London calling

The EU-UK divorce is scheduled for Friday 29 March, 2019. To paraphrase The Clash: The ice-age may not be coming and London may not be drowning, but a Brexit-related meltdown is still possible. Will London be calling?

The Brexit differences may prove irreconcilable, but they are understandable. The parties have been clear and open enough regarding their goals. A rare phenomenon these days.

There is nothing clear, open or understandable about the politics of leaders like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Why attempt to analyse and understand the actions of habitual liars? It gives them – and their lies – undeserved visibility and credibility.

Hence my focus on Brexit instead.

I recently visited London. I would like to say that I went to gain a better perspective on Brexit, but in truth I finally managed to get tickets to the musical Hamilton. My granddaughter is an avid Hamilton fan; this was my bid for best-grandmother-ever status.

As far as occasional vacation trips are concerned, not much will change post Brexit.

The UK never did get around to joining the Economic and Monetary Union, so the need to exchange currency will remain the same. The country never got around to joining the Schengen border-free area either, the border controls are already cumbersome. The right to use local healthcare – a right that will be lost with Brexit – is nice to have, but often redundant because of travel insurance.

Although Brexit may not affect my travel, there are substantive issues related to trade, travel and security on the table – many of which are still wide open.

The clock is ticking; it’s make or break time. Tensions are rising both in the UK and in Brussels. Parties are looking to agree on the outline of future relations forthwith, preferably at the October EU summit.

Theresa May has yet to find a plan that would satisfy everyone: the Brexiteers, those opposed to Brexit – and Brussels.

Unsurprisingly, Brussels is anything but sold on the idea that the UK would take control of its borders, laws and money, sign advantageous trade deals with countries like the US on its own, and still enjoy the best of the EU “world” too.

For May there is no absolutely right time and right deal as far as Brexit is concerned, but there is a deadline. One with a transition period to the end of December, 2020 thrown in, subject to agreement on the withdrawal treaty.

I don’t envy the lady her job. It’s looking more and more like a sequel of Mission Impossible. I hope it won’t be named Choking On The Cherry.

Despite everything, some already consider Brexit a done deal. It has been talked about so long.

Recently a well-established American online retailer informed me that their UK delivery terms were different from those of other EU countries because the UK was not part of the EU.

They were honestly surprised to learn that Brexit has yet to take place and EU law is still upheld in the UK.

They may have had their facts wrong, but there was nothing wrong with their willingness to correct their mistake. A commendable attitude. It seems the tendency to rely on alternative facts has yet to overtake all of America.

While the timing and effects of Brexit may be unclear, London’s future as a tourist attraction is indisputably safe. London has something for everyone whether you are looking for a broader contemporary perspective,

or a historic one.

The Tower of London may still be standing, but it’s not what it used to be. Will the same be true for the nearby Financial District of London (City of London) in the foreseeable future?

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According to the Global Financial Centre Index, London is still the leading international financial centre in the world, with New York hard on its heels.

It’s a position that may well be at risk. There is no evidence of a mass exodus from London, but there is a stall in growth, and statistics show a slight decline in travel to the City of London. Companies are reluctant to make investments; thousands of jobs have moved or will move.

It’s estimated that roughly a third of the transactions on London’s exchanges involve EU clients. Some argue that Britain could benefit from a hard Brexit by setting its own, investor-friendly rules. I doubt that this would be true. Such cherry-picking would be met by EU counteraction. Financial institutions do not favour unpredictability.

We were lucky enough to stay in one of the modern apartment buildings seen in the picture above. Our apartment had beautiful river views.

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I couldn’t help but wonder what Brexit would mean for real estate prices. An apartment with a view like this should be a safe bet pre and post Brexit. A bet that I would be ready to make, if I happened to have the money. Would others feel the same?

They have so far. The real estate prices have escalated post the Brexit vote.

London, as well as the UK in general, is still expected to come out of Brexit pretty unscathed short term – assuming Theresa May manages to stay on course as far as a close alignment to EU rules and regulations post Brexit is concerned and gets the deal done.

The long term scenario is more obscure.

At the moment a relatively soft Brexit still looks doable, but it’s anything but a done deal. Will there be enough give and take in the end, or will London indeed be calling? My trip brought me no closer to the answer.

One thing I can vouch for is the bright future of London’s theatres as long as productions like Hamilton exist. Save up and see the show, if you have the opportunity.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man responsible for the screenplay, music and lyrics of Hamilton, will definitely be able to afford prime real estate both in New York and in London, irrespective of real estate price development. The musical is all set for many years of success – both in major cities and in my home. My granddaughter knows the songs by heart and doesn’t hesitate to share her knowledge.

We’re lucky that she has a good singing voice.

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