On 31 December the post-Brexit transition period ends and, with or without a free trade deal with the European Union, the UK will start life outside the EU’s single market and customs union.
That will, pretty much all economists tell us, have a substantial economic impact on our lives. But what exactly will those impacts be – and how will ordinary people experience them? The Times describes how the two varieties of Brexit are likely to impact house prices and mortgages.
Leaving the EU with a free trade deal would, according to the Treasury’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility, be a long-term drag on the economy, reducing economic output by around 4% relative to otherwise. But it would mean any short-term disruption, above and beyond the huge coronavirus impact, would be avoided.
Leaving the EU with a successful trade deal probably will not have a short-term negative impact on house prices. In the longer term, the price of housing will be determined by the balance of supply of new housing and the demand for it and also interest rates. Moving from EU membership to a free-trade deal with the bloc is unlikely to directly influence these major structural determinants.
As for mortgages, most borrowers’ repayments are indirectly determined by the main national interest rate set by the Bank of England. Leaving the EU with a trade deal would be a more benign economic scenario from the point of view of the Bank’s rate setting committee. It might bring forward the date at which the Bank raises rates, relative to a no-deal scenario on 31 December. And that could push up mortgage repayments for many households. Yet the Bank is mindful of the overall economy, which is still in the grip of the coronavirus emergency, and financial markets are not expecting significant rate rises from the Bank any time soon, whether there is a Brexit deal or not.
Some surveyors are nervous about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK housing market. Several cite it, alongside the impact of Covid, in the latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as a potential dampener on the market.
If unemployment rises sharply next year, because of the coronavirus crisis and a no-deal Brexit, that is unlikely to be positive for house prices. Yet it is hard to say with any confidence that house prices would fall in the event of a no-deal Brexit, especially as they have held up extraordinarily well in the face of the coronavirus crisis, which has seen the biggest shock to the UK economy in some three hundred years.
As for mortgages, financial markets are currently pricing in the Bank of England cutting interest rates below zero in the coming months to help support the economy. Many analysts think a no-deal Brexit could be the factor that pushes the Bank to take such a plunge into negative territory for the first time. While negative interest rates probably would not result in a fall in average mortgage repayments from their current ultra-low levels, it would ensure they did not rise. This could help cushion the financial blow of a no-deal Brexit for some households.
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