any, special relationship would the UK seek to retain with the EU? Would it be able to negotiate what it wanted? And how would the economic damage unleashed by years of uncertainty be kept to the minimum?

These questions aren’t just troubling British businesses, the vast majority of which want to stay in the EU so they can enjoy full access to its single market. They are also worrying some eurosceptics who are concerned that, even if it would be good for Britain to quit the EU, the process of getting from A to B could be messy.

from Breakingviews:

Britain can gain from China’s empire builders

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Britain once had nothing to offer China but silver and opium. Now it has holidays, banks and building sites. George Osborne, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, and London’s mayor Boris Johnson are using visits to Beijing to say just how welcoming the UK is likely to be. It’s a triumph of openness, and provided the UK chooses its partners carefully and the Chinese are tactful, both sides will benefit.

from Breakingviews:

UK’s politicians race to the bottom on policies

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The next UK general election is in 2015, and the country’s politicians are already engaged in a classic pre-electoral sport: the race to the bottom. They are desperate for policies which please voters and the competition is fierce. Popularity is the aim, populism is the method. None of it is going to do the economy any good.

  •