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EU Referendum: A week on…Back

EuropeanIt has been a week since the referendum result, one week since Brexit and what a week in the world of politics it has been.

The NFDA takes a look at how things have unfolded across the week and where we are left a week on from Brexit.

  1. 7:24am: Friday 24 June 2016, It’s official: the UK has voted to leave the EU

The official announcement was made: the leave camp won with 51.9pc of the vote compared to 48.1pc who voted to remain.

  • Votes counted: 33,577,342
  • Leave: 17,410,742
  • Remain: 16,141,241
  • 37% of the eligible electorate voted to Leave the EU.
  1. Stakeholder and FTSE meltdown

The Brexit announcement caused a meltdown on FTSE. An unexpected result, the market was not prepared for this, as the UK headed for what was described as the ‘world’s first DIY recession’.

Richard Buxton, head of UK equities and chief executive of Old Mutual Global Investors, predicted that the UK would fall into a recession that it has brought upon itself, echoing previous comments from the Chancellor who warned last month that a leave vote result would create a year-long “DIY recession” for Britain.

8.04am: The FTSE 100 opens 1.4pc lower, curbing expectations of an immediate 8.5pc slump when London trading started for the day and by 08:09am £137bn was wiped off UK stocks within minutes.

At 9:58am £40bn had been wiped from British banks, with the FTSE 350 banks index sinking 17pc to 2,846.54.

In response to a tweet from The Times’ deputy political editor Sam Coates bearing the news that £200bn had been wiped off UK stocks in 1 hour and 40 minutes, the FT’s chief political, Kim Pickard tweeted:

“I know this is a bit apples and pears but:

That figure is the equivalent of 24 years of UK contributions to the EU”

However, it was not all ‘doom and gloom’, by the end of the day things had started to improve, HSBC and Standard Chartered shares were back in the black. Despite the turmoil, the FTSE 100 ended the week up more than 2pc. However, news from the FTSE 250 was more sobering. The index, which is home to more UK-focused companies and so is considered more representative of the UK economy, ended the day down 7.2pc – its worst day since Black Monday.

  1. Cameron resigned and there will be a new Tory leader and Prime Minister

By 8:30am on Friday morning it was official, David Cameron would step down within three months. This has now been confirmed to take place by September, with a newly elected leader set for 9 September – just in time for party conference reason.

Confirmed leader candidates are:

  • Theresa May MP
  • Michael Gove MP
  • Stephen Crabb MP
  • Liam Fox MP
  • Andrea Leadsom

Iain Duncan Smith MP (IDS), Leave campaigner, is strongly of the view that the next PM must be a Leaver, speaking on Sunday. He has stated that he would want a job the Cabinet if he could be a core member of the team negotiating exit with the EU. Otherwise he would be an adviser of some kind to the Government.

IDS is one of the people who has been pushing Andrea Leadsom to stand.

Gove, Leadsom and May

Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom are very ambitious people. They are publicly saying that they decided Boris could not be trusted to see through the Leave campaign’s promises on taking back control of borders. That may be true. However, it is also a convenient excuse as both have wished to run for leadership for some time and now have the opportunity to do so.

IDS and the right wing eurosceptics in the Tory party would have supported Boris Johnson if Gove and Leadsom had been in his camp supporting him. Now that they aren’t – it is questionable as to how many Tory MPs will stick with Boris Johnson. He is a loner in Parliament and does not really have that many MP friends.

It has also been argued that Boris never wanted to leave the EU. In fact, he believed that the leave campaign would narrowly lose. This would have worked in his favour. Boris has become a household name across the UK during this campaign – for better or worse is subjective – but he has, for some, maintained his public charm and also gained a sense of credibility; pushing himself outside of his London political sphere, into the wider country. Now it seems however that the reality of the challenge and job itself have set in for Boris. It is unlikely that a lack of support from Gove and Leadsom would have been enough to deter him, especially as his public profile is more popular than those of the former two. However, if theory is correct, the plan for Boris has not worked and he has been left with no other choice but to remove himself from the competition. The leave campaign, clearly much to his surprise won, something that no one truly expected. If theory is correct, Boris was hoping to set himself apart in the Leave campaign, they would only slightly lose and this would then place him at the heart of the party to take over from Cameron… from within the EU. Now his side have won, perhaps this was all a bit too much for BoJo.

In terms of MP and leader material, Michael Gove does have more substance than Boris but he could well be undermined in the end by his previous repeated statements that he is ‘not up to the job’ of being PM and does not want it. He had publicly backed Cameron remaining in position, whether sincere or not and had planned his “Brexit Strategy” around this. The media has now had a frenzy, repeatedly detailing all the occasions when Gove himself said he would be a terrible leader or the wrong person for the job. A somewhat awkward position to move forward from, he seems more favoured within his own party, than publicly. Nevertheless, Friday morning saw former Chancellor and veteran Europhile Ken Clarke state that Gove’s “bizarre manoeuvrings” disqualified him from being PM at a time of “grave crisis” and that he should abandon his bid to become Tory leader.

Could Andrea Leadsom – contrary to expectations – therefore get through to the final round against May? It is possible that it could be a Gove vs May but also a Leadsom vs May final.

Andrea Leadsom, a bit of an outsider in this race, has been praised for her part in the televised Brexit debates and became the female figure head of the Leave campaign. However, on the whole, Leadsom is fairly low profile, despite holding a cabinet position as a Minister in the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

So it is without real doubt that Theresa May is set to be the favourite candidate. With the most nominations of any MP, she is by far the front runner. This week she has also gained media support from the likes of Murdock and the Daily Mail front page hailing her the “only option”. The biggest problem she will face; she was a Remain campaigner – although the term ‘campaigner’ may be a tad strong. Despite her limited commitment to the Remain cause, this still may hinder her gaining support from Leave voters. The Guardian also explains that in the past, she has struggled to articulate a wider vision for the party and country. Something that is needed in these turbulent and uncertain times. Her saviour to gain votes from the far right of her party is that she is not very liberal and has taken a tough line of immigration.

In brief – the surprises… Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb

Strengths: The Guardian describes him as being “able to talk about politics in a way that sounds almost like a human being.” Growing up on a Council Estate in Pembrokeshire by a single mother, it is argued that Crabb’s background will help him persuade the party that they could reconnect the Tories with the poorer communities – something they would be sensible to take advantage of with Labour’s current turmoil. He was seen as an effective Welsh secretary, earning himself a promotion in March to become work and pensions secretary.

Weaknesses: MPs might see him as relatively untested and inexperienced, and barring a sudden surge he could struggle to reach the final two on the ballot. Even if he reached the members vote stage, his status as a fervent remain advocate would count against him. His supporters, such as Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid, tend to be Remain voters.

Liam Fox

Strengths: He is vastly experienced and respected, with more than two decades in parliament and considerable frontbench experience. He is a veteran EU opponent, with his open and public dislike of the Union dating all the way back to the John Major era. He, like Crabb, has come from humble beginnings, going on to become a Dr. This holds weight with the public and creates an air of relatability that the current Tory heavy weights, Cameron, Osborne, Boris, are lacking.

Weaknesses: He is generally prefixed as “the disgraced former defence secretary” after resigning from the coalition government in 2011 when details emerged about a lobbyist and friend, Adam Werrity, who travelled with him on official business. Fox contested the leadership in 2005 and lost in the second round of voting.

  1. Article 50

There has been controversy all week surrounding Article 50. When and who will implement this key article in the Lisbon Treaty. The founding six members of the EU have this week stated that the UK must invoke Article 50 quickly and efficiently.

French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault said there was “a certain urgency… so that we don’t have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences.”

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the EU’s founding members in Berlin, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added: “We join together in saying that this process must begin as soon as possible so we don’t end up in an extended limbo period but rather can focus on the future of Europe.”

However, with David Cameron’s resignation, the UK’s timeframe for doing so seems relaxed. Invoking Article 50 is clearly a job that no British politician really wants. This has been see as one of the main reasons key Brexit campaigner, Boris Johnson MP has pulled himself out of the running for Tory leader and future PM (confirmed 30.6.16) – a somewhat controversial move following his active campaigning and supposed faith in Brexit.

  1. Lord Hill resigned

The main news on Saturday 26 June was almost certainly the resignation of Lord Hill from his position as Britain’s most senior official in Brussels.

Since his appointment as Britain’s European Commissioner, he had been a defender of the UK’s financial industry.

He said he did not believe it is “right” that he continued in the role “as though nothing had happened.”

He added: “I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe. I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy.

“But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible.”

Jean-Claude Juncker has said he tried to convince Lord Hill to stay on, adding that he considers him a “true European”.

The CEO of banking lobby group BBA, Anthony Browne, has said: “Lord Hill did an important job at a difficult time in Brussels, with the EU referendum looming for most of his time in office. He worked hard to ensure a more stable and customer-focused banking sector, helping our industry play its full role in promoting economic growth”

  1. Scotland

On the night that the UK voted for Brexit, two countries in the UK did not. Scotland resoundingly voted to remain, with 62% of the vote, believing the UK should stay within the EU.

Visiting Brussels on Wednesday, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said she had received a “sympathetic response” from her European colleagues and had left in “good heart”. However, both France and Spain have said they oppose Scotland negotiating separately from the rest of the UK to stay in the EU.

Come Thursday, Sturgeon was solid in response. As the BBC reported:

“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs during the final FMQs of the Holyrood term she remained committed to protecting Scotland in the EU.”

Within the debates, Tory leader Ruth Davidson talked of the importance of the UK’s own single market, while accusing Nicola Sturgeon of exploiting Brexit to push another Scottish independence referendum. Sturgeon however responded with an undeniable truth, the Conservatives had put the future of the UK on the line, by issuing an EU Referendum, for self-interest and to ensure David Cameron won the general election.

  • when it comes to political exploitation!

Kezia Dugdale, of Scottish Labour, said she shared the first minister’s desire to make Scotland’s voice heard in Europe, while Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he couldn’t believe Ms Davidson wasn’t embarrassed by her actions.

Patrick Harvie of the Greens – who seems quite keen for independence referendum take 2 – hit out at the “chief fraudsters of the Leave campaign”.

The chief fraudsters, Ms Sturgeon said, were now “stabbing each other in the back”.

Early afternoon on Thursday (30.6.16) saw the view of the European and External Affairs Committee stating that independence would be the “simplest and most obvious way” for Scotland to remain in the EU. There was broad consensus among the four experts putting possibilities to the committee that it would be extremely difficult for Scotland to be a member of both the UK and the EU after Brexit and they agreed the EU currently had “goodwill” towards Scotland.

Dr Kirsty Hughes of Friends of Europe responded by saying that Brexit had in her view caused “extraordinary damage” to the UK, Europe and the wider world.

She said that in terms of preserving Scotland’s EU status, “the simplest and most obvious way would be to be an independent state and transition in and stay in the EU”.

She said any other options would depend to a large extent on the deal negotiated by the UK as a whole during its withdrawal negotiations.

Dr Hughes added: “It is worth looking into but it would be very hard for me at this moment to imagine how Scotland could be in the UK and still in the EU rather than just still in the UK or still in the single market.

“You are meant to be a state to have a seat in the council of ministers, not a sub-state, and I don’t see at the moment any way around that.”

She said there had been “scaremongering” from the EU ahead of the independence referendum in 2014, but she believed that the situation was now different.

Dr Hughes said it would be “logical” for any independence referendum to be held in the summer of next year to ensure it was done before the UK completed its negotiations and left the EU.

But she acknowledged that whether or not to hold a referendum was “obviously a very big political judgement”.

And she warned the EU “does not want a mini-UK” and said Scotland is unlikely to keep the UK’s “awkward squad” opt-outs of the euro, justice and home affairs and the UK budget rebate.

This follows as it appears clear that Scotland is now looking at a reverse Greenland option – where Greenland left the EU but remained a part of Denmark.

Scottish officials say that “there is a sense of betrayal among some unionist No voters in the Scottish referendum. They were told in 2014 that they should vote for Scotland to remain in the UK as that was the only way Scotland could guarantee to remain in the EU. Now they feel bitter that this was not true. They are switching to the pro-independence cause.”

Polls currently in Scotland are now 53 per cent to 47 per cent in favour of independence.

  1. The Labour Party – or what is left of it…

Corbyn’s Cabinet meltdown began quickly following the announcement that the UK had voted to leave the UK. The issue: Corbyn’s membership mandate remains strong and supportive, however his parliamentary colleagues are deserting him.

The mass shadow cabinet exit took place on Monday (27.6.16), where 19 MPs resigned following the midnight sacking of Hilary Benn MP. The shadow foreign secretary was sacked in a phone call at 1am on Sunday after making clear that he had lost faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. His card had been marked since he intervened in last December’s parliamentary debate on airstrikes in Syria.

Corbyn’s Cabinet now houses five MPs who have stood by him, 13 new appointments and two members, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Angela Smith MP who cannot resign but who have said they will not attend under Corbyn’s leadership.

This exit followed as it emerged that Corbyn may have deliberately sabotaged the Labour Remain campaign. Those in support of him argue that he is being bullied by the party and that the referendum result is being used by Blarites to push the ‘old Labour’ leader out.

Following his defeat in a vote of no confidence (172-40 vote), Mr Corbyn has still rejected an attempt by Labour’s deputy Tom Watson MP to persuade him to stand down.

Mr Corbyn has said he would not “betray” the party members who elected him last year.

Opponents of Mr Corbyn have been meeting to decide what to do next and whether to rally round a single candidate to put up against him, with names in the frame including former frontbenchers Angela Eagle and Yvette Cooper.

The BBC’s political correspondent Iain Watson said they still hoped Mr Corbyn would step down voluntarily.

Ex-shadow minister Owen Smith is also said to be considering a leadership bid.

  1. Final comments

CBI calls for tariff and barrier-free access to single market post Brexit

The business community “stands ready to work in partnership” with whichever Conservative leadership candidate “is successful to help create greater prosperity across all areas of the UK”, the CBI says.

Deputy director general Josh Hardie claims “it’s imperative” each leadership contender “sets out clearly detailed plans” for the UK’s new relationship with the EU.

“First and foremost politicians must commit to openness,” he says. “This means tariff and barrier free access to the single market; maintaining trade deals around the world; attracting and keeping skills; and working out the trade-offs between these three.

“In the immediate term, politicians of all persuasions must confirm that those people from the EU already working in the UK can stay. And businesses want them to get on with key infrastructure and spending decisions, which demonstrate that Britain is open for business. We need an urgent focus on productivity, innovation, skills and exports.”

George Osborne ditches 2020 budget surplus target

George Osborne has reportedly ditched his cherished plan to run an absolute budget surplus by 2019-20, as the economy deals with the economic shock of last week’s Brexit vote.

The BBC is reporting that the Chancellor has said the UK “must be realistic about achieving a surplus by the end of the decade”.

The bookies favourite in the Tory leadership race, Theresa May, said yesterday that she would not stick to the target.

Norway model not right for Britain post-Brexit, says Norwegian minister

The Norwegian Industry Minister is not convinced about Britain joining the European Economic Area if it leaves the EU.

Joining the European Economic Area would be an obvious way for the UK to retain access to the European Union’s single market should it go ahead and leave the bloc.

But in the EEA’s biggest member, Norway, questions are now being asked about the advantages of allowing the much bigger North Sea neighbor into an accord that in many ways has been tailored to the needs of the Scandinavian country and its other members — Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Concerns have been raised by the prime minister and the finance minister, and also by the leader of the Labour Party, the biggest group in opposition.

Signing up to the EEA would allow the UK to stay within the internal market and keep the trade ties that are the key to its prosperity.

While much of EU law would need to be adhered to, including the free movement of people, it would also provide some freedom from the Brussels bureaucracy that has been vilified by those who successfully lobbied for a so-called Brexit.

Monica Maeland, Norwegian industry minister, says it’s far from a clear-cut case that Norway should welcome the UK into the broader European Free Trade Association.

“Britain must first clarify its position,” she said in an e-mailed answer to questions. “Then the EU must decide how they want to work with this and then we need to decide on our position. So it’s too early to decide on a possible expansion of EFTA.”

Slovakia says it ‘will support any measure’ to avoid Brexit as new EU Council leaders

Britain should be given flexibility but no special deal, Slovakia says as it takes up the rotating EU presidency

The foreign minister of Slovakia has said he will “support any measure” to reverse Britain’s decision to leave the EU, offering a sliver of optimism for those hoping Brexit might never happen.

Slovakia takes over the rotating presidency of the EU today for the next six months – set to be a tumultuous period after Britain voted to leave the 28-nation bloc.

While the EU has to respect the Brexit decision, it should be “very flexible” in its dealings with Britain, Miroslav Lajčák told reporters at a press conference in Bratislava.

But the Slovakian minister ruled out the possibility of a “special deal” for the UK, which is the first country to break away from the EU since it formed under its current name in 1993.

Posted by Sue Robinson on 01/07/2016