Top stories

  1. Theresa May calls for Conservative support for Brexit deal amidst Cabinet resignations
  2. Which? research on bank branch closures

Stat of the day

222,190 – the number of new homes completed in the year to March 2018, the highest level in a decade, according to The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Theresa May calls for Conservative support for Brexit deal amidst Cabinet resignations

Following the publication of her government’s EU Brexit deal, Prime Minister Theresa May has been rocked by a wave of cabinet resignations and a potential leadership contest. City AM (p1) reports that Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, were among those who handed in their notices in protest at the deal. The Guardian (p1) reports that Michael Gove has been offered the job of Brexit secretary but is demanding a shift in the government’s negotiating strategy first. The Times (p1, £) reports that a statement to the House of Commons by the prime minister set the stage for a clash with Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Tory Brexiteer faction, and Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who said that Mrs May had broken her word and put the Union in peril. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, former Brexit secretary David Davis said: “The policy we have to deal with is going to be rejected, I think, by the House of Commons. Then the prime minister has to come up with an alternative.”

Meanwhile, the British business community, who reportedly breathed a sigh of relief following the cabinet’s approval of the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, have expressed serious concern on seeing Thursday’s turmoil, as reported by The Financial Times (p3, £). The article cites deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, Josh Hardie, who said that a ‘no-deal’ “would be a disaster”. The Metro (p2) reports that yesterday’s resignations caused turbulence in the stock market and a fall in sterling, with the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaking to leaders of the big banks and City regulators to hear feedback. A spokesman for the Financial Conduct Authority said: “As you would expect, in these type of situations, we have regular contact with firms and will continue to engage with them.”

This morning’s Financial Times (p12, £) editorial argues that the UK’s priority is to avoid a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. While the paper restates its unease with Mrs May’s agreement, which it claims is manifestly inferior to remaining in the EU while failing to deliver any of the benefits promised by ardent Brexiters, a no-deal Brexit remains emphatically the worst option, and would prove disastrous for jobs, the economy, Britain’s security and for its place in the world.

Meanwhile in Brussels, EU leaders have shunned the idea of reopening talks on the UK’s withdrawal deal, stressing the need for ‘no-deal’ preparation in the face of political upheaval in Westminster, as reported by The Financial Times (p2, £). The article stresses that the prospect of the EU27 agreeing to reopen negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, in the run-up to European parliamentary elections where Eurosceptic parties are seeking to make large gains, will be very unattractive in many capitals.

Which? research on bank branch closures

The Daily Mail (p26) reports that two-thirds of bank branches have closed their doors in the last 30 years according to the latest research from Which? that also claims that a fifth of households are now 1.8 miles from their nearest bank branch. The Guardian (p44) reports that many banks are now working with the Post Office to offset closures, with postmasters across 11,500 sites offering basic transaction services in their stead. Martin Kearsley, Banking Services Director at the Post Office, said “We are uniquely placed to bring vital services to local communities right across the country.”

In March of this year, UK Finance and the Post Office launched a comprehensive action plan to raise awareness of banking services available at Post Office branches amongst local communities with lower bank branch coverage.

UK Finance issued the following response:

“Bank branches play an important role in local communities which is why decisions to close them are only ever taken after all other options, like reducing opening hours and staff numbers, have been exhausted. Under the industry’s Access to Banking Standard, information and support is provided to customers to minimise the impact of branch closures, helping them to access alternative ways to bank. Bank branch visits have fallen by a quarter since 2012, with the development of new technology meaning it’s now easier for people to do their banking at a time and place that is convenient to them. You can check your balance online, pay back a friend digitally or speak your bank for advice 24/7. But technology is not for everyone which is why all the major banks offer day-to-day banking services through 11,500 Post Office branches. That means there are now more places where you can bank than ever before. This is important to make sure that no-one gets left behind, which is why banks are continuing to invest in new ATMs and mobile bank branches to reach out to more communities.”

Latest from UK Finance

Dr Iris Kapelouzou, Manager, Financial Inclusion & Capability, spent a day in bank branches observing how vulnerable customers are treated. Read her experience here.

News in Brief

A third of parents are overdrawn on their accounts or have taken on additional credit to afford treats and holidays for their children, according to a survey by the Money Advice Service (The Daily Mirror, online only).

Properties are taking longer to sell than a year ago, at an average of more than three months in urban areas of the UK, according to research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (BBC News).

Proposals to change UK law to give the government enhanced powers to challenge takeover deals and would lead to greater political interference in business deals, according to John Vickers, a former director-general of the Office for Fair Trading (Financial Times, p4, £).

Interest rates are bound to rise, regardless of a soft or hard Brexit, which could have a significant effect on the cost of homebuying, according to Fionnuala Earley at City AM (p34, print only).

What the commentators say

Writing in The Telegraph (p3, £), former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the only way out of the current Brexit dilemma is a second referendum. Blair argues that the current deal is “a million miles away” from what people were promised from Brexit, and a deal which Members of Parliament would never support on its own merits. Instead, Blair argues that leaving the European Union in a manner which respected the referendum would cause real economic disruption and that a real alternative, simply remaining, should still be considered.

The leader in today’s Economist (p15, £) asks the UK to “look before it leaps” ahead of the parliamentary vote on the prime minister’s Brexit deal. The magazine again insists that Britain’s current place within the EU is far superior than anything Mrs May can deliver and calls for a second referendum, arguing that either rejecting, or even accepting the deal, would “scar” the UK for years to come.

Calendar

  • The permanent representatives of EU countries are expected to meet to discuss the draft Brexit agreement
  • EU finance ministers to prepare negotiations with the European Parliament on the EU’s general budget for 2019 – 9am

For a full list of upcoming UK Finance statistics releases, please click here.

News in brief – 16 November 2018