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Rock and earth

New Europe 12 April

By Richard Pickering, Head of UK Research & Insight 

Third country  The challenge of securing a new deal with the EU within two years was always going to be a tough one. Now there appears to be an admission that this will not happen, with Theresa May stating that only an ‘outline’ will be achieved within that window. The implication is that the UK will take ‘third country status’ during a period of extended negotiations. During this period, principles of freedom of movement and payments to the EU would still likely apply, pending implementation of a final deal. With such transition period potentially spanning the next General Election, there may be an opportunity for both Brexiteers and Remainers to develop their positions further prior to inking the deal.

Positions vacant Employment growth is a good proxy for demand for most types of physical accommodation. Hence, recently published data by job site CV-Library may provide food for thought for developers. The data suggests that job vacancies increased by an average 14.1% over a single month, with Liverpool, Brighton, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds topping the table. The hospitality industry in particular showed a marked increase (31.4%). More telling for the UK economy and retail sector will be whether this increase in job numbers will translate to higher wages, which at present are struggling to keep pace with projected inflation.

Banking on leisure Despite strong performance in its wider Group, the Co-op has written down its stake in the beleaguered Co-operative Bank to nil, as a buyer is sought for the business. The institution which is struggling to comply with its capital requirements has reported five years of consecutive losses; in part victim of the prolonged low-interest rate environment which is affecting the banking sector more generally. Its four-year recovery period has seen a workforce halved to 3,895, and near-200 branches shut. Overall, 16,000 jobs are forecast to be lost in the UK finance sector by 2020. This sentiment is reinforced by a recent report from the Local Data Company, which suggests that previous high street stalwarts, such as banks and fashion, are being replaced with leisure uses such as health clubs and fast food outlets, with banks being net negative 196 stores during 2016.

NO2 high emissions Talking to Brits about car ownership has been equated to ‘talking to an American about hand guns’, with attendant consequences for air quality in our big cities. However, this week the Mayor of London announced a date to establish the world’s first Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in the capital. A toxicity charge (T-Charge) of £10 will apply from 23 October 2017, but ULEZ will widen this to up to 10,000 vehicles by April 2019 and is hoped to act as a disincentive to bring polluting cars into the central zone. At present, diesel vehicles account for almost a third of all vehicles, whereas greener ‘hybrid’ and electric cars account for just 0.5%. The government will announce further plans to tackle pollution later this month, and London’s approach could ultimately be emulated in dozens of city and town centres across the UK. This is progressive step on the Wellness agenda, but our European counterparts are still well ahead: 60 Low-Emission zones already exist in Germany, the Mayor of Paris announced that she wanted a ban on diesel cars by 2020, and Norway will ban new sales of petrol fuelled cars in 2025.

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