Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
It’s been yet another busy week for Brexit as we move ever closer to the Government’s end-of-March deadline for activating Article 50. That means there’s plenty to include in this week’s Brexit blogs…
It’s been a difficult week for Sterling as the currency has fallen steadily against both the euro and the dollar with particularly notable dips on Wednesday 1st March. At close of play on Thursday the pound was valued at €1.167 and $1.226. This week’s dip has seen the pound fall to its lowest value against the dollar since early January.
Despite enjoying a strong climb during the week, the FTSE 100 stuttered on Thursday due largely to the fall in value of the pound versus the dollar. The index was also hit by poor performance reports from Capita and Merlin Entertainments with the latter highlighting the weak pound as a reason for fewer tourists visiting their attractions.
Despite building materials firm Travis Perkins reporting significant profit falls for the year, the FTSE 250 has similarly enjoyed a relatively consistent climb throughout the week.
On Thursday it was announced that in February Eurozone inflation had risen above the European Central Bank’s 2% target for the first time in four years. This was largely due to increasing energy costs. Analysts do not expect this to alter the EU’s current fiscal policy.
On Thursday evening the latest Markit/ CIPS Purchasing Manager’s Index was released with the stats suggesting that the construction industry within the UK continues to grow despite input cost pressures for the sector. The growth was largely led by the civil engineering index as house building and commercial construction both saw index falls.
The Government suffered a notable Brexit blow on Wednesday following a vote in the House of Lords on the Brexit Bill. By a majority of 358 to 256, Peers demanded that the Government amend the bill to state that they would guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK within three months of article 50 being triggered. The Government has indicated that it has no intention of making the amendment and that it is still their intention to activate article 50 by the end of March.
Earlier in the week, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major hit out at what he described as the ‘cheap rhetoric’ that lay at the heart of the Government’s Brexit strategy. He also warned that achieving a trade deal with the EU within 2 years was highly unlikely and that this could leave the UK reliant on an ‘unpalatable Trumpian United States’. Lastly he criticised some pro-Brexit politicians for making promises that are ‘inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery’.
On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon used a speech in Edinburgh to raise the topic of Scottish Independence by arguing that Scotland was at a crossroads where it would need to deicide whether or not it wanted to be part of a post-Brexit UK. The Scottish First Minister stated that she felt a second independence referendum "may offer the only way in which our voice can be heard, our interests protected, and our values upheld."
On Monday, UEFA President Aleksander Cefarin stated that Brexit posed serious problems for UK bids to host the finals of high-profile football tournaments such as the Champion’s League and European Championship. He relayed worries that Brexit could lead to players and fans finding it difficult to gain entry to the UK to attend the events.
This Week at the Chambers
It’s been a particularly busy week for us at the Chambers with plenty to keep us occupied.
On Tuesday we sent a delegation down to London to attend the British Chambers of Commerce’s Annual Conference. With guest speakers including George Osborne, Andy Street and Andy Burnham, the conference covered a range of themes including Brexit, growing business in the regions and keeping the UK competitive.
Our events team have been working hard all week in preparation for the GBCC Spring Expo. This great event features an array of fantastic local exhibitors and some inspirational guest speakers. It’s being hosted at the fantastic Birmingham Conference and Events Centre in the heart of the city and delegates will have the opportunity to build their network, promote their business, find new suppliers or increase their knowledge.
This week has been the last week of the GBCC’s Growth Through People campaign and we’ll certainly be going out on a high after a fantastic week of activity where we’ve explored topics such as unconscious bias in the workplace, skills and young people in businesses, and enabled people management experts to share their views and experiences of what good practice looks like. We’ll be finishing off the month with themed seminars at today’s Spring Expo.
Earlier this week the fieldwork period for our latest Quarterly Business Report closed so my colleague Raj has been busy analysing the results and finding out how the GBCC’s business community is performing. Thank you to everyone that completed the survey. It’s extremely useful to us as it allows us to better understand your business needs and more effectively lobby on your behalf. We will be launching our next report at an event on Tuesday 18th April which will also feature discussion with senior business leaders on business confidence in Greater Birmingham. It would be great to see you there.