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Heading for a Brexit? Wealth managers’ election reaction

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12/05/2015
The Conservatives’ surprise general election win last week buoyed markets and sterling. But it opened the door for an EU referendum.

But what would impact would a ‘Brexit’ have on UK markets?

Here, six wealth managers share their views:

Tom Becket, chief investment officer at Psigma, says: “While sterling, UK government bonds and UK equities have all reacted positively to the Conservative victory for the time being, there will doubtless be fluctuations as we approach the European referendum that David Cameron promised.

“However, our greatest concern is not over a potential “Brexit” in the later stages of this decade, but rather the ability of the new administration to close the twin deficits (fiscal and current account) in the years ahead. This is going to be a major challenge and could mean genuine “austerity” after the phoney war on spending was somewhat curtailed in 2012, following two years of economic hardship.”

John Langrish, head of investments at James Hambro & Partners, says: “The relief rally in UK equities, gilts and sterling the day after the election was an entirely logical reaction to the election result and the prospect of a continuation of existing Conservative policy. Investor concerns over any negative implications of weaker sterling, particularly by international investors of UK assets, have been placated for now.

“Nevertheless, there are some lingering concerns, notably the EU referendum. Europe remains our biggest trading partner and with investors not liking uncertainty there could be unwelcome volatility around any future referendums during the tenure of this new government.”

Lee Goggin, co-founder of findaWEALTHMANAGER.com, says:

“The markets had factored in the uncertainty of a hung parliament, so when the election result became clear, there was euphoria in the City. A period of political stability for the UK has been a shot in the arm for the markets.

“However, while the champagne corks have only just landed, many of the wealth managers we represent are urging investors not to forget future risk factors. David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on the EU and the economic drag which could be caused by the deficit are weighing on wealth managers’ minds – as is the spectre of another referendum on Scottish independence.”

James McDaid, investment manager and Charlie Hepworth, investment director, at GAM say: “The prospect of a ‘Brexit’ is very real, and would have a significantly detrimental impact on both foreign investment into the UK, and domestic investment spending, given the uncertainty of business planning around a British exit.”

Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at Plurimi Wealth, says: “ We expect the referendum will not happen until 2017, and do not expect there would be a vote to leave in any event. That said, the ambiguity about the status within the EU will create risks and possible delays of needed capital expenditure until a certain outcome is achieved. The storming success of the separatist Scottish National Party in the election will also raise the spectre of an independent Scotland once again.”

John Wyn-Evans, head of investment strategy at Investec Wealth & Investment, says: “The markets’ reaction to the Election result has been predictably positive – but, without wishing to throw too much cold water on the celebrations, we will return to “business as usual” very shortly.

“There is the small matter of a promised referendum on membership of Europe to negotiate, which could affect UK asset classes, in particular equities, negatively.”

What of the impact of a ‘Brexit’ on consumers?

The Institute for Economic Research and the Bertelsmann Foundation, two of Germany’s biggest think-tanks, recently cautioned that the UK would incur devastating losses of up to £225bn (13 per cent of GDP, at current levels) if it seceded from the European Union, the equivalent of £3,500 per person.

The think-tanks highlighted that the cancellation of EU budget payments – currently totalling around 0.5 per cent of UK GDP – would not compensate for any economic losses suffered. Financial services, chemicals, mechanical engineering and automotive industries would all be deleteriously implicated.

While the think-tanks did not forecast that the UK would be frozen out of Europe entirely in the event of a ‘Brexit’, trade deals as lucrative as those currently enjoyed would be difficult to emulate outside the 28-nation bloc. Other major European economies would also lose out if the UK left the EU, although projected losses were less significant than those faced by the UK; Germany would lose between 0.3 per cent and 2 per cent per year by 2030; Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden would face even bigger losses.

“A Brexit is a losing game for everyone in Europe from an economic perspective alone – particularly for the UK. Aside from the economic consequences, it would be an especially bitter setback for European integration as well as Europe’s role in the world,” says Aart De Geus, Bertelsmann Foundation chief executive.

“The bottom line is that everyone involved would lose economically and politically from a Brexit.”

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