Stocks, Sensors and Subterfuge

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

Walking the plank  A five-page treaty setting out the EU’s draft negotiating position has been leaked, which casts new light on its stance towards the proposed transition period. The position as outlined previously was that the UK will retain single market access and stay within the customs union during the 21-month period following Brexit. Whilst this remains the intention, new provisions allowing the EU to unilaterally suspend this access have been introduced in this latest document, termed by some as a ‘punishment plan’. This will not find favour among hardliners such as Rees-Mogg, who meets today as part of a Brexit ‘war cabinet’. However, even soft-liners and Remainers such as Chuka Umunna have expressed concern with the EU’s position, stating that the transition period increasingly appears, ‘less like building a bridge and more like being made to walk the plank’.

First dibs  How to deliver homes when market mechanisms do not is a perennial challenge for successive governments. Labour has come out with two ideas in the past month; one from Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey, and another from London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The former is a fairly radical reform of CPO compensation, which would exclude hope value from the assessment of land acquired by compulsion, and which would significantly devalue thousands of acres of strategic land. The latter is a puff of smoke. The Mayor has secured industry support to give ‘first dibs’ (a one-month exclusivity period) to Londoners on all new homes sold for under £350,000). Great! Except, our research shows that only 7% of new schemes in London have any units priced at under £350,000, and currently there are just 168 units in the capital meeting this criteria on Rightmove. Next idea?

Blended reality  The displacement threat that the digital world poses to the physical one increases each year as technology makes the (cheaper and more flexible) virtual environment less distinguishable from the real one. That tide is unstoppable. However, a defence for the real world can also be found in the same technology. Augmented or blended reality has the potential to enhance the real-world experience in ways that were not possible previously. This week Amazon secured a patent for a ‘Blended Reality System’, primarily designed for use in retail stores. Taking the form of a mirror, the tool allows users to try on clothes without actually putting them on – goodbye changing rooms? Some of the light from the mirror is reflected (e.g. your face), whereas other light is projected (e.g. the ‘dress’ that you are trying on). The two are blended together into a seamless image. This is an example of tech that takes the best from each world to provide an experience that is better than either. It feels inevitable that our world will become increasingly ‘augmented’ over the next 10 years to the extent where the lines between each will become obscured.

Go Directly to Jail  For those that choose to be the banker in Monopoly, the game might finally be up. Recognising the nefarious realities of the real estate themed board game, Hasbro has introduced a new version that plays to the skills of those 50% of us who take a more ‘flexible’ view to rules. These include Chance cards which encourage the player to move another person’s token instead of their own, or secretly pays less rent than the amount they owe. There’s a host of other permitted activity in respect of which the RICS ethics committee would likely take a dim view, including stealing from the bank and surreptitiously adding hotels that you don’t own. To reflect other modern-day realities in their next update I would like to see: all properties relabelled in the very expensive dark blue colour, the introduction of micro-flats in place of houses, landing on a train station to result in skipping five moves due to rail strikes, and Free Parking to be replaced with a Congestion Charge fine.


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