The parties are over and the festivities done for another year. As we return to normality following Christmas and the new year, we look ahead to what 2019 might hold for your finances, as well as for the country as a whole.
With the debate over Brexit reaching fever pitch, we should all be thankful we and MPs had the Christmas break to calm down and focus minds. However, the government’s own deadline for a parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s proposed deal is fast approaching – the vote is currently scheduled for Tuesday 15 January. If the deal is passed then the UK will be on course to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with a 21-month transition period.
Of course, if it is rejected then we could well be in general election, second referendum or even no-deal territory, together with all of the uncertainty that brings. Whatever the outcome of the vote, by next Tuesday we will surely be clearer which it will be.
Misery on the High Street
2018 was a torrid year for retailers, with Maplin, House of Fraser and Toys R Us among the biggest casualties of the year. Indeed, the latest figures suggest the traditional Christmas sales haven’t done enough to boost struggling stores who are faced with weak consumer confidence, high business rates, changing shopping habits and aggressive discounting.
Time will tell if anything can be done to help retailers stay afloat in these uncertain times.
Last year saw two rate rises, bringing the Bank of England Base Rate to 0.75%, the highest level for more than 10 years. But will 2019 see any further changes? A poll of economists has predicted one rate rise this year – if the UK leaves the EU with a deal. In the event of a no-deal, however, rates could be cut if there is a spike in inflation.
Good news at last for first time buyers?
First time buyers, particularly millennials and young people, have long struggled to get on the housing ladder due to soaring property prices. However, the number of FTBs is currently at a record high, accounting for half of all new mortgages last year. But what could be driving this change? Government initiatives such as changes to stamp duty and the Help to Buy scheme look to have helped.
And with the announcement in the 2018 Autumn Budget that stamp duty relief is to be extended to shared ownership properties, this should also help to further relieve the burden. Mortgage lenders are also maintaining competitive 95% LTV deals to help borrowers with smaller deposits get on the housing ladder.
All in all, 2019 looks to be another tumultuous year with further political and economic instability on the horizon. Compared to the last few years however – it might well be that this is simply the ‘new normal’.