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Saturday, June 24, 2017
The Governor of the Bank of England said on Tuesday that growth in real wages will be “weaker” as the UK negotiates its departure from the EU.
FactCheck looks at four ways Brexit has had an impact so far.
1. Your weekly shop costs moreInflation is the increase in the price of goods and services over time. The Bank of England wants prices to rise at a rate of 2 per cent a year. That’s what economists consider the goldilocks zone: it’s not so low that it stifles growth, and it’s not so high that it makes living costs unsustainable.
We usually measure inflation with the Consumer Prices Index. The CPI looks at a “basket” of everyday items that reflect Brits’ spending patterns to see how prices are changing.
New additions to the 2017 basket include non-dairy milk, gin, cycle helmets and cider. We’ve got hipsters to thank for that. It surely won’t be long before beard-trimmers make it onto the list.
Since last year’s Brexit vote, and the subsequent drop in the value of the pound, CPI inflation has been well over the magic 2 per cent. It currently stands at a four-year high of 2.9 per cent.
The price of goods and services in the UK is particularly affected by the value of the pound because Brits tend to rely on imports – especially when it comes to buying physical goods like food and raw materials.
When sterling falls, the pound doesn’t go as far as it used to abroad. That leaves UK supermarkets and retailers out of pocket. They pass the costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Remember the Marmite drought of 2016, when Tesco took the divisive spread off the shelves? That was because Marmite’s owner, Unilever, had wanted to raise prices by 10 per cent to make up for money it lost when the pound plummeted after the Brexit vote.
It’s worth saying that the value of sterling has improved since the immediate aftermath of the referendum. But the Bank of England expects inflation to rise to 3 per cent this autumn as the pound is still relatively weakened by the vote to leave.
2. The average holiday costs 35 per cent more than it did before the voteIt’s not just at home where Brits are worse off post-Brexit.
According to the Hotel Price Index, holidays to Europe are now 35 per cent more expensive and 90 per cent of the most popular international destinations cost more to visit. Hotels.com, who compile the data using a large sample size, put this down to a weak pound post-referendum.
As a nation, we take 29.3 million holidays to EU countries every year. That means a lot more families feeling the pinch.
3. Salaries will be £1,000 lower this year than they would have been without BrexitThe Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said on Tuesday that we can expect “weaker real income growth” as we leave the EU.
In other words, wages will still rise, but at a slower rate than they would have done if we had voted to remain in the EU.
In May, the Bank said that salaries will be £1,000 lower this year than they would have if Brexit wasn’t happening.
4. Jobs are in jeopardy as companies consider leaving Britain – taking their tax revenue with themA million people in Britain work in the financial services sector. The head of the London Stock Exchange said in January 2017 that up to 232,000 jobs could be lost as a result of Brexit, citing research by EY and the London School of Economics.
As recently as May this year, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs said they were considering moving at least 9,000 jobs out of the UK as a result of the leave vote. More than a quarter of UK financial services firms surveyed by Ernst and Young say that they will move some staff or some of their operations abroad.
Although EY notes that “the majority of firms are maintaining their commitment to the UK”, and more than a third of companies have yet to announce their position on staff changes post-Brexit.
One of the things that has made the UK attractive for financial services companies in recent decades is the fact that our membership of the EU means that firms can be part of the “passporting” scheme.
Passporting means that once you can show regulators that you’re fit to do business in one EU member state, you can start trading in all of the other member states, without having to complete 28 separate approval processes.
It’s not clear whether the UK will be able to stay a part of the passporting scheme when we leave the EU. If we can’t offer companies passporting rights, the UK will become significantly less attractive for businesses.
This could mean even less money available for public services. The taxes the UK government gets from the financial services industry cover almost two thirds of the cost of the NHS. If large numbers of financial services firms move out of the UK, we could lose that revenue.
Although outside financial services, there have been a few positive noises, with Tata Steel announcing in May that it would stay in the UK, safeguarding 1,700 jobs and creating 300 more.
Is it all doom and gloom?Mr Carney’s speech ruffled feathers among pro-Brexit campaigners, with Professor Patrick Minford of the group Economists for Brexit accusing him of “irrational scaremongering”.
Professor Minford argues that the opportunity for “unilateral free trade” – the ability to make our own trade agreements with other countries once we leave the EU – will bring greatly enhanced economic prosperity to Britain.
Indeed, even the weaker pound is not without its upsides, as it makes UK exports relatively cheaper for foreign buyers. In theory, this could be a boost to British businesses who want to sell products abroad.
But as Professor Minford acknowledges, these benefits would take a while to materialise.
We’ll have to wait and see if he’s right.