Counting the Cost

Brexit: One year on

Is the economy taking on a more important role when it comes to Brexit?

On the anniversary of Brexit – the vote that triggered Britain’s shock decision to leave the European Union, we’ll take a look at where things stand. At the time, the pound sterling went into a tailspin, falling 10 percent versus the dollar, and the FTSE 100 plunged eight percent at one point.

One year since, the FTSE 100 is now up around 18 percent since the vote, a strong performance by any measure. But the pound sterling is down 16 percent versus the US dollar, which is beginning to weigh on consumer spending as inflation starts to bite.

Is there now a greater realisation within the UK that the economy and jobs need to be safeguarded?

Prime Minister Theresa May‘s pre-election rhetoric touched little on the economy and instead focused on curbing migration. Has this changed? 

But there’s another key change.

I don't think there's political will in the parliament to reverse the Brexit decision with legislation ... The real issue is are we gonna have a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit.

by Kern Alexander, professor, chair of Law and Finance, University of Zurich

The recent UK general election failed to deliver a majority government, making it harder for the mountain of new Brexit laws to be pushed through parliament before the deadline to leave expires in March 2019.

While official talks kicked off this week in Brussels, the UK’s negotiating position looked much weaker than one year ago.

In the first major move in discussions, the British prime minister offered EU leaders a deal on allowing citizens to remain in their respective jurisdictions after Brexit.

EU citizens will be given the right to remain in the UK if they’ve lived there for five years.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says the move is as a “good start” – but is it really a good start? The offer also has a lot to do with the large economic contribution EU nationals make to the British economy.

From Cambridge, Professor Kern Alexander, chair of Law and Finance at the University of Zurich, offers his take.

“The economy is the most difficult part of the negotiations for Theresa May and it’s better in her negotiation strategy to start out on an issue where there’s more common ground, which is the recognition of the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and also trying to get agreement from other EU states regarding their recognition of the rights of British citizens living in other EU states,” says Alexander.

On whether Brexit can be reversed, “parliament could pass legislation to reverse the triggering of Article 50 of the EU Treaty – that’s a legal possibility”, explains Alexander.

But “politically, I don’t think that will happen because, in the recent election, the Labour Party was not questioning Brexit. They were challenging the Conservatives on other issues having to do with social policy and the economy.

“I don’t think there’s political will in the parliament to reverse the Brexit decision with legislation.

“The real issue is are we gonna have a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit. And I am afraid that Theresa May’s position right now is leading us into a hard Brexit situation.”

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

The oil bear is back: Crude oil prices are back in bear-market territory. A bear market is typically defined as a decline of 20 percent or more from a recent peak. Investors are on edge because it’s the first bear market for crude since a deal by the world’s top oil producers to cut supply. That deal was expected to prop up prices and eliminate a supply glut. But US shale producers, who are not part of the deal, keep ramping up production. There’s now a worry that lower oil could affect stock markets and shake up petro-dependent economies. Independent oil analyst Cornelia Meyer takes a look at how all of this will affect the ongoing crisis in the Gulf.

Uber: Uber, the world’s largest privately owned technology company, is hiring. A series of scandals has damaged Uber’s reputation in recent months and led to the departure of several key people. Just this week, CEO and founder Travis Kalanick quit after an investor revolt forced him out. But it’s not just the CEO position that is up for grabs. Uber is also seeking a new chief financial officer, chief operating officer and head of engineering.

China MSCI: Global index provider, MSCI, is continuing to push China to reform its stock markets if it wants the world’s big fund managers to invest there. While the country has the world’s largest stock market, it hasn’t really been considered a proper one by international fund managers. Starting next year, a small proportion of Chinese stocks known as ‘A-shares’ will be included in its widely followed indices for the first time. 

Alibaba’s US expansion: Alibaba, the world’s fastest growing internet-related technology titan, is aiming to grow even bigger. Investors, though, have always been able to easily buy and sell stocks in companies like Alibaba, which is listed internationally. The company is holding a kind of corporate speed-date in Detroit this week, inviting American business owners to pair up, virtually speaking, with Chinese consumers. John Hendren reports from Detroit.