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Carmakers fear rising trade barriers after Brexit
A storm is brewing as clouds gather over Bristol Port, with the rain set to fall on tens of thousands of vehicles parked in the port’s car compounds, ready for export by ship, or destined for UK dealerships. It is an apt backdrop for the UK automotive sector’s current predicament. “Brexit has derailed the industry,” says Sarwant Singh, senior partner and global head of automotive and transportation at consultants Frost & Sullivan. “The uncertainty causes people not to buy cars.” The number of cars sold in the UK dropped 5.7% in 2017, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, and ratings agency Moody’s predicts a further 5.5% fall this year. There has been little respite from foreign markets, with exports slipping 1% last year.
Rate rise doubts as property demand falls, says RICS
A lack of activity in the UK housing market could make it more difficult for Bank of England policymakers to raise interest rates, surveyors have said. There has been widespread speculation of a potential increase in the Bank rate in May from its level of 0.5%. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said property buyer demand had fallen for its 12th consecutive month in March. This could mean slower household spending as fewer people move home.
UK manufacturing hit by surprise end to period of expansion
The UK manufacturing sector’s near year-long expansion came to an end in February as it unexpectedly contracted, leading economists to downgrade their expectations of growth in the first quarter of 2018. Output from the sector fell 0.2 per cent compared with January, the first fall in production since March 2017. City analysts expected growth of 0.2 per cent in February. UK manufacturing was bolstered last year by a combination of a cheaper pound and stronger global growth. But there are signs the global rebound in manufacturing could be losing pace: the UK report follows equivalent data from France, Germany and Italy that have pointed to a similar slowdown in manufacturing in the first few months of 2018.
Labour to offer free bus trips for under‑25s
Labour will today pledge to make bus travel free for all under-25s. The party said that the move would benefit up to 13 million people and save each young person up to £1,000 a year, based on a calculation that they buy an average of two tickets a day. Labour estimates that the policy would cost £1.4 billion a year by the end of a five-year parliament. It plans to pay for it out of revenue raised by vehicle excise duty. At present, each local authority has responsibility over its own bus services. Only those that chose to move buses back into public ownership would be offered the funding to provide free travel.
Young drivers face limit on passengers
Young drivers could be made to undergo six months of training before taking to the road alone under plans for probationary driving licences. The Department for Transport confirmed that the system may be expanded across the UK after its introduction in Northern Ireland from next year. Graduated licensing imposes a series of tough restrictions on new drivers during a probationary period while they gain experience. There have been concerns that novice motorists are far more likely to be involved in accidents than other drivers. Under the plans, drivers under the age of 24 would be required to display a probationary “P plate” for two years and be barred from carrying more than one young passenger between 11pm and 6am for the first six months.
Fire destroys electric Volvo as it is charged outside family home
A hybrid electric car went up in flames after being left to charge on a family’s driveway. The family was forced to flee when the car, which runs on a combination of electric power and a conventional petrol engine, burst into flames late on Sunday evening. Miles Freeman, 46, from Birmingham, said that the alarm on the Volvo Hybrid XC90 started to go off at about 10.30pm and he found the car on fire. It is not known how the fire started. It is rare for electric or hybrid cars to catch fire while charging. Last year a Smart Fortwo electric car was destroyed by fire after being left to charge outside an office block. It was blamed on an electrical fault.