Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
This Week in Brexit: 14th October
It’s been a quieter week following the excitement and commotion of the Conservative Party Conference but there has still been plenty of interesting Brexit-related activity to put into our weekly blog…
It’s been a tough week for the pound. Despite recovering somewhat from a significant drop on Tuesday, the pound closed on Thursday at 1.11 against the Euro and 1.22 against the dollar; both markedly lower than last week. The Financial Times has highlighted that this performance puts the pound at its lowest level in 168 years against a basket of its trading peers.
Despite strong gains last week, both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 were impacted by currency moves which have seen both indexes drop throughout the week. However, with the FTSE 100 holding above 6,970 and the FTSE 250 at around the 17,870 mark, the indexes have still seen positive trajectories over the month.
On Wednesday, a number of senior Conservatives, including Claire Perry and Ken Clarke, used a parliamentary debate to warn that the Government’s Brexit strategy was risking the health of the economy. The cited the current strength of sterling and business confidence as particular worrying.
There was controversy on Thursday as Tesco announced that it had removed a number of well-known Unilever products from its website including Marmite, PG Tips, and Pot Noodles. This was in response to Unilever raising its prices in the UK in order to compensate for the drop in the pound’s value.
On Tuesday night, Theresa May moved to avoid rebellion in the Tory backbenches by agreeing to demands for a ‘full and transparent’ Commons debate ahead of the activation of Article 50. This became necessary after a Commons session on Monday which saw Conservative MPs join with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to demand full scrutiny of the Brexit plan. However, May continues to strongly oppose giving MPs a vote on the government’s Brexit negotiating strategy.
There was a fiery PMQs session on Wednesday with Jeremy Corbyn criticising Theresa May’s strategy; arguing that she was heading towards a ‘shambolic Tory Brexit’. In response, May accused Labour’s shadow foreign secretary of seeking a second referendum (a claim Emily Thornberry denies) and criticised Corbyn’s recent re-election as leader.
Nicola Sturgeon stole headlines on Thursday by announcing at the beginning of the SNP Party Conference in Glasgow that plans for a second Scottish independence referendum would soon be underway. The Independence Referendum Bill is due to be published next week for consultation.
Although there are still many hurdles to clear before a second referendum would be held, this marks the first step along that path.
Thursday also saw The UK’s High Court hear a challenge which claims that ministers cannot invoke Article 50 without MPs passing a new law. The legal team, led by constitutional lawyer and cross-bench peer Lord Pannick, argue that the activation of Article 50 must have the consent of the House of Commons and the House of Lords as only parliament can remove or reduce rights granted under law.
Earlier in the week, the Labour party set 170 questions on Brexit before Government; one for every day until the end of March deadline for triggering Article 50. The questions cover a wide array of topics including the free movement of goods and services, the free movement of people, structural funding, Northern Ireland, employment rights, and foreign and defence policy, among others.
This Week at the Chambers
As usual, we’ve been busy at the Chamber this week.
On Tuesday we launched our latest Quarterly Business Report which provides a detailed look at Birmingham’s business performance and confidence during Q3 2016. The launch event was run in collaboration with our QBR sponsors, Birmingham City University, and saw our Director of Policy and Strategic Relationships, Henrietta Brealey, present the latest statistics. The session also featured presentations on the theme of ‘Global Greater Birmingham’ from our newly appointed Birmingham Chamber President and Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, Paul Kehoe, and Head of Research at the Midlands Economic Forum, Professor Paul Forrest. You can read our latest QBR here.
On Thursday our Chief Executive, Paul Faulkner, spoke at a Birmingham City Council Symposium aimed at bringing key stakeholders together in order to develop a shared vision for the City. In the aftermath of the EU Referendum the GBCC believes that this is the perfect time for Birmingham to take stock of the key challenges facing the City so that we can make the most of the many opportunities that are ahead of us. With this in mind, we have worked with the City-REDI research institute at the University of Birmingham Business School to produce an in-depth analysis of the City’s economy. We will be launching our findings at the Business School on Tuesday 1st November You can find out more information and book your place here.
We’ve also been extremely busy gearing up for the GBCC Autumn Expo which is being held today at the Barclaycard Arena. This is a fantastic opportunity for members to build their network, promote their business, find new suppliers and increase their knowledge. Alongside a seminar programme focussed on the theme of ‘Connect. Support. Grow.’ there are more than 70 companies exhibiting. Although online bookings are now closed people are more than welcome to attend and register tomorrow on the door. More info can be found here.