Insights

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Policymaking by accident

Trade & Manufacturing

The British government papers on Brexit published this week leave you wondering if cabinet ministers really understand what the UK is proposing and the implications.

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Brexit customs questions

Trade & Manufacturing

Yesterday, the UK floated a set of ideas for managing the future of the customs frontier between the EU and the UK. They were broadly divided between two proposals: a first, based around some very practical ideas for using technology to streamline the movement of goods across a future EU-UK customs border. The second was a much more radical idea that the UK would offer to…

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UK’s financial regulator back on policymaking form

Financial Services

The publication this week of a review into the UK’s high-cost credit market is just the latest demonstration of the UK’s financial services regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regaining its mojo for activist policymaking. The FCA has always held a formal objective of protecting consumers, but this has often had to be balanced against the economic and…

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General Politics

Small parties – big deal?

General Politics

One of the general conclusions from the recent UK general election was that it had marked a dramatic return to two party politics in the UK.  Voters provided the Conservatives and the Labour Party with the highest combined share of the vote since the 1970s, at over 82%, and almost 90% of the seats in Parliament. The Conservatives saw their highest vote share since 1983 at…

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NAFTA Plus? TPP Minus?

Trade & Manufacturing

In publishing its NAFTA objectives last week, the Trump administration finally set the stage for a renegotiation after months of delay in Washington. The text of the announcement, which provides some sense of what a Trump-style NAFTA might look like, invites several observations.

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How electric vehicles will put energy companies behind the wheel

Energy & Commodities

As part of its long-awaited clean air plan, the UK government today announced its intention to ban conventional petrol and diesel engines in new cars and vans by 2040. Arguably, they need not have bothered. Many analysts now predict that, in terms of total cost of ownership, electric vehicles (EVs) will be the most affordable on the market by the early to mid-2020s. In…

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General Politics

When the UK Parliament returns: four predictions

General Politics

Today’s summer recess in Westminster marks the end of a chaotic and tumultuous parliamentary session, which has concluded in a hamstrung government and a lame-duck Prime Minister. The next session is likely to be as unpredictable, with a series of legislative compromises, and Brexit taking up the majority of Parliamentary airtime. But what exactly can we expect from the…

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UK tuition fees: balancing the costs

General Policy

The UK debate about tuition fees for university students can be seen as a triangulation of three sets of costs – private (to the graduate), public (to the taxpayer) and political (to the policymaker). The allocation of cost between the three actors has always been uneasy, and when the tension becomes unsustainable, change follows. The balance is once again shifting – the…

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General Politics

Brexit path dependency

General Politics

Unless you’re fond of ambling, it’s the choice of the destination that usually determines the path you take. The Brexit negotiation is no stroll in the park, but it now looks like one of those cases where it is the path that will determine where we end up.

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General Politics

Is Brussels starting to see the UK as a strategic competitor?

General Politics

Speaking before the European Economic and Social Committee this week, European Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier painted a black picture of a post-Brexit world in which the UK failed to come to terms with the EU. A return to WTO rules for trade between the two markets; high customs duties, burdensome controls and higher transport costs. He insisted that even if…

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EU-Japan FTA: a very political agreement?

Trade & Manufacturing

The EU and Japan this week announced a political agreement on an FTA between the two sides after four years of negotiating. This is certainly big news in the generally calm waters of global trade negotiations. An agreement between the EU and Japan would create the prospect of the largest free trade zone in the world by GDP - the EU and Japan together account for more than…

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Single market vs single tariff?

Trade & Manufacturing

The setting before Parliament of the UK government’s legislative agenda for the two years leading up to the expected exit from the EU, has provided a further opportunity for ‘soft’ Brexiters in the UK to rekindle a debate about how detached from the EU the UK should aim to be. After the UK election, my colleague Jade Rickman and I examined the renewed debate over the…

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General Politics

Britain’s higher tax future?

General Politics

Tax rises are now back in the centre ground of the UK economic discourse, in a way they have not been for at least a decade. This shift should put businesses and investors on notice - the era in which they could safely assume an ever-friendlier approach to taxation may be at an end.

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General Politics

Could Italy see the return of Berlusconi?

General Politics

Sunday’s Italian municipal election results demonstrated one of the golden rules of Italian politics – never underestimate Il Cavaliere. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia and its ally, Lega Nord, had a string of very good results in some of Italy’s largest cities, with victory in the erstwhile left-wing stronghold of Genoa being the most…

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Could the UK join NAFTA?

Trade & Manufacturing

The question of UK membership of NAFTA seems to be doing the rounds again. This is not entirely surprising. Both Australian and Canadian trade officials – including Ottawa’s former chief NAFTA negotiator - have recently called for the UK to join existing trading blocks, such as NAFTA, as an easy fix to potential Brexit-related disruptions to UK trade and production…

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The Digital Single Market has a new commissioner – will Mariya Gabriel censor social media?

TMT

After an eight-month hiatus, the EU looks finally set to have a new Commissioner in charge of its flagship, the Digital Single Market (DSM) agenda. Mariya Gabriel is a former MEP, and it showed, in an effective hearing before the European Parliament, which is now certain to rubber stamp her appointment. This support matters for Gabriel as she will need to mobilise MEPs to…

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How Banco Popular put a spotlight on the EU’s Single Supervisory Mechanism

General Policy

I listened this week to SSM head Danièle Nouy defending the sale of Spain’s Banco Popular to Banco Santander in front of the ECON committee of the European Parliament. It was notable how hard Spanish and Italian MEPS in particular pushed her on the ECB’s declaration that the transfer of ownership had been a success for the SSM and the EU’s new approach to resolution and…

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General Politics

Einstein’s advice for Brexit negotiators: relative urgency depends on regulators as much as on politics

General Politics

Much has been written at the launch of Brexit negotiations today about the time remaining for negotiators. Michel Barnier has set a deadline of October 2018 for agreeing a withdrawal treaty, which may or may not include an outline of the future UK-EU trading relationship. This is to allow ratification by the European Council, European Parliament and – where necessary -…

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