A Boris Brexit?

John Phillips

October 24, 2019

John Phillips is national operations director at Just Mortgages

There was a brief outbreak of national jubilation when it was announced Boris Johnson had secured a new Brexit deal from the EU.

So are we finally – after three-and-a-half years of stultifying uncertainty – about to put the UK’s relationship with the EU on some sort of stable footing?

Well, yes and no.

Getting a deal with the EU turns out to have been the easy part. Now the Prime Minister is finding out the hard way that the House of Commons is a much tougher audience.

The government no doubt thought it could surf the wave, not so much of enthusiasm for the deal as the desire to get Brexit done with and move on.

Instead, MPs essentially voted to withhold judgement, while seeking to prevent the UK leaving without a deal.

This meant the Prime Minister had to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension to the 31 October deadline, while making it clear to anyone who would listen that he didn’t actually want one.

He did eventually succeed in getting MPs to approve the deal in principle – but they then refused to let him speed up the timetable to get the legislation through, making it unlikely he can get the deal done by the deadline.

And you thought mortgages were complicated…

Where does this leave us? Every time the government climbs a ladder, it seems to run into another snake. We’re not quite back at square one but, with a deal that may or may not get through the Commons, and likely an extension taking us into 2020, there’s renewed talk of a ‘confirmatory vote’ – aka a second referendum – and now increasingly of a general election that could turn everything on its head. Deep joy.

All this to-ing and fro-ing is bound to have an impact on the economy: investors and consumers alike need to have confidence in the future. This is particularly true for the housing market.

As it is, potential buyers are reluctant to commit to a large mortgage, vendors don’t know whether it’s a good or bad time to sell, and there’s heightened risk for lenders.

Brexit has turned into a long and undignified saga – and like Game of Thrones, nobody knows quite how it’s going to end. But winter is coming and it’s time we drew a line under the whole thing.

The votes on Saturday and then again on Tuesday prolonged the agony but it’s still not too late to get a deal done and move on.

There’s plenty else the government ought to be doing to give the housing market a boost – cut stamp duty in the Budget on 6 November for one – but lifting the cloud of uncertainty that has descended the last three years would be a good place to start


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