Prime minister Boris Johnson wants to “get Brexit done,” but with Brexit the unresolved issue of the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU and other countries still remains and is expected to be one of the big concerns at the end of 2020.

If Brexit does happen, the UK will need to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU so it continues to enjoy tariff-free access to its market after the transition period, and will also need to negotiate and sign new trade deals with countries such as the US.

According to Johnson’s withdrawal agreement, the UK will continue trading with the existing terms until the end of the transition period which is due on 31 December 2020. He has already stated that, if he wins a majority, he will negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU which will come to replace the current arrangement at the end of 2020. The deadline for next year is considered among economists and politicians a very challenging one, as the time frame is limited and the subject matter demanding and complicated. As it is usually the case, trade negotiations take years, so it is similarly expected that Johnson’s trade agreement will be a difficult task, impossible to deliver as promised. Of course, it will be possible to extend the transition period, but this should be decided by 1 July.

As a Financial Times article notes, it is difficult to see the EU and the UK reaching a deal in as little as five months, especially when there’s legal and translation issues involved. A draft for an EU-Japan deal took four months and 10 days to prepare, “including ‘legal scrubbing’ and translation into 24 official EU languages — and this is viewed in Brussels as an example of the bloc moving at breakneck speed.”

In the case of Canada’s deal with the EU, this took more than five years to complete and another three before it came into force. For some, the UK-EU trade deal will be even more difficult as the two sides will attempt to establish a new relationship that seeks to replace an older one, while for others, the negotiation will be fast and quick as we are already in sync with EU regulations.

What is an FTA?

An FTA is a multinational trade agreement that creates a free-trade area between different states and determines the tariffs and duties on imports and exports in order to eliminate trade barriers, such as trade taxes or tariffs. While a customs union is more encompassing and requires all parties to have the same external tariffs, a free-trade agreement allows countries to establish whatever tariffs they wish, otherwise adopting a preferential treatment system.

If the EU and the UK are unable to reach a trade agreement within the specified time frame, then the UK will revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms – which means British exporters would have to face the same tariffs as other countries as the US or China. But even with a trade agreement, the privileges that are currently enjoyed under the customs union will be lost.  A trade agreement will mean more costs and more bureaucratic control for UK companies, which is why economists are warning that Brexit will damage the UK economy.

The UK is also in the process of rolling over the EU’s existing free trade deals with other countries in order to avoid losing tariff-free access to the EU after Brexit. The UK has signed 19 continuity deals with 49 countries. The UK’s biggest trading partners are the US and the UK, with the US being the UK's biggest single trading partner, and the EU accounting for 46% of UK exports. The problem with striking an FTA with the US is the obvious standards in food products, especially when in the US regulations are not as strict as in the EU, with the most obvious examples being genetically modified foods and chlorinated chicken.

At the moment, one of the most important Brexit outcomes is considered to be the resolution of a trade agreement with the EU by the end of next year, as the scenario of leaving without a trade deal will not only result in a political crisis for the government, but also an economic one for the whole of the UK.

Imports and exports

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After a Kantar poll showed that Labour was gaining support, with the Conservatives leading by 43 percent and Labour closing the gap at 32 percent, the pound reacted by falling lower.

FXStreet’s Yohay Elam could not have put it better: “Bearded Corbyn is bringing the bears out." While the chances are low, the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn being the next PM has spooked the pound.

Up until now, the pound has reacted positively in accordance with the possibility of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party winning at the UK general election. With polls mostly showing that the Conservatives’ lead has been growing, analysts have been anticipating a majority of seats for the Conservatives, which will significantly boost the pound. This is based on the belief that Johnson will “get Brexit done” before the deadline of 31 January, which means that an orderly Brexit will come hand in hand with the pound trading higher.

However, after the Labour party released its manifesto last week promising to increase both spending and taxes, support pensioners and nationalise industries, alongside the pledge of a confirmatory referendum on Brexit, support has surged for the main opposition party, something which is now reflected in the polls.

The Kantar poll

Kantar surveyed 1,097 people online between 21-25 of November. According to the poll, which took place after both parties had published their manifestos, support for the Conservatives fell 2 points while Labour gained 5 points.

The Kantar poll was published on Tuesday following Monday's poll by ICM for Reuters which also showed that the Conservative's lead is threatened by Labour, supporting further the possibility of a hung parliament. A hung parliament will be negative for Sterling as it will create uncertainty over Brexit and hurt businesses and financial markets’ sentiment.

Markets are wary

If Labour continues to perform well in the polls and the gap between the two main opposition parties tightens, then the pound might be unable to maintain its steady upward trajectory. Analysts are cautious now as the risks for the pound are increasing due to markets being too confident that a Conservative majority was the most certain outcome. With the campaign entering its last two weeks and undecided voters (most possibly Labour voters) changing current certainties, risks are definitely on the rise over the coming days.

Investors are wary of the latest Labour bounce, but if Conservatives continue to poll well, then things will change again and the market will become more confident over a Conservative majority scenario.

According to CNBC, Opinium’s latest voter intention poll gives the Conservatives a 19-point advantage over Labour, but “this could be too good to be true,” as BMO Capital Markets Head of European FX Strategy Stephen Gallo said. Gallo also stated that the outlook for GBP was binary. He said: “We’d much rather be looking for value in selling the GBP on a 1-3 month basis, on the view that hung parliament odds are ‘underpriced’ by the FX market, and even with a comfortable (Conservative) majority, the remaining U.K.-EU negotiations on an FTA (free trade agreement) will probably raise the odds of a ‘no deal’ exit from the transition phase in 2020.”

Whether the pound continues to retreat due to polls showing a Conservative lead shrinking, it remains to be seen.

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Despite Brexit, it is not difficult to see how appealing it will be to buy property in Monaco, especially when you are a millionaire. For example, pro-Brexit Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe decided last year to move to Monaco to avoid UK taxes on his £21bn fortune. With almost 35 in every 100 residents of Monaco being millionaires, British expats can feel part of the elite.

A staunch Brexiter, Ratcliffe offered support for the Leave campaign, but has repeatedly criticised investing in the UK when taxes were high but embraced his British roots when his business benefited from corporation tax cuts.

Ratcliffe sees himself as “a lover of Britain” but when it comes to business, “choice must be about head as well as heart.”

If you feel the same, and are choosing to buy property in Monaco consciously, then you can join some of the wealthiest people. UHNWIs (Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals) flock to Monaco for low taxes, but also for the quality of life.

In 2016, the Telegraph reported that Monaco had started a €2 billion (£1.8 billion) operation to reclaim land from the sea in order to build more luxury housing for the world's wealthiest residents. According to research by the estate agent Knight Frank, about 2,700 more millionaires are expected to move in Monaco by 2026, increasing the number of millionaires to 16,100 out of a total population of 38,400.

Monaco’s housing market

With its soft climate and location on Cote d’Azur, its glamorous lifestyle, and the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, Monaco offers luxury with a high price tag; it is simply, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. So, if you are searching for affordable accommodation, to either rent or buy, Monaco is not for you.

However, anyone can buy property, as long as they can afford to spend €36,000 per square meter for an apartment. If you are looking for newly built houses, then we are talking about between 4 to 10 million and prices can increase depending on the kind of property and its location.

If you do buy real estate, you can browse listing sites and get in touch with agents. When it comes to the actual transaction, you will need to pay a notary to execute and authenticate it. If you go with a real estate agent, you will need to pay fees of around 3% (plus VAT) of the purchase price. You will also need to pay registration fees at 4.5% of the property’s market value.

The market is healthy, and the trend of building apartments is on the rise. According to Knight Frank, 50 new apartments were sold in 2017 at prices below €5m, with properties above €5m accounting for 23% of sales. In 2017, properties were around at €53,000 per sq m., while more premium properties can exceed €100,000 per sq m.

Buying property

Before signing any agreements, you should get a notary’s opinion no matter if you’re buying or selling.

Once you decided on the property, you can express your interest with an offer letter, outlining the details of the property, price and the time of transaction. The notary would prepare the purchase contract and the sale would be completed at the notary’s office with the payment, including the notary’s fees, transfer taxes and other related costs. If you are an individual, you will need to pay 6% in property registration tax, title registration and notary fees. Otherwise, if the property is purchased by foreign companies, they will pay 9%. The notary will transfer the funds and register the new owner at the registry of deeds. Owners of newly built properties or those who will build their own properties, must pay 20% VAT.

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Historically, financial markets have favoured the Tory party and Conservative neoliberal and free-market economics. On the other hand, investors have disliked hard left policies that seek to protect the rights of the many at the expense of the few, such as nationalizations and wealth redistribution. It is not surprising then that Corbyn’s Labour policies would be seen by many as potentially damaging to the pound.

Here we have a look at the possible outcomes for the pound in case of a Conservative or a Labour majority, as well as some of the pledges each party has made.

Getting Brexit done

For economists, this is clear. If the result of the next general election is a Conservative majority, then the British Pound will rise. This is the most positive outcome for Sterling as it will end political uncertainty, get Brexit done, and eliminate the prospect of a Corbynite government.

In other words, a Conservative majority will enable Johnson’s deal to pass smoothly through parliament and it will help to stabilise the political and economic landscape. Markets understand that a Tory majority means the immediate implementation of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal and Brexit taking place on 31 January 2020.

In this sense, an unfavourable result will be a weak conservative win or a Labour majority. A Labour government will create uncertainty, as it will introduce a new Brexit deal to be negotiated all over again and a referendum to pass the deal, further threatening the pound.

Additionally, many argue that further uncertainty will be created if there is a Labour coalition. According to Peter Kinsella of the Swiss private bank Union Bancaire Privée, “We certainly have not priced in anything like a Labour-type coalition, and if we did, it (the Pound) would certainly be an awful lot lower. We have priced out no-deal but we have not priced in any electoral certainty yet.”

A coalition could be positive for Sterling?

However, others are more optimistic.  JPMorgan sees that a “hung parliament which delivered or held out the prospect of a softer-Brexit coalition of the left-of-centre parties (Labour/Lib Dems/SNP) might actually be GBP positive." Jordan Rochester at Nomura has also said back in May: “GBP would also benefit from Labour’s stance on Brexit being somewhat ‘softer’ than the Conservatives, especially if it forms a coalition with the SNP and Liberal Democrats. A coalition government may encourage some to argue GBP should be lower owing to the uncertainty. But the removal of austerity (leading to higher real yields) and renewed arguments as to a ‘softer’ Brexit are likely to inspire less GBP negativity as once thought.”

Taxes and spending

The Conservatives have pledged to spend more than £250m to invest in broadband, roads, the NHS, schools, roads and police. The Chancellor Sajid Javid has said that the money, which will come from the Housing Infrastructure Fund will help improve roads, schools and transport links. He said: “I have now launched an infrastructure revolution and this step-change in funding will ensure that all parts of the country benefit as we level-up opportunities. This £250m will increase the number of houses available to buy and help support people to achieve their dream of home ownership.” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell criticised Javid's "pathetic publicity stunt announcement" and said: "When there are millions of people on our housing waiting lists and families with children living in containers, we need real change and real investment in our infrastructure, not this derisory drop in the ocean."

In terms of personal taxes, Conservatives will increase the threshold for the 40p rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000 and raise the starting point for national insurance (NI), which will be worth £460 per worker. The income tax will cost £8bn a year and help 2.5 million of the highest-earning employees.

Labour has not made any specific promises yet but according to its 2017 manifesto, it will increase income tax rates to 45 percent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 percent for salaries over £123,000. They will spend £250bn on upgrading transport, energy and broadband infrastructure.

This is why, the latest newspaper headlines highlight fears of a Labour government and how wealthy individuals are transferring their money abroad before the general election, since as they stated, “If Corbyn gets in, we're sending our money to Switzerland.” Another recent article, “Super-rich prepare to leave UK 'within minutes' if Labour wins election,” shows how the UK’s richest families are preparing to shift their fortunes and make early gifts to their children in order to avoid Corbyn’s threat to tax inheritances above £125,000. Lawyers and advisers for these millionaire and billionaire clients have said that for these rich individuals, a Corbyn-led government is a bigger threat to their wealth than a hard Brexit.

Health and social care

Conservatives will spend £13bn under a “Health Infrastructure Plan” to build 40 new hospitals in England, but only £2.8bn and six hospitals will go ahead at first. Labour will increase spending which will be paid by the income tax rises on the highest 5 percent of earners and will increase tax on private medical insurance. It will create a new National Care Service for social care for those over-65s (cost £6bn), scrap prescription charges (cost £750m) and develop a state drug company to develop cheaper drugs. It will also increase GP trainee numbers in England by 50 per cent. While more is expected from Labour’s latest manifesto, the 2017 election pledge referred to £30bn in extra funding.

Brexit and NHS: “everything is on the table”

Brexit has complicated the issues of the NHS, with fears of medicine shortages in a no-deal Brexit scenario. It has also opened the possibility of negotiating new trade deals with such countries as the US. Back in June, during a press conference with the then Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump claimed that “everything is on the table” when it comes to striking a deal with the UK, including the NHS. He said: “So NHS or anything else. A lot more than that.” Whether he meant it or not, this has now created fears that the UK would be paying more for medicines under a US trade deal and passing on costs to both patients and the NHS.

Following the comments of drug pricing expert Dr Andrew Hill on Dispatches that the US spends more per capita than the UK on medicines, something that would equate to an extra £500 million a week in the UK, Labour has used the £500 million figure in an attempt to also criticise Brexiters’ early claims of funding the NHS with £350 million a week.

It is within this context that Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of wanting to “hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids.” He added: “Johnson and the Leave campaign promised to rebuild our NHS. Johnson stood in front of a bus and promised £350 million a week for the NHS. Now we find out that £500 million a week could be taken out of the NHS and handed to big drugs companies under his plans for a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump.”

Of course, this has been denied by the Conservatives who said that it was “shameful” that Labour was spreading “lies about the NHS.”

Boris Johnson already clarified at a press conference with Trump that the NHS “is not for sale.” His health secretary Matt Hancock and trade secretary Liz Truss also said that “The price the NHS pays for drugs won’t be on the table. And the services the NHS delivers won’t be on the table.”

With no concrete evidence, Labour is using political rhetoric to set itself as the party that is committed to protecting the NHS from any such threat. For many commentators, speculation will continue as Johnson will delay the Conservative manifesto launch until just two weeks before the general election. Labour’s manifesto will be out next week after officials decide this Saturday on which policies to include.

As the election campaign heats up, and as the parties publicise their manifestos, the pound will continue to be impacted by political developments. For investors, the only thing certain at the moment, is that a Conservative government appears to be the best possible deal for the future of the pound.

 

Boris Johnson doesn’t like to give up easily, so his latest promise is that the UK will complete a free trade agreement with the EU by 31 December next year. As he has stated, if he wins the election in December, the UK will be able to strike a free-trade agreement within just 12 months.

Is this possible?

According to the Financial Times, “few trade experts believe this is possible.” The reason being is the difficulty of having an agreement ready in such a short time, especially considering Brexit happening in January, and a transition period lasting until 31 December 2020. If this is the case, the article argues, the UK and EU would need to have agreed on “a comprehensive trade agreement by the end of next year. If they haven't, the UK in effect falls out of the EU with no deal. Most trade experts say a free trade agreement can’t be concluded that quickly.”

For many Brexiters, the UK wants to complete a similar kind of agreement as the Canada plus one, which took seven years for the EU to conclude and which will need the approval of all 27 remaining EU states.

Managing director of Eurasia Group Mujtaba Rahman has confirmed the impossibility of agreeing any trade agreement between the UK and EU. Talking to the FT, he said: “Remember this will be a trade agreement unlike any before. Normally trade agreements are designed to promote economic convergence. This one will be about managing divergence. That’s much more complicated.” 

As the government is not open to extending the transition period beyond the start of 2021, Johnson will have to win the election with a majority, something that will again open the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

A Canada style free-trade deal

Boris is not looking for a close economic partnership, but rather for a trade agreement similar to the so-called Canada plus agreement, that will define the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Canada’s trade agreement with the EU is considered one of the most ambitious ones and is officially called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). IT was signed in 2016 and was enforced in September. However, it hasn’t been ratified yet by all the countries, a step that could take several years.

The specific Canada trade deal has helped increase exports to Canada with Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr stating that: "At the Port of Montreal alone, we have seen 20% more traffic in goods headed across the Atlantic. This enormous step in growth for Canada and the EU has been the reason why new shipping lanes have been added to accommodate container traffic."

According to the deal, 98% of all tariffs on goods traded between Canada and the EU are duty free, something however, that, does not mean no border controls. Additionally, when it comes to the financial services, CETA does not offer anything that is not already covered by World Trade Organization rules. There is no"passporting" rights that will allow Canadian financial companies to sell their services in EU member states. Finally, there will still be tariffs on some products and quotas on certain agricultural products.

Not Ideal for UK and EU exporters

A Canada plus-type agreement might enable the UK to leave the EU customs union and decide on its own tariff rates, but it won’t necessarily solve all the issues faced by UK and EU exporters. There will be costs and additional bureaucratic documentation that will be too complicated or costly for companies.

EU: Any future trade agreement will be “difficult”

The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier talking on Tuesday at the Web Summit, in Lisbon, said that negotiations on a future trading relationship with Britain would be "difficult and demanding," as the EU "will not tolerate unfair competitive advantage." "The UK should not think that zero tariffs, zero quotas will be enough," and that time would be "extremely short" for negotiations. He added that the UK still faced the threat of a no-deal Brexit: “Even when the [Brexit] deal is ratified it will not be the end of the story ... We have to build a new partnership with the UK after they withdraw."

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For many British expats, buying property in Portugal remains a top priority despite the uncertainties of Brexit. From Lisbon to Porto, Chaves and Lagos, Portugal’s most popular locations continue to seduce British expats who emigrate in the country to enjoy the warm summers and uncrowded cities offering quality of life and delicious cuisine. Just think of Portugal’s iconic Fado music, Port wine, Algarve’s beaches and the delicious pastel de nata; Portugal’s charms can easily convince anyone to move there.

Whether you are looking for a villa or a beachside property, it’s important to be aware of the legal processes, costs, taxes and other fees involved in buying property in Portugal. Here’s some helpful tips to get you started.

The property market, residence and Brexit

The property market is now growing steadily and buying a property in a good location will count as a good investment.

In the last decade, around three-quarters of people own their own home in Portugal. As there are no restrictions on owning foreign property, EU citizens can buy their property easily. Around 50,000 Brits have been living in Portugal.

Especially if they can afford it, they can apply for a golden visa, which will allow them to live there for five years if they invest in a property worth a minimum of EUR 500,000000 (or EUR 350,000 for redevelopment in an urban renovation zone). After the period of five years, they will be able to apply for permanent residency. If you’re applying for a golden visa, you’ll need to reside in Portugal for at least seven days in the first year and 14 or more days in the following years.

In general, if you have been living in Portugal for five years you can apply for a permanent residence status, and after six years, for Portuguese citizenship as Portugal allows dual citizenship.

With Brexit, British citizens might lose some of the freedoms they enjoyed under the EU. While buying a holiday home and not moving in Portugal permanently won’t change after Brexit, there might be more bureaucratic processes, including applying for the visa waiver ETIAS scheme (European Travel Information and Authorization System). This is a completely new electronic system expected to be in place by 2021, which will keep track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. This means that you'll be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period within the Schengen area.

According to the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, the rights of British citizens who live or invest in Portugal will be protected. With the two countries’ close relationship and Portuguese economy depending on tourism and construction, British citizens’ rights might not be under threat.

Fiscal Number

To buy a property in Portugal, you’ll need to apply for a Personal Fiscal Number (Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF), or Número de Contribuinte), a tax identification number issued to anyone conducting official business in Portugal. Whether investing in property, living or being involved in any form of business in Portugal, you will need to have a Portuguese fiscal number. For example, if you are buying a property with your partner and your names are both on the title deeds, then you will both need to have a Portuguese tax identification number. 

How much do properties cost in Portugal?

Location will naturally affect the property price, with Lisbon and the Algarve’s coastal areas being the most popular and expensive areas.  A villa in Lisbon and Algarve will cost you around €400,000 and €300,000 respectively, while a small apartment will be around €130,000 in either of these two locations. You have to consider that your expenses will increase depending on the property’s price. The more expensive your home, the more you will have to pay in property taxes, based on a property’s fiscal value. If you are looking for a bargain, heading towards the central region of Portugal, will offer you the advantage of lovely big homes at lower prices.  Compared to the Algarve, the Silver Coast is also a beautiful and cheaper alternative.

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The British pound fell after parliament rejected the government’s programme motion to accelerate the timetable for the withdrawal bill, with 308 votes in favour and 322 against. The defeat means that the government will now be unable to leave the EU before the end of October. The potentially good news for the pound and politics more generally, is the likely elimination of a no-deal scenario, as the EU has shown its willingness to offer an extension to Britain’s 31 October deadline for leaving the bloc.

Jeremy Stretch, head of G-10 currency strategy at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a Reuters report that, “For now it seems the market is still generally expecting this is a setback, but not a fatal setback, to a negotiated Brexit. There hasn’t been a rapid uptick in no-deal pricing at this point.”   

Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo, added that, “The pound will adjust in a narrow range for the time being. For now, the risk of a no-deal Brexit has receded, but there are still political uncertainties.”

The EU wants to avoid a detrimental no-deal Brexit, as a former Tory Europe minister, also confirmed on the BBC’s Today programme. He said that the EU would not want to be blamed for a no-deal Brexit, so they will offer an extension. As many MPs noted, he said that the withdrawal agreement bill was bigger than many anticipated, and that the government should offer more time in order to get it through parliament. He said: “I see no way that the October 31st deadline can be met anyway now the bill has been paused in the commons. I think the fear in Downing street is partly of rafts of amendments to the bill, but also about the difficulty of governing without a majority ... There are broader questions that underly the disputes about the timings of the Brexit bill.” For him, an election at the end of November or early December was possible but the public won’t be very open to an election just before Christmas.

What happened on Tuesday?

While the withdrawal bill was passed by MPs on its second reading, by 329 votes to 299, 20 minutes later, the government’s programme motion was defeated. The news of passing the Brexit deal was welcomed by the government as Johnson praised MPs for having “embraced a deal.”

But the defeat on the programme motion by 14 votes is a significant blow to the government and could derail the process. 

What is a programme motion?

A programme motion is put forward after a government bill has passed its second reading and can be used by the government to set the timetable for debating it as it progresses through the House of Commons. The defeated programme motion on 22th of October argued for a very specific and limited timetable which allowed three Commons days for the entire process– giving enough time so the UK could leave on 31October. The argument goes that the proposed timetable was narrow and didn’t leave enough time for debate.  

What happens now?

On Saturday, Johnson wrote to the EU to formally request a delay to Brexit until 31 January. After the defeat on Tuesday, he noted that would “pause this legislation” and await from the EU to grant a possible extension. While during Tuesday’s debate Johnson promised to pull the bill and seek an election if there was an extension, he left the possibility of a short delay open. As he said afterwards, “One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal.” 

A general election is, however, likely, especially if the EU proposes a lengthy delay. With a no-deal Brexit no longer in the cards, it is expected that Labour will support a general election.

Many believe, that despite his declarations against a lengthy delay, Johnson aspires to be the prime minister known for delivering Brexit, so he might attempt to push the bill through parliament before an election.

Paul Dales, Chief UK Economist with Capital Economics, said that a short delay is now possible and would not hurt the pound: "A delay to Brexit now appears the most likely scenario and the chances of a near-term deal have diminished a bit. A short delay to finalise a deal would not be a blow to economic growth and the pound, especially if it were followed by a deal that would eventually prompt both to rise. In that case, we suspect the Pound would climb pretty quickly."

On a lighter note, Guy Verhofstadt tweeted that on the event of an extension, he would be submitted to “another three weeks listening to Farage,” whose Eurosceptic rhetoric is not sonorous to European ears.

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The pound has been experiencing its ups and downs but was knocked down on Thursday morning due to a statement by the DUP. After it had reached four and five-month highs against both the dollar and the euro in a week that was filled with expectation for a deal, Thursday morning’s setback wiped away most of yesterday’s gains. However, if a deal is announced, it is expected to rise again.

Brexit deal and the pound

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money, Neil McDonnell, chief executive, ISME, representing over 10,000 small and medium sized Irish business, said that positive news in regard to the deal will be good news for the pound, and for the Irish economy too. He said: "For business people, what you don’t want is an enormously complex or administration heavy transaction. One of the industries that have been most badly affected by Brexit has been the mushroom sector because of the decline in sterling. ‘Good news’ out these latest talks might help sterling bounce. Any appreciation in sterling would make things considerably better for people on this side of the border."

Talking on the same show, James Bevan, chief investment officer at CCLA Investment Management, added: "[There's] a general expectation that Mr Johnson will secure a deal with the EU so the currency markets have been relatively strong…. Let me be very clear, the pound is undervalued if there is a deal.” But it could hit parity with the dollar in the absence of no deal.

DUP concerns

The DUP’s statement from Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds said that “as things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT. We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

The statement clarifies that the DUP is unable to accept the deal as it stands but remains open to discussions. This could mean that the ball is now in the EU’s court and that Michel Barnier would need to compromise on the customs arrangements, consent and the issue of VAT.

What could happen now?

It is possible that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson proceeds to offer more concessions, but this is unclear and could possibly destroy the possibility of a deal.

But, it could also lead to the EU compromising. This is also a complex possibility as the issue of borders is a significant obstacle, and the EU is concerned with protecting the single market from the movement of rogue goods. Without border checks this is not a viable alternative.

A third possibility would be a change from the DUP itself. They have already stated: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”. So, there may be changes.

Pound and headlines

Volatility will continue as headlines will affect the price of the pound, with further changes through the course of the day. With ongoing negotiations between the EU and UK, and the EU summit commencing on Thursday, markets will be vigilant awaiting confirmation that the two sides have reached an agreement.

According to Quek Ser Leang, a currency market analyst quoted on Pound Sterling, "While the current rally is overbought, it is too early to expect a sustained pull-back. There is still room for further GBP strength but the pace of any advance is likely to be slower.”

Analyst Kim Mundy, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, also agrees that a deal could boost the pound: "The EU’s leader’s Summit begins today. Market participants are waiting for confirmation (or otherwise) that the EU and the UK have reached a new Withdrawal Agreement. News of an EU‑UK deal today could see GBP/USD hit a fresh five‑month high above 1.3000."

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With the Brexit deadline looming, many Brits are relocating or buying their property abroad, making such European countries as Spain, Germany and France their home. In Germany, the standard is usually renting, but when Germans are making their dream of owning “my own four walls” (die eigenen vier Wände) a reality, then they expect to buy a property to live in for life. This is not unlike many of the Brits deciding to buy a property in Germany. German property has generally been a stable, reliable investment for local and overseas investors.

Brexit and the German property market

It’s not just Brits wanting to escape to Germany, but also international investors who are considering investing due to Brexit and the ensuing financial uncertainties. Buying property in Germany may be a great option, especially when the German economy is healthy and the property market is strong, with prices rising steadily. While Brexit might have deflated London’s real estate bubble, very low interest rates are pushing prices in Germany’s Munich and Frankfurt property markets. With prices rising steadily for years, there is greater risk of them falling unexpectedly.

Low interest rates

In Germany, low interest rates have helped increase real estate valuations. The European Central Bank’s loose monetary policy and low interest rates have benefitted owners of financial assets who have borrowed at very low costs to buy property or stocks in search for better returns.

According to a new report by analysts at Swiss bank UBS, Munich is at the greatest risk of a real estate bubble, while Frankfurt has seen prices rise by double-digit percentages. Frankfurt used to be "very cheap compared to London and other cities,” told CNN Business, one of the report's authors, Matthias Holzhey. While building activity in Frankfurt rose significantly in 2017, the rise in population led to an 80% increase in real price growth over the past decade, the report showed.

Germany as “safe haven”

Germany is a great European alternative to London’s traditional appeal, with Frankfurt and Berlin being particularly high in demand. Germany has a reputation as a “safe haven” making it attractive to buyers, with an increasing number of international investors from Asia, the Middle East and the United States.

In general, across Germany, rents and property prices are robust, but whether this is sustainable in the long run, remains to be seen. According to data released in 2018 by the Bundesbank properties in towns and cities could be overpriced by as much as 15-30%. As it was reported by the Bundesbank’s experts, there have been continuing price exaggerations in urban areas: “While price dynamics, from a macroeconomic perspective, were largely consistent with developments in the supply and demand-side variables, housing prices in towns and cities were still well above the level that appears justified by the longer-term economic and demographic determinants.” The economists estimated “upward price deviations for towns and cities at between 15% and 30%.”

However, buying a property in some places in Germany is affordable and should not deter Brits from making their decision to move there. Expatica noted that data from the German consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest in 2017 showed “that buyers in Magdeburg and Cottbus could buy a 130 square meter family home for €200,000, but that for the same money they’d get a small two-room apartment in Cologne or Dusseldorf, and only a dorm in Munich.”

Based on data from the third quarter of 2017, a house in Munich could be as high as €5,839 (apartment), €4,233 (family home), whereas in Cologne and Hanover €2,671-€2,257 (apartment), €2,240-€2,007 (family home), respectively.

Buying a property: costs

After doing your research in various property portals such as immobilienscout24 or immobilo, take your time to decide which property is most suitable for you and your family. When buying a home in Germany, you will be expected to pay 10% of the purchase price to cover the property transfer tax (3.5–6.5%); notary’s fees (1.2–1.5%); registration fees (0.8–1.2%); and estate agent’s fees (1.5–3%, plus 19% VAT).

One of the very important decisions you will also have to make is to choose an expert firm in foreign exchange who will help you with making regular transfers and protecting your funds from currency volatility. Universal Partners FX is a great option for anyone buying property abroad, as they are experts in helping expats like yourself move their hard-earned money abroad. Get in touch with their dedicated currency specialists and find out how much they can save you on your international money transfers.

Buying property in France is a big commitment, considering the complexities of Brexit and living abroad. Despite, however, that the UK is leaving the EU, Brits continue to buy homes in France for permanent residence or for visiting during their holidays. For the Brits who already own a house in France, the same rules will apply, but after Brexit, different property regulations might apply for non-EU members.

What to do in the meantime?

If you are moving to France or already living there, you should register as a resident and also for healthcare. Make sure that your passport is valid for travelling.

Residency

Currently, you can still apply for a European carte de séjour at your local prefecture, as préfectures will continue to accept applications and issue EU cartes de séjour to UK nationals. After Brexit, however, and despite having your European carte de séjour, you will need to get a different residence permit depending on your situation. For example, you could be a UK national waiting for French nationality or a UK national married to, or in a civil partnership with, a French national.

In the case of a no deal Brexit, and after the new system is launched, UK nationals who have lived in France for at least five years and have a permanent carte de séjour will be able to exchange it for the new card easily.

Buying property in France

Rural France is of course much cheaper than Paris or popular areas such as Lyon or Bordeaux. Dordogne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Toulouse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Brittany are some of the areas particularly popular among British expats. In the Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, for example, an average property price is €111,000. However, when you are interested in cheaper properties, you should look at more rural areas such as Nièvre, Burgundy-Franche-Comté. There, the average property price is €85,400, whereas in Indre, Centre-Val de Loire, an average property price is €80,000. In Creuse, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, one of the cheapest departments in France for property an average property can cost around €66,000 and in Cantal, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, you can get a property for €86,500.

What to consider before purchasing

Before buying your dream home abroad, you should consider a few things. First, you will need to think about who is buying (wife/husband) and what happens in the case of the owner dying. Then is the important issue of financing your move and buying the property, which can also mean borrowing funds or selling your property back in the UK.

It is significant that you take your time before signing any binding contract, so you understand the terms and conditions, the property itself and your rights. Find out as much as you can about the property, its surrounding area and any pending development plans that might alter the landscape, your property’s views or its future price.

For building a property, or for any renovations, make sure you have a planning permission or immediately consult an official from the relevant department. Your architect or engineer should be able to direct you accordingly. French land is classified according to the kind of planning zone within which it falls, and it can range from NC (non-constructible), through NA and NB on to UB and other urban classifications. This means that its classification will determine the amount of floor space which you will be allowed to build on that land.

Currency matters

Other very important considerations are transferring funds to buy your property and choosing a reliable foreign exchange specialist for doing so. Currently, anyone buying property abroad will find that the pound to euro exchange rates continue to be unpredictable.  Risks of a notable decline in the pound due to fears of a no deal Brexit continue. On Wednesday, this was mostly felt after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that he won’t be asking for an extension to Brexit if Parliament does not pass a Brexit deal on 19 October.

With the currency market continuing to be volatile, the best option is to get help from an expert currency broker such as Universal Partners FX.

UPFX can assist you with your international currency transfers, making the process easy, fast and cost-effective. Whether you will need to make multiple transfers or a large currency transfer, a volatile and unpredictable market can significantly affect the value of your funds, especially when exchanging it into foreign currencies. Get in touch with them today to find out how they can help you.