The UK Housing Market: Post-Brexit

One of the conundrums of EU membership for the UK has been the mass influx of people from the continent since 1993, but especially from 1998-onward. Some 8-million immigrants now call the UK home — of which 3.3-million are EU citizens who’ve come to the UK to work or study.

When you suddenly dump 8-million people (or even 3.3-million Europeans) into a country it puts an unprecedented strain on the country’s housing market. Indeed, since 1993 property prices in the UK have become some of the highest priced property on the planet sometimes pushing UK homebuyers aside and into high-priced rental accommodations.

Although these mass migrations began in 1993 when the UK joined the EU (bereft of any referendum) the population of the UK had been holding near 57.7-million with almost no annual growth in the UK population. In recent weeks the population of the UK has surpassed 66-million. It’s easy to see from this calculation that the UK-born population only increased by 1-million from 1993-2018, while the balance of the country’s population increase (8-million) occurred as a result of immigration.

Therefore, is it any wonder that house prices are expected to fall once Brexit occurs and the UK government is again in charge of how many immigrants it lets into the country? Certainly the demand for housing and services will fall to equilibrium levels as supply once again approximates demand.


Is it Possible to Determine Housing Policy Before Immigration Policy is Decided?

In a word, no.

As long as unrestricted immigration continues, any housing policy is doomed to fail no matter how well-intentioned. When numbers of immigrants rise or fall by the hundreds of thousands per year, trying to fine-tune the UK’s housing policy is impossible.

The same holds true during the 2-year Brexit implementation period. Immigrants living in the UK may decide to return to their countries of origin at a rate the UK government won’t know about until well after it has occurred.

Assuming the government places a cap on immigration (of say, 200,000 per year) during the 2-year implementation period it still leaves the variable of how many immigrants will leave the UK, post-Brexit.

As you’ve correctly deduced from reading the above, TWO VARIABLES have been at play in the UK’s housing/immigration market since 1993. No wonder there’s been chaos!

Post-Brexit, there will only be one variable — and that one variable could still become a large factor in this equation — which is why immigration levels should continue to remain high to level-out the expected crash in housing demand that will negatively impact house prices and rental rates.

In short, the UK government’s approach must be one of helping to stabilize the UK housing market by maintaining high-ish immigration levels for up to 5-years following Brexit, otherwise demand will crash and property values will fall precipitously and trigger a mini-recession in the UK.


What is the Best Rate to Taper UK Immigration?

Last year, the UK allowed over 300,000 immigrants into the UK (great for UK businesses that depend on cheap labour) but it puts severe demand on housing, leading to vastly overinflated house prices.

Were the UK to drop immigration down to zero in 2019 and 2020, not only would demand for new housing crash, it could happen that large numbers of immigrants may leave the UK. How many? No one could say. It could be thousands, it could be hundreds of thousands, it could be millions.

How can you create a housing policy when your assumptions may be off by millions of people? You can’t.

Therefore, whatever changes there are to be in UK housing policy for the next 5-years, it will be best that the government make only incremental adjustments to immigration numbers, net immigration numbers, and in housing policy — that strongly adhere to whatever housing market situation develops, as it develops.

Allowing housing prices to drop precipitously (even while recognizing those prices are at present vastly overvalued and must eventually return to reasonable levels) could wreak havoc with the UK housing market, with people’s lives, and with the UK economy. It’s the only time where policy must follow an evolving situation instead of leading it.

This scenario will allow immigration levels to be tailored toward a gentle and ongoing reduction in the outrageous housing prices in the UK’s major cities to something approximating a normal housing market.

Written by John Brian Shannon | Image Credit: The Independent

Preparing for a Post-Brexit UK: Transportation

So many people are caught up in the present Brexit moment they forget there will be life after the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019.

With that in mind, policymakers must begin to focus on the problems that will still be with us in the immediate post-Brexit timeframe.

Q: Why can’t they do that now?

A: Because their hands may be tied by present EU regulations, or everyone is waiting to see what kind of Brexit deal the UK gets, or they’re busy advising business groups and the government how to maximize their Brexit advantage.

So let’s begin the post-Brexit era by solving problems we know will still remain after Brexit day — and use solutions that aren’t presently viable due to EU regulations or norms.


Ask Any Londoner and They’ll Tell You their Worst Daily Problem is City Traffic

Actually, the worst problem Londoners face is the weather. But the City’s notorious traffic congestion starts early, the roads become increasingly packed with vehicles, air pollution levels skyrocket, life occasionally becomes dangerous for pedestrians, and it wastes millions of hours of time every year.

Not only London, but Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Edinburgh and other UK cities force drivers to spend countless hours stuck in traffic and millions of gallons of petrol are wasted annually as cars and lorries inch along the country’s congested roadways.

Of course nothing can be done about it — because if something could be done it would’ve already been done! Right?

Except there is a way to decrease traffic congestion: Theresa May’s first legislation following Brexit should be to ban all lorries from operating within cities of 1 million inhabitants or more — from 6:00am until 6:00pm every weekday.

Lorries could still cross from the continent on ferries or via the Chunnel, operate in the countryside, passing through towns and smaller cities and arrive at (for example) London’s Ring Road anytime after 6:00pm each weekday. Yes, they’d need to obtain ‘the key to the shop’ to unload the shipment at ‘Mom & Dad’s Deli’ or perhaps drop an appropriately sized (and electronically locked) crate full of goods on the loading dock.

It’s a scheduling issue for freight companies; As long as their large vehicles are parked or otherwise off the UK’s major city roads by 6:00am each weekday they won’t incur automatic/electronic fines and they’ll be able to go on with the rest of their day as normal.

Trash haulers, freight delivery, fuel trucks and other transporters will simply adjust their schedules to comply with the weekday hours ban.


List the of Benefits of Such a Plan!

Think of Britain’s major cities free of lorries within their city limits from 6:00am until 6:00pm every weekday:

  1. Less traffic, less traffic noise, less congestion and less gridlock.
  2. Increased parking availability.
  3. Better visibility for cars, cyclists and pedestrians equals fewer accidents and lower NHS spending.
  4. Lower air pollution levels on weekdays resulting in fewer respiratory emergencies, thereby saving the NHS budget millions annually and helping the UK to meet its international clean air commitments.
  5. Although lorry drivers would work different hours, they’d have far less traffic to deal with between the hours of 6:00pm and 6:00am, their big rigs would have acres of room to maneuver around in and they’d easily find parking to offload or load their goods.
  6. An automatic/electronic fine for lorries that enter the city during banned hours of the day could go towards building major lorry parking/queuing areas on the outskirts of major cities. Perhaps a great place to set up coffee shops and motels dedicated to truckers so they can grab a few hours sleep before their afternoon shift/night shift begins? And (while they sleep during the day) have their big rig repaired at a shop within the secure ‘Trucker Zone’ area. If so, I want to invest in those dedicated Trucker Zones — talk about having a captive audience! — the lorries can’t leave until 6:00pm and if they do they would automatically incur a £100 fine as soon as they pass the “City Limits” sign a few feet down the road!
  7. Trucking companies could arrange to have a fully loaded lorry parked and ready to roll at such ‘Trucker Zones’ for each night shift driver to pick up at the beginning of his/her shift and provide a safe place to drop it off in the morning.
  8. Lorry drivers should gain free and hassle-free parking anywhere in the city between 6:00pm and 6:00am and receive special consideration from police in case a lorry driver happens to park in front of a ‘No Parking Zone’ for the few minutes it takes to deliver the load. As hardly anyone is around in the middle of the night and there’s no traffic, why make an issue of minor parking rules?
  9. Lorries leaving major UK cities at 6:00am could pull into the ‘Trucker Zone’ nearest them at the end of their shift, leaving the lorry there for the daytime driver to carry on with the day shift’s rural deliveries/pick ups.
  10. National productivity could be enhanced by requiring lorries to remain outside city limits (or parked within the City) during the daytime hours, giving them free run in cities until 6:00am.
  11. Cities might notice more lorry traffic at the weekend. However, the vast majority of cars aren’t on city roads during the weekend so lorry traffic won’t be too onerous.

Certainly, traffic and congestion in the UK aren’t the fault of the EU, but in the post-Brexit timeframe UK regulators will have a freer hand to solve many issues. Traffic congestion is a problem that affects everyone whether you drive a car, ride a bus, pedal a bike, own a business, or are a tourist who wants to get from tourist site “A” to tourist site “B” and not spend the whole day at it.

Cities depend upon free movement of goods and people. Moving to a two-track plan to obtain better use from city roads could radically change how we use cities. And the day after Brexit is as good a time as any to begin making the best use of those valuable assets.

Image courtesy of motortransport.co.uk

Written by John Brian Shannon

Is Growth Possible in a Post-Brexit Economy?

“KPMG predicts economic growth of 1.4 per cent next year, but cuts this to 0.6 per cent if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.”The Times

While some firms predict slower than normal growth for the UK economy in the post-Brexit timeframe, it’s always good to reflect on the assumptions that forecasters employ in creating their reports and why such forecasts can cause more harm than good.

  1. If you tell your employees that, ‘the chips are down, the economy is sinking, and corporate belt-tightening isn’t far off’ they are likely to respond in a negative way. Some may look for other employment, some will opt for early retirement, while others spend more time in the staff room talking with their coworkers about their employment concerns than getting their work done. Which means such reports can actually cause the negative outcome they’re warning about. It’s human nature to perform to a predicted level instead of trying to exceed expectations. There are few exceptions to this behavior and they are called names like; Olympic athlete, Pulitzer Prize Winner, President, or Astronaut who have the innate ability to ‘power through’ the negative times without losing momentum.
  2. Such reports deal with known inputs only. For example, a zero-tariff trade deal with the Americans may seem far off today, but by 2020 it may already be signed. And not only the U.S., other political and trade blocs are likely to sign trade deals with the UK following Brexit. The AU (Africa), MERCOSUR (the South American trade bloc), the Pacific Alliance (several Pacific nations), the CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) nations, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), The Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Nations), and China, are likely to expand their trade links with the UK after it departs the European Union. America and those seven trading areas will have a combined total of 7.0 billion people by 2020. That’s a lot of potential consumers, and the massive opportunities presented by signing zero-tariff trade deals post-Brexit are absent in most economic projections by design. Even if the UK were to sign only one free trade deal (with the U.S., for example) it could improve UK growth by a full 2 per cent or more. Presto! A shiny new UK economy!
  3. “Now we’ve got them!” While economic forecasting provides vital information for policymakers, Brexit negotiators aren’t helped by the news that growth will slow even in the face of a ‘good Brexit deal’ and will slow moreso in a ‘no Brexit deal’ scenario. It’s the kind of report that makes Michel Barnier’s day! KPMG is certainly one of the most respected firms around, but if you’re a Brexiteer and a report like this has been released to the public instead of it remaining in the hands of policymakers it plays with your mind; “Are they working for the UK’s best interests or are they working for the EU’s best interests?” (and) “Who commissioned (who paid for) this report and what parameters were used?”

So, while the good people of KPMG do their best to provide policymakers with the best near-term assessment of the UK economy, making such reports public can actually cause the negative things to occur about which the report warns.

That’s why policymakers everywhere must be ahead of the curve and treat all such documents as ‘the worst-case scenario’ without exception.

Now that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been reliably informed that the worst the UK can do is 0.6 per cent growth between now and 2020, it should be an easy matter to arrange a number of free trade deals and blow the doors off that projection by 3 or 4 per cent by 2020.

Looking at this in the proper context means accepting that exiting the European Union is merely a necessary stepping stone to get the UK to 4 per cent growth by 2020 — which should result in Theresa May keeping the PM’s chair for at least one more term and with all past ‘political sins’ forgiven.

Not a bad deal Theresa, if you’re up for it! 🙂

Written by John Brian Shannon

How Canada and the UK Could Work Together Post-Brexit

Until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019 the UK remains in the European Union — which means that Britain remains a party to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

And the CETA accord is a very fine agreement (as it should be, because it took 7-years to negotiate) but it may take another year or two to become fully implemented. At the moment CETA is only partially implemented, but eventually 98% of tariffs between Canada and the EU will be eliminated.

Once Brexit happens on March 29, 2019, the UK will cease to be a CETA signatory and something else (a ‘drop-in’ agreement) will need to replace it.

That is the topic of this blog post.

Enter the United States, Canada, and NAFTA.


Where’s Canada on the International Trade Map?

Canada is a surprisingly strong exporting country. With a population of only 36 million and a territory that measures 3.855 million square miles, it means the country is practically empty.

Across this huge landscape are fields of crops larger than the entire UK, but Canada’s few cities are large. In fact, the Greater Toronto Area (the GTA) is larger and has a greater population than the New York Metropolitan Area.

And it’s an exporting superstar; Making it the 11th highest exporting nation in the world.

“Canada is currently the fourth largest exporter of cars in the world and the ninth largest auto producer in the world, making 2.1 million cars a year. Trade with the U.S. is by far the most powerful driver for the automotive sector.”Export Development Canada


What if There’s No New NAFTA Agreement?

If the NAFTA agreement falters due to insufficient efforts between U.S. and Canadian negotiators Canada will end up producing cars for itself — which means it won’t be exporting 1.8 million cars to the United States annually once NAFTA is terminated (or) once President Trump slaps a 25% tariff on Canadian cars exported to the United States.

Which means a lot of Canadian autoworkers are going to become unemployed the day after that announcement.

Which means that Canada (insert drum roll here) needs a ‘Plan B’.


President Trump Isn’t ‘Being Evil to Canada’ He’s Protecting American Interests Because That’s His Job!

You can’t blame him for that. For goodness sake he’s the President of the United States, not of Canada.

But Canada can’t sit idly by and wait for the world to end. The country must pick itself up and get on with business.

And the best way to do that is to respectfully approach the UK and inform them that it’s likely NAFTA will be terminated or changed in ways that result in Canada having an excess auto manufacturing capacity of up to 1.8 million units per year.

Such manufacturing capacity could be very useful to the UK government and to UK industry.


How Canada and the UK can Work Together for Mutual Benefit

The cost of living in the UK is much higher than it is in Canada, therefore wages in the UK are higher than in Canada.

And it’s the reason why only premium car lines are built in the UK where the high labour cost for exceptional hand-built cars are reflected in the final price and nobody minds paying extra. See; Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc.

Even Rolls Royce and Bentley were forced to move to continental Europe because they couldn’t afford the high labour costs of UK workers and the costly land/building/business costs of manufacturing cars in the United Kingdom.

Post-NAFTA, huge opportunities exist for Canada to export lower-priced GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) cars and trucks to the UK — freeing-up huge amounts of disposable income for Britons.

Which means that saved money will be spent elsewhere in the UK — whether on home renovations, tuition, school supplies, vacations or investments — because it isn’t going anywhere (it isn’t going to magically vanish!) it will simply be spent on other items.

Any Canadian-built vehicles that are exported to the UK over what the UK market can sustain can be forwarded to Commonwealth of Nations countries by UK re-exporters.

India alone has a population of 1.32 billion and its economy is rising fast to become the third-largest consumer economy in the world. There’s no lack of demand for cars and trucks in the Commonwealth.

A Must Read: India Poised To Be Third Largest Consumer Economy (Forbes)

All of which works to help the UK economy.


Trump Wins, Trudeau Wins and May Wins!

President Trump wins because he will have prevented Canada from exporting 1.8 million vehicles to the United States annually, and American factories (meaning American workers) will need to fill that demand gap, Prime Minister Trudeau wins because he will have saved the Canadian jobs associated with the manufacturing of those 1.8 million cars and trucks, and Prime Minister May wins because she will have ushered in three new lines of lower-priced vehicles for UK consumers and those savings will translate into higher levels of disposable income for British consumers that can be spent elsewhere in the UK economy.

It’s so easy when you know how…

Written by John Brian Shannon