The U.K. left the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020 and entered a set of transitional arrangements for trade and customs that applied through Dec. 31, 2020. On Dec. 24 the two sides signed a provisional “ EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement Agreement” (TCA) that will provide a framework for relations going forward.
S&P Global has written extensively extensively about the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union over the past four years. This report provides a brief overview of the newly signed trade deal, the issues to watch in 2021 with potential outcomes and data points to watch.
From Financials to Fish, What the Brexit Trade Deal Means
The Brexit negotiations may appear to be over, but it is merely the end of the beginning.Read the Full Article
Altogether, Apart – 2021 Global Trade Policy Outlook
While it's tempting to focus on the early moves of the Biden administration or the fallout from Brexit, global trade policy developments in 2021 will yield just as many threats and opportunities as developments in the Atlantic basin.Read the Full Article
Life After the Elections: Quick Deal, No Deal or a Small Deal – U.K.-U.S. Relations
Trade negotiations between the U.K. and U.S. had made significant progress under the Trump administration, including completion of “much of the legal text” according to HM Trade Secretary Liz Truss.Read the Full Article
UK Adopts EU Derivatives Trading Rules to Avoid Post-Brexit Market Disruption
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority will adopt EU rules for derivatives trading under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation, or MiFIR, in a move to avoid market disruption after the end of the Brexit transition period Dec. 31.Read the Full Article
Companies within the European Union (EU) have experienced significant turbulence over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic and are braced for more with the finalisation of the UK’s exit from the EU. Figure 1 shows historical speculative default rates provided in CreditPro®, an S&P Global Market Intelligence offering that provides rating transition, default and recovery rate analytics.
For the EU including the UK (EU+UK), S&P Global Market Intelligence saw spikes for speculative grade companies in 2002 with the tech bubble and in 2009 following the global financial crisis.
- In order to gain a mid- to long-term view of how the credit risk of different industries in the EU and UK are responding to market conditions, S&P Global Market Intelligence used the latest available financials and then calculated the median credit risk using S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Fundamental Probability of Default model (PDFN), which looks at company financials and business risk factors to measure the likelihood of default for public and private companies.
- PD fundamentals reveal a mid- to long-term credit risk pattern based upon financial statement data.
- S&P Global Market Intelligence analyzed the median PDs for the EU+UK region by industry, focusing on a range of industries/sectors that display the highest median PDs, highest change in PDs and lowest PDs.
- Airlines exhibited both the highest PD and the biggest increase in PD between Q4 2019 and Q2 2020, rising from a median PD of 3.88% to 5.74%, which is equivalent to an implied credit score of ‘b-’. The sharpest increase happened in March 2020 as the European Council started implementing travel restrictions, including banning incoming travel from countries outside the EU. As a result, many airlines have needed government support to stabilize their operations and made extensive cuts in staffing, warning of potential defaults and, in some cases, possible bankruptcy.
- When looking at how the credit risk of industries in the EU+UK have been impacted over the first and second quarter of 2020, airlines, hotels and restaurants, media and entertainment and biotechnology (although this latter industry was mixed) being among the most affected. Other industries, such as energy, were actually stable or saw some marginal improvement.
- This indicates that some of these companies are more resilient, have sufficiently strong credit quality or have less exposure to social distancing rules. Overall, a higher percentage of speculative grade companies have transitioned to lower credit scores and the number of investment grade companies have significantly decreased.
This report reviews the events that were emblematic of the changes in trade policy, logistics sector and industrial supply chain operations in 2020, based on Panjiva’s monthly most-read research review and the 1,200 reports published by Panjiva research in 2020. For each report we outline what it covered, why it mattered and what the data told us, with charts updated for the most recent data available.
UK Private Sector Activity Expands Less Than Expected in December 2020
The Composite Output Index, which takes into account both manufacturing and services sector activity, rose to 50.4 in December from 49.0 in November.Read the Full Article
UK Banks' Recovery Set to Be 'Bumpy'
S&P Global Ratings said its outlook on the U.K. banking sector is negative as banks' road to recovery will be a tumultuous one amid a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, renewed lockdown restrictions and dwindling fiscal and monetary support from the state.Read the Full Article
Economic Research: The Second Wave And Brexit Will Test The U.K. Recovery
Despite the promising start, many hurdles are ahead on the path to recovery, and S&P Global Ratings now sees the economy slightly worse off over the next three years, compared with their previous forecast.Read the Full Article
Virus Variant Highlights Risks to UK Food, Medical Imports
Events in the fourth quarter have given a taste of the disruptions to supply chains that could occur in the first quarter of 2021 and beyond.Read the Full Article
The UK government needs to step up its efforts to create homegrown electric vehicle battery production, and establish a sector taskforce, or face the possible consequences of losing its auto industry, according to the former Aston Martin CEO, Andy Palmer.
In an open letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Palmer called on the UK government to urgently establish a plan to build four gigafactories in the UK within the next five years, or risk losing the entire automotive industry.
Brexit Watch: Autos Enumerate Tariff Trouble, Steer Supply Chains Out of EU
The U.K. Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, or SMMT, has warned that the absence of a trade deal with the EU from January 2021 could lead to costs equivalent to £55.4 billion ($74.8 billion) in the following five yearsRead the Full Article
Auto Industry Welcomes Brexit Trade Deal but Awaits Specifics
Automakers in the U.K. and Europe welcomed the announcement of a Brexit trade deal on Dec. 24 that will avoid import tariffs they say would have been catastrophic for the industry.Read the Full Article
EU sugar production in the 2020-21 campaign (October-September) is set to fall for the third consecutive year due to unfavorable weather, a high incidence of virus yellows due to the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and a smaller acreage.
As far as trade flows go, Brexit and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be in focus in 2021. Looking further ahead, S&P Global Platts Analytics expects EU+UK production in 2021-22 to increase on the year.
Poor EU crop prospects are likely to cause the EU to remain a net importer in 2020-21. One trader said that there could be a sugar deficit of 2 million mt and that "it will be hard to find [this volume] to make up for the deficit." The trader also said that, "although the EU can't supply [regionally], it still has to export due to its long-term obligations." Platts Analytics estimates the 2020-21 EU sugar deficit at 1.585 million mt, almost five times the 343,000 mt in 2019-20.
UK Steel Safeguards to Remain with New Trade Accords: HMRC
The UK's steel import safeguards system – published Sept. 30 for use from Jan 1, 2021 – will still be applicable to some trade between the EU and the UK, and between Turkey and the UK.
Safeguards are non-preferential measures, along with measures including anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties. Preferential agreements – such as the ones negotiated by the UK with both the EU and with Turkey – do not impact on the application of steel safeguards, an HMRC officer told S&P Global Platts.
Finance & Insurance
Share trading that switched out of London and into the European Union because of Brexit is unlikely to return, even though the EU may now be keener to grant equivalence status to the U.K., according to market participants.
About €6 billion in daily share trades moved out of London on Jan. 1 after the EU issued rules obliging companies based in the bloc to trade shares on EU trading venues. This also applies to some classes of over-the-counter derivatives which must be traded in the EU or on third-country equivalent venues.
British banks and financial services firms previously operated under a passporting system which allowed them to sell their services across the EU. Since the Brexit transition period ended on Dec. 31, 2020, however, those arrangements have ended and U.K. financial firms operating within the EU must do so via their offices that are based on the continent.
Alasdair Haynes, CEO of the pan-European stock-exchange group Aquis Exchange PLC, said his company had not lost business as a result of the EU's share trading obligation since its operations in the EU had picked up business lost from London.
However, he does not think it likely that a similar agreement between the U.K. and the EU will emerge now.
Skepticism Around EU Financial Services Deal, as UK Says No to Rule-Taker Role
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has said a deal with the European Union on financial equivalence that left the U.K. as a financial regulatory rule-taker would not be worth having.Read the Full Article
The U.K. Treasury's Review of Solvency II Ahead of Brexit: Still A Waiting Game For Insurers
As the U.K.'s transition period for exiting the EU comes to an end, the government has launched a review of Solvency II, a harmonized European Economic Area-wide insurance regulatory framework that came into force in 2016. Collectively, U.K. insurers' Solvency II ratios appear lower than their European counterparts'.Read the Full Article
U.K. Insurers: Steering Through A Chaotic World
Although S&P Global Ratings anticipates that profitability at rated U.K. insurers will be dented in 2020 across the industry Ratings expects profitability to normalize in 2021 and that the impact on ratings will be limited.Read the Full Article
U.K. utilities are facing a unique set of challenges. Decarbonizing operations and staying buoyant amid the COVID-19 pandemic are worldwide concerns, but U.K. utilities also have regulatory obstacles to overcome and the effects of Brexit to consider.
- Regulator Ofgem announced its final determination (FD) for power and gas transmission and gas distribution networks earlier this week.
- S&P Global Ratings viewed several elements in the FD as supportive compared with the draft, but Ratings continues to think that the next regulatory period will be much more challenging for most U.K. energy networks.
- Despite resilience against the COVID-19 fallout, U.K. utilities' supply activities may increasingly suffer as customers face higher financial difficulties and struggle to pay their bills.
- Three U.K. water utilities may not be able to maintain the current ratings depending on the outcome of their appeal to the Competition and Markets Authority against water regulator Ofwat's final determination starting in April 2020.
- Four water utilities are in the process of appealing Ofwat's final determination (FD), while energy companies are still digesting the recently published FD from Ofgem.
- Several elements of the FD are supportive compared with the draft determination (DD) published in July this year, particularly the increase (about 20 basis points [bps]) in the weighted-average cost of capital (WACC) and an increase of about 25% in total expenditure (totex) allowances compared with the DD.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed former business and energy secretary Alok Sharma as full-time president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November. The conference, known as COP26, is to be held in Glasgow.
The move comes as Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng was appointed to take over from Sharma as UK secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, the prime minister's office said.
"To meet the high ambitions for the summit in the year of COP26, Alok Sharma will solely focus on driving forward coordinated global action to tackle climate change," the PM's office said in a statement. "A successful summit in November will be critical if we want to meet the objectives set out by the Paris Agreement and reduce global emissions."
'It's just harder work': Wind-Turbine Makers Adapt to UK's Post-Brexit Realities
In the final weeks of 2020, a wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England, did what many other manufacturing facilities in the country were doing as the U.K. prepared to exit the EU's single market.Read the Full Article
UK Emissions Trading System to Be Ready for Exit from EU: Government Whitepaper
The system underpinning a UK Emissions Trading System is on track to be ready for the country's exit Jan. 1, 2021, from the EU's own ETS, the UK government said Dec. 14 on publication of an Energy White Paper.Read the Full Article
Brexit has created disruption and uncertainty for the U.K.'s fintech sector, but industry insiders say that there is a silver lining. The U.K.'s departure from the bloc leaves it free to forge its own regulatory path in fintech and cryptocurrency.
Not only could this spur innovation, it could help the U.K. to reinvent itself as a hub for crypto and decentralized finance, or DeFi. These comments come shortly after the U.K. regulator opened a consultation on cryptoasset regulation, with a focus on stablecoins, which will run until March 31. The U.K. is also in the midst of a government-backed fintech review, launched in July 2020, which will make recommendations for how best Britain can nurture its fintech industry following Brexit.
The U.K. formally left the EU at 11 p.m. London time Dec. 31, 2020. Although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson clinched a deal with the bloc Dec. 24, 2020, the ability of U.K.-based financial services firms to do business on the continent still hangs in the balance, since the EU has yet to agree on equivalence of financial regulation.
The Financial Conduct Authority, the U.K. regulator, has allowed EU financial services companies — including those in the payments space — to continue to trade in the U.K. under a temporary permissions regime, but this has not been reciprocated by the EU or any of its member states.
Outlook for UK Fintech Hiring After Brexit More Positive than Experts Feared
U.K. fintech industry insiders and recruiters had initially predicted that Brexit could lead to severe hiring difficulties due to the loss of freedom of movement within the EU.Read the Full Article
Brexit Complicates Data Privacy Politics Between U.S., E.U. and U.K. – Legal Experts
A Brexit deal struck at the 11th hour has thrust the U.K. in the middle of a politically turbulent tussle over data privacy between its two leading trade partners, the U.S. and the EU.Read the Full Article
UK's Regulatory Regime for Big Tech to Take Shape in 2021 – Experts
The coming year could be a challenging one for large tech companies operating in the U.K., as a raft of regulation aimed at the sector is set to take effect.Read the Full Article