Brexit

UK set to take hard line on EU trade under David Frost

The Brexit debate has always been about politics, not economics.  So it was no surprise that December’s UK-EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was the first trade deal in history to actually increase barriers rather than reduce them. The reason is that Brexiters are focused on a very narrow concept of “sovereignty”. And last week’s

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Buyers scramble for product as global supply chains breakdown

Asian LNG prices reached $32.50/MMBTU this month, up from less than $2/MMBTU in June. The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index hit $8000/TEU container (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), up from prior rates of $1500/TEU. In Europe, UK supermarkets have warned of containing food shortages in N Ireland due to the new Brexit trading rules. None of this would

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Businesses face “biggest imposition of red tape in 50 years” as Brexit begins

Most companies had closed when the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was finally announced on Christmas Eve. And they are only now starting to get their heads around what it all means. Essentially, it creates the biggest shake-up to the UK’s trading relationships since 1973.  As the BBC’s Economics Editor reported: “It is

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Your A to Z Guide to the reality of Brexit after 31 December

(Picture credit Shutterstock) A.  Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty set out the rules for leaving the European Union. As with most negotiations, it assumed the leaving country would present its proposals for the post-withdrawal period – which would then be finalised with the other members. But the UK government has little experience of trade negotiations, as these

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Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues

The IMF has now confirmed that the world economy has moved into the synchronised slowdown that I forecast here a year ago. Its analysis also confirms the importance of the issues highlighted then, including “rising trade barriers and increasing geopolitical tensions”, a sharp decline in manufacturing, contraction in the auto industry and structural forces such

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Boris Johnson will have to disappoint someone in 2020 as the UK finally leaves the EU

Finally, after three and a half years, the UK has reached “the end of the beginning” with Brexit, in Winston Churchill’s famous phrase. Since the referendum, its leaders have consistently refused to confront the real choices that have to be made over what type of Brexit it wants to have: In June 2016, then premier

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No Deal Brexit still a likely option if opposition parties fail to support a new referendum

Canada’s normally pro-UK ‘Globe and Mail’ summed up the prevailing external view of Brexit last week: “We begin this editorial with an apology to you, our faithful readers. In March, we described the Brexit situation, then careening through its third year and nowhere close to resolution, as an “omnishambles. “An omnishambles is a state of

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Wishful thinking dominates Brexit debate as the UK heads towards No Deal on 31 October

One of the best things I learned at school was the simple mnemonic: “To ASSUME can make an ASS of U and ME” Unfortunately, most of those involved in the UK’s Brexit debate have failed to remember it.  As a result, it seems likely that the UK will end up leaving the European Union on 31

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Most businesses were nowhere near Ready for Brexit last Friday – we mustn’t make the same mistake again

Thank goodness for backbench MPs and the European Union. Without their efforts, the UK would by now have left the EU without any trade deals, or ongoing relationship with it’s biggest export market.  And as the Duke of Wellington said in another context, “It was a damn close-run thing”: In a historic vote, MPs decided

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Businesses thrilled by Brexit uncertainty: “It’s exhilarating” says small business owner

With the European Commission saying that a No Deal is now “likely“, small businesses across the UK and EU27 have begun to look forward to the opportunities that it will create, as this 1 April report from Ready for Brexit suggests. Businesses across Europe are thrilled by the uncertainty of Brexit. “We’re absolutely loving it”

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Companies and investors have just 30 working days left to prepare for a No Deal Brexit

Companies across the UK and EU27 are realising there are now just 30 working days until the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, and starts to trade on WTO terms.  If this happens, every supply chain involving a movement between the UK and EU27 will change. And many supply chains involving movements outside the

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“What could possibly go wrong?”

I well remember the questions a year ago, after I published my annual Budget Outlook, ‘Budgeting for the Great Unknown in 2018 – 2020‘.  Many readers found it difficult to believe that global interest rates could rise significantly, or that China’s economy would slow and that protectionism would rise under the influence of Populist politicians. […]

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Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges

Europe’s petrochemical sector must prepare now for the trade war, US start-ups, Brexit and the circular economy, as I discuss in this interview with Will Beacham of ICIS news  at the European Petrochemical Association Conference. With higher tariff barriers going up between the US and China, the market in Europe is likely to experience an influx of […]

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Is your business Ready for Brexit?

Time is running out for the UK government to agree a Brexit deal with Europe.  As my new analysis for ICIS Chemical Business highlights, companies need to move quickly to prepare for the “No Deal” scenario Legendary England footballer Gary Lineker best summarised the general sense of disbelief over the state of 
the Brexit negotiations when […]

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Political and economic risks rise as US mid-term elections near

This is the Labor Day weekend in the USA – the traditional start of the mid-term election campaign.  And just as in September 2016, the Real Clear Politics poll shows that most voters feel their country is going in the wrong direction.  The demographic influences that I highlighted then are also becoming ever-more important with time: […]

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UK faces ‘make or break summer’ as ‘No Deal’ Brexit risk rises

Last week, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, its chief Brexit negotiator and several junior ministers, resigned.  President Trump gave an interview attacking the UK prime minister, Theresa May, and suggesting her policies would “kill” any future trade deal with the US.  And the EU 27’s main negotiator on the critical Brexit issue, Michel Barnier, warned: “On both […]

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Airbus warns of “dawning reality” there may be no Brexit deal

Suddenly, businesses across Europe are waking up to the realisation that the UK is currently on course to leave the European Union (EU) on 29 March next year, without a deal on trade and customs.  As Katherine Bennett, the UK boss of aerospace giant, Airbus, warned on Friday: “This is not project fear, this is […]

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US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies

It is almost a year since Donald Trump became President.  And whilst he has not followed through on many of his promises, he has indeed introduced the major policy changes that I began to discuss in September 2015, when I first suggested he could win the election and that the Republicans could control Congress: “In the […]

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The return of volatility is the key market risk for 2018

We are living in a strange world. As in 2007 – 2008, financial news continues to be euphoric, yet the general news is increasingly gloomy. As Nobel Prizewinner Richard Thaler, has warned, “We seem to be living in the riskiest moment of our lives, and yet the stock market seems to be napping.” Both views […]

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Budgeting for the Great Unknown in 2018 – 2020

“There isn’t anybody who knows what is going to happen in the next 12 months.  We’ve never been here before.  Things are out of control.  I have never seen a situation like it.“ This comment from former UK Finance Minister, Ken Clarke, aptly summarises the uncertainty facing companies, investors and individuals as we look ahead […]

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The Great Reckoning for policymakers’ failures has begun

Next week, I will publish my annual Budget Outlook, covering the 2018-2020 period. The aim, as always, will be to challenge conventional wisdom when this seems to be heading in the wrong direction.  Before publishing the new Outlook each year, I always like to review my previous forecast. Past performance may not be a perfect […]

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Brexit disaster looms as UK government power struggle erupts

UK voters were never very bothered about membership of the European Union (EU) before the Brexit vote last year.  Opinion polls instead showed they shared the general feeling of voters everywhere – that their country was heading in the wrong direction, and it was time for a change.  Now, last week’s Conservative Party conference showed […]

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UK risks “crashing out” of EU after election without trade deal

Yesterday, senior EU negotiators warned that “the chances of Britain crashing out of the EU without a new (trade) deal were now “over 50%””.  Clearly, therefore, the UK’s preparations are not going well. Instead of building trust, the UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, seems to think that threats – such as promising “the row of […]

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London house prices face perfect storm as Brexit risks rise

The UK goes to the polls on 8 June in a surprise General Election.  And premier Theresa May has clearly decided to base her campaign on a ”Who governs Britain?” platform, as she highlighted when launching her campaign last week: “Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press, the European Commission’s stance […]

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UK consumers face difficult times as Brexit unwinds the housing bubble, and financial services de-cluster out of London

Brexit negotiations are likely to prove a very uncomfortable ride for UK consumers as Russell Napier of Eric, the online research platform, warned last week: □  ”Public sector debt remains at near-historic highs (in peace time!) and for the first time this public sector debt comes with a private sector bubble □  Credit card debt […]

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“Business as usual” the least likely outcome for Europe

Europe is heading in to the Great Unknown, as Monday’s post highlighted.  The UK, The Netherlands and France are not the only political uncertainties that we face.  Elections are also due in Italy and in Germany.    Italian elections. After premier Renzi’s referendum defeat last year, it seems like that Italy will hold elections this year, […]

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Europe heads into the Great Unknown as UK prepares for Brexit; Dutch and French voters go to the polls

Next month sees the start of a process that could change all our lives.  Whether we live in Europe, or outside it, the political decisions about to be made have the potential to impact every country in the world – for better or worse. And yet, nobody has yet begun to put together the various […]

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The global economy’s best leading indicator forecasts a downturn

If you want to know what is happening to the global economy, the chemical industry will provide the answers. It has an excellent correlation with IMF data, and also benefits from the fact it has no “political bias”.  It simply tells us what is happening in real-time in the world’s 3rd largest industry.  The chart […]

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The blog in 2016

2016 saw the Great Reckoning for the failure of stimulus policies begin to impact companies and markets. The blog’s readership has increased significantly as a a result, as shown in the chart above, with its visits now totaling nearly 500k.  Its readership includes 197 countries and over 11k cities.  Readers also remain very loyal, with […]

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Political risk rises as voters feel only the populists are listening

This week, the new UK premier, Theresa May, highlighted how the central banks have encouraged the populists’ rise: “We have to acknowledge some of the bad side-effects. People with assets have got richer, people without have not.” The problem, of course, goes wider than this.  The continuing failure to recover from the 2008 Financial Crisis […]

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Brexit debate obscures key issues as assertions replace facts

The UK’s Brexit referendum is fast becoming a bitter battle for the Conservative Party leadership.  It is hard to believe that Boris Johnson, who leads the Leave campaign, really cares either way about the issue of leaving Europe: He told Germany’s Der Spiegel only last year:  ‘We can’t leave Europe. We’re part of the European Continent. What […]

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US GDP Q1 forecast at just 0.1%; global chemical output slows

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece”.  This quotation from Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Macbeth, aptly sums up the state of the world economy. Policymakers refuse to accept that the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle is over.  And so they continue to believe that adding vast amounts of electronic money to the financial system will return the economy to SuperCycle levels […]

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