LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s main inflation rate ticked up last month but stayed close to January’s two-year low, helping consumers maintain their spending power as wage growth also picked up, even though the timing of Brexit remained uncertain. Wednesday’s official data also showed house prices rose at the weakest annual pace in 5 1/2 years in January, curtailed by the biggest drop in London prices since September 2009, just after the low point of the global financial crisis. Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in February after a 1.8 percent increase in January, the Office for National Statistics said. A Reuters poll of economists had forecast an unchanged rate of inflation. Economists said they expected inflation to rise above the Bank of England’s 2 percent target soon, especially as many household utility bills are due to increase in April. “Inflation picked-up for the first time since August 2018, with rising prices across a range of items, including food an..
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May will request a short delay to Brexit on Wednesday after her failure to get a deal ratified by parliament left the United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union in turmoil. Nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, British politicians are still arguing over how, when or even if the world’s fifth largest economy should leave the bloc it first joined 1973. When May set the March 29 exit date two years ago by serving the formal Article 50 divorce papers, she declared there would be “no turning back” but parliament’s refusal to ratify the withdrawal deal she agreed with the EU has thrust her government into crisis. Now, just nine days before the exit date, May is to write to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a short delay. May “won’t be asking for a long extension,” said a source in her Downing Street office, who spoke on condition of anonymity. May had warned lawmakers that she could s..
LONDON (Reuters) - British employers ramped up their hiring at the fastest pace since 2015 in the three months to January as the labour market defied broader Brexit weakness in the overall economy. The number of people in work surged by 222,000, helping to push the unemployment rate down to its lowest since the start of 1975 at 3.9 percent, official data showed. The increase in hiring was stronger than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists and pushed the proportion of the population in work to an all-time high. The pound rose slightly after the data. The surprising resilience of the labour market and the subsequent rise in wage growth, plus a fall in inflation, are cushioning the Brexit uncertainty for many households, whose spending drives the economy. However, the surge in jobs could reflect nervousness among businesses who have scaled back on investment in equipment, making them more likely to hire workers who can be sacked if the economy sours. An employers group said..
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans were in disarray on Tuesday as her government sought to plot a way around a ruling by the speaker of parliament that she must change her twice-defeated divorce deal to put it to a third vote. After two-and-a-half years of negotiations, Britain’s departure from the European Union remains uncertain with options including a long postponement, leaving with May’s deal, a disruptive exit without a deal, or even another referendum. In a move that added to the sense of crisis in London and exasperation in European capitals just days before the March 29 exit date, Speaker John Bercow shocked May’s government by ruling it could not put the same Brexit deal to another vote unless it was substantially different. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the ruling meant a vote this week on May’s deal was more unlikely but ministers were studying ways out of the impasse and he indicated the government still planned a third vote on May’s deal..
LONDON (Reuters) - British households were the most downbeat about their finances in over a year this month and the approach of Brexit made them more cautious about making major outlays, a survey published on Monday showed. IHS Markit’s Household Finance Index slipped slightly to 43.3, its lowest since February 2018, adding to a series of falls since August last year. Markit said households were showing some resilience to the chaotic Brexit process unfolding in Britain’s parliament. Respondents said they said they were a bit less worried about their job security and about the outlook for their financial wellbeing. The lowest unemployment rate since 1975, rising wages and weak inflation are helping to offset the uncertainty about Brexit for many people in Britain. But the appetite among households for making major purchases, for example on cars or holidays, fell at the fastest pace since September 2017, Markit said. “A sharp drop in UK households’ appetite for major purchases was ..
LONDON (Reuters) - One of the most influential Brexit-backing lawmakers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s party gave the strongest hint to date on Monday that rebels might back her departure deal, saying that a bad exit accord was better than staying in the European Union. May has warned lawmakers that unless they approve her Brexit divorce deal after two crushing defeats, Britain’s exit from the EU could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave. After two-and-a-half years of tortuous negotiations with the EU, the final outcome remains uncertain - with options including a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, a disorderly exit without a deal or even another EU membership referendum. May is scrambling to rally support ahead of a summit of EU heads of government on Thursday and Friday where she has warned she will ask for a long Brexit delay unless parliament ratifies the deal she struck in November. Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Gro..
LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday he could free billions of pounds for extra public spending or tax cuts, as long as parliament resolves its Brexit impasse. Hammond told lawmakers he could relax his grip on the public finances if they spared Britain the shock of leaving the world’s biggest trading bloc without an agreement. “I hoped we would do that last night, but I am confident that we, as a House, will do it over the coming weeks,” he said. On Tuesday, parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit plan for a second time, little more than two weeks before the scheduled date of departure from the EU. “Leaving with no deal would mean significant disruption in the short and medium term and a smaller, less prosperous economy in the long term, than if we leave with a deal,” Hammond told parliament, warning of higher unemployment and prices and lower wages under a no-deal Brexit. “That is not what the British people voted f..
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party would force a confidence vote in Theresa May’s government if the prime minister loses another vote on her Brexit withdrawal deal, leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday. May is expected to put her divorce deal with the European Union before parliament for a third time this week, after lawmakers crushed it twice before. “We’ve had one confidence vote already,” Corbyn told Sky News. “The government is apparently going to bring its proposals once again to parliament this week. I suspect they’ll be defeated again, the whole process they are doing is running down the clock.” “I think at that point a confidence motion would be appropriate. At that point we should say there has to be a general election.”
LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond said he now had 26.6 billion pounds of fiscal “headroom” — which is earmarked for possible increased spending or tax cuts — up from a previous estimate of 15.4 billion pounds. Hammond, delivering updated budget forecasts on Wednesday, said the budget deficit forecast for the soon-to-close 2018/19 fiscal year was likely to be 3 billion pounds lower than expected in October, when he made his annual statement. He said Britain’s public debt was set to fall sustainably “for the first time in a generation.” The figures were prepared for Hammond by the Office for Budget Responsibility. They assume Britain will secure a Brexit deal, avoiding the shock of leaving the European Union with no transition.
LONDON (Reuters) - A senior lawmaker from Britain’s governing Conservatives quit his local party on Saturday due to disagreements over Brexit, as the decision to leave the European Union continues to reshape loyalties in the country’s politics. Nick Boles, 53, has been critical of the government’s threat to leave the EU without a deal and has faced calls from his local party to be ousted as its candidate for the next general election. Boles said he could remain aligned with the Conservatives in parliament if they make him an acceptable offer. The former minister said in a letter to his local party he was “not willing to do what would be necessary to restore a reasonable working relationship with a group of people whose values and views are so much at odds with my own.” “I regret that my relationship with you should end in this way. But a politician without principles is worthless.” Britain’s 2016 EU referendum has split not only British towns and villages but also parliament, with..