Your Saturday UK Briefing: World Stage for Sunak and Liverpool
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Hello from London. This weekend’s splashy, sequined pageantry is brought to you by Liverpool, which is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine, last year’s winner.
Rishi Sunak, though, is looking beyond the UK borders as he prepares for his first in-person meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Japan. Britain has been at the bottom G-7 of the since the pandemic, with a flatlining economy and stubborn inflation. Friday brought news that growth unexpectedly fell in March, but also comments from the Bank of England that prices may finally start to drop.
BOE Chief Economist Huw Pill said that inflation has hit a “turning point” and is likely to fall, the clearest indication yet that officials think they might be able to pause their rate-hiking cycle after a 12th consecutive increase this week. Philip Aldrick and David Goodman examine the central bank’s “credibility issue,” after forecast U-turns and policy confusion.
The bank’s latest projection has inflation easing to just over 5% at the end of the year, in line with Sunak’s pledge to halve the rate, but prices are proving more sticky than anticipated. The cost-of-living crisis is showing little sign of abating and surging food prices have now displaced energy as the biggest cause of inflationary concern, the BOE said this week.
Lawmakers also waded into the inflation-fighting battle with an inquiry into the influence of supermarkets and whether manufacturers are gouging consumers on food costs. French cooks are also paying more for staples like carrots and butter, driving up the cost of a traditional coq au vin by almost 15% in a year.
One group that seems immune to rising prices is the mega-wealthy. London enjoyed its best year for sales of luxury properties above £10 million ($12.5 million) since before 2016’s Brexit vote.
Speaking of Brexit, the prime minister also faced a backlash among some big-name Tories after he retreated from a pledge to scrap a range of European Union laws. When Sunak stood for the party leadership he promised to review or repeal 2,400 EU laws in his first 100 days in office, and issued a campaign video showing EU documents being shredded. That’s not happening now, and the Brexit faithful are none too pleased. Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg compared the UK prime minister to the Borgias — a Renaissance Italian family that became a byword for cruelty, immorality and lust for power.
There’s a power shift at Man Group, which will have a woman at the helm after 240 years of male leadership. The world’s largest publicly listed hedge fund firm named Robyn Grew as chief executive officer; she’ll succeed Luke Ellis on Sept. 1. Man is also getting its first female chair, Anne Wade, who replaces John Cryan later this year.
Finally, more than 20 years after London introduced its congestion charge, New York may be getting one too. Motorists driving south of 60th street in Manhattan may have to pay as much as $23 starting next year. London drivers cough up £15 ($18.70) to access central parts of the city. A much larger swath of the capital is designated an ultra-low emission zone.
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