What finance and business can do now | Lydia Prieg | TEDxLondonBusinessSchool

Lydia is a finance and business researcher at the New Economics Foundation (nef). A former trader, her work now focuses on financial reform & insuring that banks and markets effectively and sustainably serve society.

TEDxLondonBusinessSchool 2012

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New York’s MTA Gets Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Fitbit Pay: Here’s How to Set It Up

http://fortune.com/2019/05/31/nyc-mta-fitbit-android-apple-pay-phone-tap-card/

It took a while, but the world’s largest subway system is finally ditching its swipe-card system for a tap-and-go experience. Starting on May 31 at noon, 16 of New York City’s 472 subway stations—along with some of its buses—will let riders pay by tapping a credit and debit card. The new system also encourages strap-hangers to pay with their personal devices, including iPhone and Android phones, and Fitbits.

The Big Apple is hardly the first to adopt this transit technology, as other U.S. cities like Chicago and Portland beat them to it (which will annoy New Yorkers no end), but it will be the biggest deployment of the new payment system, by far. Eventually.

To start, the system is rolling out slowly, and there are a lot of important details to note. That’s why Fortune is providing this Q&A to navigate the new transit options. (But you’re on your own when it comes to navigating the New York subway and avoiding its famous rats!).

Which stations have the MTA’s new tap-to-pay system?

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) installed the new contactless fare payment system, called OMNY—short for One Metro New York—at the turnstiles of 16 stations on the 4/5/6 subway line, spanning from Grand Central Station in Manhattan to Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The buses on Staten Island are also part of the first phase launch.

When will the rest of the MTA be updated to pay with Fitbits, iPhones, and Android devices?

The 16-station launch is part of a pilot program, and it will be a while till the rest of the system gets the tap system. A person close to the project told Fortune that the MTA will be begin expanding the number of stations in December, and that the “whole system will be lit up” by October of 2020.

How do I tap my debit or credit card to pay for the subway?

You can use any credit or debit card, but there is an important catch: The card must have the tap-to-pay symbol (it looks like a WiFi logo) for it to work. According to Linda Kirkpatrick, an Executive Vice-President at MasterCard, banks and credit card companies are in the process of issuing new cards to many of their customers with the tap-to-pay feature. She says most consumers will have such a card in the coming months.

For those who don’t want to wait, one workaround is to purchase a pre-paid MasterCard or Visa (one with the tap-to-pay logo of course) from a local drug store. Also note that, for the next few months, MasterCard is offering “Fareback Fridays,” which means the company will refund you for up to trips you make on Friday if you use one of its cards.

Can I get a contactless fare card from the MTA?

Not yet, and don’t hold your breath. The MTA actually wants to persuade users to stop using dedicated transit cards, and instead rely on their own credit/debit cards and mobile devices. So while MTA tap-to-pay cards will eventually appear at kiosks (similar to the yellow swipe Metro cards used by millions of New Yorkers), this likely won’t happen for months.

How do I pay for the MTA with my iPhone, Android phone, or Fitbit?

If you have an iPhone or Android phone, your device will have a “Wallet” icon for the payment systems known as “Apple Pay” or “Google Pay.” These let you store digital versions of your debit and credit cards, and use them to pay merchants—including the MTA.

If you want to use this approach, you first have to set up Android Pay or Apple Pay, by adding the credit or debit card to your digital wallet—typically by scanning it through the app, or manually entering the relevant numbers. Setting up Fitbit Pay works a little differently, since their smart watches are not fully integrated into the phones’ operating systems.

After adding your payment card to your digital wallet, it’s easy to access. To use Apple Pay on an iPhone, simply double-click the home button, and your wallet will springboard to the the screen, with your default payment card ready to be read by the MTA’s contactless card reader. (You’ll need to use Face ID or Touch ID to unlock the iPhone before you can pay, so pull up your digital card before you hit the turn-style.) To pay with an Android phone, simply unlock the handset and place it over the reader to initiate the transaction. Paying with Fitbit Pay is similar, just hold down the button on the left side of the watch, and your digital card will appear, but you may need to enter a pin code, depending on your Fitbit app’s settings.

Will the MTA have its own payment app?

Yes, this will become available in later stages of the roll-out. According to Fortune’s MTA source, the app will not only let the rider add his payment card to refill it (like you do with a Starbucks app), but will also collect data about his or her subway rides. Users will then be able to see how often they used the app and where they have traveled. (Riders concerned about privacy may wish to avoid the app).

Can I tap-to-pay using a weekly or monthly MTA pass?

No, or at least not yet. While the MTA will introduce weekly or monthly options eventually, they are not expected to be available till at least 2021. This means that the new tap-to-pay option will be an unappealing one for the many New York commuters who buy weekly or monthly passes for a flat rate, rather than pay $2.75 for every single ride.

Is tap-to-pay replacing the MetroCard?

Eventually, but you will be fine for a while. The MTA is aware that some people lack the banking options or tech tools necessary to make the switch, and that some are just resistant to change. This means that both systems—the new tap-to-pay and the existing swipe system—will be offered until at least 2023.

Why did New York’s MTA take so long to get this technology?

According to Kirkpatrick of MasterCard, one reason is that the launch was designed to coincide with tap-to-pay becoming widely available from bank and credit card companies. Another is that New York was actually early when it came to the swipe card technology, and so it stuck with that system for a while. Other cities, meanwhile, never adopted swipe cards but instead went right from tokens to tapping.

Italy Is Threatening to Repeat the Greek Debt Crisis—But With Higher Stakes

http://fortune.com/2019/05/31/italy-greek-debt-crisis-eurozone/

The eurozone’s chronic—and potentially fatal—weakness is about to be exposed again.

The populist coalition in Italy is on a collision course with the European Union, as the former’s de facto leader Matteo Salvini looks to build on his victory in European Parliament elections this weekend by overthrowing the spending rules that the eurozone adopted after a debt crisis nearly tore it apart 10 years ago. Salvini also called for a radical new mandate for the European Central Bank that would force it to underwrite Italy’s swelling national debt.

The development is important because it’s a brash, aggressive challenge to the EU’s authority, akin to the U.K.’s Brexit vote or the moves by Poland or Hungary to limit the independence of the judiciary. However, in contrast to those acts of defiance, this one comes from one of its founding members, one that—unlike the U.K. or Hungary—has always seen itself as part of an indivisible core of modern Europe.

In essence, Salvini is setting Italy up for a re-run of the Greek debt crisis, by asserting Italy’s right to spend freely even though, like any eurozone member, it doesn’t have the right to print money to pay its debts. Italy’s high and rising debt level makes it acutely vulnerable to any upward turn in interest rates or any loss of access to capital markets. That means it’s a plausible candidate for default, just as Greece was.

Only, this time, the stakes are higher.

Italy’s heavy weight

With over 60 million people, Italy represents 18% of the eurozone’s population and some 16% of its gross domestic product. Its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.5 trillion) sovereign debt pile is the third biggest in the world after the U.S.’s and Japan’s—10 times larger than the Greek one was. Even as a proportion of gross domestic product, Italy’s debts are higher now—at over 132%—than Greece’s were before its crisis erupted. And, even though foreigners hold only a quarter of that debt, according to Bank of Italy data, Italy’s economy is heavily interlinked with the rest of Europe’s, especially France’s.

An Italian exit from the eurozone would start, in all likelihood, with the ECB refusing to accept Italian bonds as collateral for lending euros. That, in turn, would force the Italian state to issue a new currency to allow the collection of taxes and the payment of public-sector wages and pensions. Should that happen, Italy’s departure from the currency bloc would cause far greater upheaval across the world than a Greek one ever would have.

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 18: Supporters of Lega (League) attend the political rally 'Prima l'Italia! Il buon senso in Europa - Towards a Common Sense Europe' at Piazza Duomo on May 18, 2019 in Milan, Italy. Representatives of 11 right-wing European parties joined a major rally, hold by Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Lega (League) party Matteo Salvini, in order to build a pan-European alliance of populists and sovereignists ahead of the elections to the European Parliament scheduled on May 23-26. Apart from Italy's Lega, the bloc includes the following political parties: Germany's Alternative fur Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), Finland's Perussuomalaiset (The Finns Party), Denmark's Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party), France's Rassemblement National (National Rally), Austria's Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs (Freedom Party of Austria), Netherland's Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), Belgium's Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest),  Czech Republic's Svoboda a prima demokracie (Freedom and Direct Democracy), Slovakia's Sme Rodina (We Are Family), Bulgaria's Volya (Will) and Estonia's Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond (Conservative People's Party of Estonia). (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

MILAN, ITALY – MAY 18: Supporters of Lega (League) attend the political rally ‘Prima l’Italia! Il buon senso in Europa – Towards a Common Sense Europe’ at Piazza Duomo on May 18, 2019 in Milan, Italy. Representatives of 11 right-wing European parties joined a major rally, hold by Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Lega (League) party Matteo Salvini, in order to build a pan-European alliance of populists and sovereignists ahead of the elections to the European Parliament scheduled on May 23-26. Apart from Italy’s Lega, the bloc includes the following political parties: Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), Finland’s Perussuomalaiset (The Finns Party), Denmark’s Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party), France’s Rassemblement National (National Rally), Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs (Freedom Party of Austria), Netherland’s Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest),  Czech Republic’s Svoboda a prima demokracie (Freedom and Direct Democracy), Slovakia’s Sme Rodina (We Are Family), Bulgaria’s Volya (Will) and Estonia’s Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia). (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

The European authorities have wasted no time in firing back. Finnish central bank head Olli Rehn, a former European Commissioner who wants to succeed Mario Draghi as ECB president later this year, said Salvini’s plan for debt guarantees was “forbidden” on principle (curiously choosing not to cite the even clearer ban on such policies in the EU’s treaty).

Elsewhere, newswires reported that the European Commission had sent Rome a letter that’s a formal preliminary to a process (known as an “Excess Deficit Procedure”) which could in theory lead to the EU fining Italy up to $4 billion—albeit only after months of haggling.

Salvini: scared?

As such, that’s unlikely to worry Salvini, who has the wind in his sails after his party’s share of the vote in EU parliament elections this weekend doubled from the 17% he polled in national elections last year. Salvini has spent the week so far bragging on Facebook about how he intends to sweep away “old and obsolete rules” dictated by Brussels and reflate an economy that is set to grow only 0.2% this year, and where over one in ten people are still jobless.

“I want an Italy that grows,” he told national television on Monday. ”And for 10 years, absurd European rules have just led to debt and joblessness rising.”

Salvini’s basic calculus is that the prospect of Italy falling out of the currency union, which would cause the biggest default in history since Italian banks could no longer refinance hundreds of billions of euros in debts to the ECB, is enough to scare Europe’s mainstream into concessions.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the bond market that has taken fright first. The premium that investors demand to hold Italian 10-year debt rather than safer German bonds has risen to 2.80 percentage points, more than double what it was before he came to power last year.

Repeating history

Repeatedly in recent years, the market has seen other European politicians try and fail to turn a structural weakness into a negotiating asset vis-à-vis the EU

Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis also argued that his country should use the prospect of a eurozone break-up to scare the rest of the bloc into a compromise.

And advocates for Brexit have argued for years that the U.K.’s chronic trade deficit with the EU would force the EU to abandon its single market rules to guarantee European firms’ continued access to the British one.

Varoufakis was forced out of office after the Greek people rejected his gamble in a referendum, but not before helping to extend Greece’s recession by another couple of years. Meanwhile, a succession of ardent Brexiteer negotiators has failed to leave a scratch on the integrity of the single market. The pound, meanwhile, has lost nearly 15% of its value. Salvini will need more in his arsenal than an aging population and a stagnant economy to emerge from this fight a winner.

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Why Automakers Spend Millions On Concept Cars They Don't Plan On Making

Concepts cars are made for a variety of reasons. They can cost automakers millions of dollars to make. Sometimes they’re made to gauge consumers interest in a new model and other times they’re simply a testing ground for innovative technology that’s not ready for a mass production vehicle.

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Why Automakers Spend Millions On Concept Cars They Don’t Plan On Making
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The View from 71st and Jeffrey: A Chicago Neighborhood Reflects a Struggling Middle Class

http://fortune.com/2019/05/30/chicago-south-shore-middle-class/

Standing at the corner of 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard in South Shore, the lakefront neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side where I grew up, it’s obvious that this once-important commercial and public crossroads has seen better days.

South Shore’s only supermarket closed in 2013 and has not yet been replaced. Diagonally across the intersection from that hulk is an empty building that for decades housed the South Shore Bank, which went out of business in 2010. The South Shore Commission, a defunct neighborhood association that had its offices at 7134 S. Jeffery, and the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League (now known as the African American Police League), which had its first headquarters at 7124, are long gone. So are the Woolworth, the Jeffery Theatre, the Red Pagoda restaurant, Wilson Brothers hardware.

Instead of these departed institutional and commercial keystones, 71st has dollar stores, cheap beauty supply stores, convenience stores that sell junk food and lottery tickets, a lot of vacant storefronts, and just enough hangers-out to make the scene feel both desolate and a little menacing.

The story of 71st Street over the last half-century is familiar: White flight that spurred capital flight; an old-fashioned inner city Main Street that couldn’t compete with the big box stores and malls that multiplied around the metropolis; a rising willingness among residents of South Shore, especially those who live in the trim bungalow blocks around 71st Street, to get in their cars and go elsewhere to shop, have fun, eat, see friends.

But there’s one more crucial piece of the story. There have been attempts over the years to change the fate of 71st Street, and their failure reminds us of the importance to a neighborhood (and a nation) of the middle class—and what its gradual hollowing-out might portend.

A storefront on 79th Street in South Shore.

A storefront on 79th Street in South Shore.

Photograph by Jacob Yeung for Fortune

Community reinvestment falls short

In 1967, when South Shore residents of all classes still went to 71st Street for food, drink, hardware, clothing, movies, and more, the South Shore Commission created a plan to redevelop 71st as a two-level linear mall straddling the Illinois Central railroad tracks that run down the middle of the street. It’s doubtful that this plan to stabilize the neighborhood by revitalizing its main shopping street could have overcome the potent centrifugal forces drawing South Shore’s upwardly mobile Irish and Jewish families to the suburbs. Moving upward typically meant moving outward, at least for white people. Almost all of them took the path of least resistance, and nothing ever came of the two-level plan.

The first black families moving in were also middle class (though they were soon followed by families living under the poverty line). In 1977, an interracial group of investors called the Phoenix Partnership set out to attract this new wave of homeowners to 71st Street, which by then was fading.

Backed by the South Shore Bank, a leading exponent of community development banking, the partnership bought a three-block stretch on the north side of 71st just east of Jeffery, intending to fill 35 storefronts and 12 second-floor office spaces with black-owned businesses. Challenging the self-fulfilling conventional expectation that shopping streets would automatically decline when a neighborhood became black, the partnership orchestrated a blend of bank loans, streetscape improvements, management assistance to small business owners, and rallying of the community to support local merchants.

It didn’t work. An unwritten rule holds that a funky local shopping strip may prosper either when it serves immigrants who prefer to do their shopping in their native language, or when it’s in a white or gentrifying neighborhood officially designated as cool. None of these templates fits South Shore. Also, asking the area’s black middle-class shoppers to patronize scrappy local businesses they could reach on foot rather than name-brand competitors they could reach by car was asking them to choose neighborhood and racial solidarity over middle-classness, which exceeded the limits of their commitment to South Shore.

The economics of supermarkets

In 1981 the bank ended its support of the Phoenix Partnership and instead financed Jeffery Plaza, a suburban-style strip mall intended to attract middle-class shoppers to name-brand stores. Jeffery Plaza housed the Dominick’s supermarket until the whole Dominick’s chain collapsed in 2013.

The supermarket at Jeffrey Plaza, a former retail anchor of South Shore, has been empty since 2013.

The supermarket at Jeffrey Plaza, a former retail anchor of South Shore, has been empty since 2013.

Photograph by Jacob Yeung for Fortune

This February, Shop & Save, a small grocery chain based in Niles, a Chicago suburb, announced it had bought Jeffery Plaza and would open a supermarket in the Dominick’s space this fall. If that actually happens as scheduled, it will have taken six years to find a replacement. Neighborhood activists trying to mobilize residents to agitate for a new supermarket often pointed out that everybody has to eat, but that fact is not as unifying as it might have been a generation or two ago. Class difference divides American foodways more sharply than ever, and middle-class shoppers with choices have grown used to getting in the car to find their particular market niche.

Together with an increasingly segmented consumer culture, such a reliance on cars has made it harder for a supermarket chain to look past the desolation of 71st Street and conclude that a store in South Shore would earn a suitable return. A Whole Foods might be too upscale for a neighborhood with high poverty levels and a school dropout rate above the city’s average, a Sav-A-Lot too downscale for a neighborhood with an above-average number of PhDs and a sizable cohort of households with incomes over $90,000—and South Shore, confoundingly, is both. Dominick’s occupied the middle ground, which has been shrinking and fragmenting along with the middle class for decades—in South Shore and in the rest of the nation.

South Shore has traditionally been a place where families move up into the middle class and those already in the middle, like mine, aim still higher. But as the middle class hollows out and upward mobility grows rarer, South Shore is becoming a neighborhood of haves and have-nots who have trouble seeing each other as neighbors. That divide shapes every aspect of life there, including how residents respond to plans for the new supermarket, the Obama Presidential Center nearby in Jackson Park, or a movie theater and restaurant in the old South Shore Bank building—or to the new mayor’s pledge to reverse long-term disinvestment in the South Side and West Side. Those who own property look forward to rising property values; those who pay rent dread rising rents.

A home in Jackson Park Highlands. The sign next to the staircase reads, "Future Neighbor—Obama Presidential Center."

A home in Jackson Park Highlands. The sign next to the staircase reads, “Future Neighbor—Obama Presidential Center.”

Photograph by Jacob Yeung for Fortune

It’s not impossible to imagine better days coming for at least some of South Shore’s residents and business community. But standing at the corner of 71st and Jeffery, considering the semi-abandoned state of what has historically been South Shore’s most important public and commercial crossroads, it’s not easy to imagine how the neighborhood’s haves and have-nots are going to coexist over the long term.

Carlo Rotella is the author of The World Is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood.

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The U.S Department of Energys Rebranded Freedom Gas Is a Not-So-Subtle Dig at Russia

http://fortune.com/2019/05/30/freedom-gas-lng-rick-perry-energy/

Will Belgians and Germans looking to heat their homes this winter draw reassurance, and cheap energy bills, from American “freedom gas”?

Maybe while they’re tucking into a classic dish of moules et “freedom fries”? (Remember that?)

That’s more or less the claim from the Department of Energy (DOE), which touted the expansion of the Freeport liquid natural gas (LNG) facility in the Gulf of Mexico by saying that it would spread “freedom gas” to the world.

That “freedom gas” would give “America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy,” U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes said in a release earlier this week, timed to a clean energy conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Menezes then went one step further, renaming LNG “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

Rebranding in the world of oil and gas is not uncommon, but typically those name changes focus on something else: downplaying energy companies’ links with fossil fuels.

This paint-job had a clearly different purpose, and was not even the first time the DOE has claimed that “freedom” comes in gas form.

A muddled metaphor

Earlier this month in an interview with reporters in Brussels, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also referred to “freedom” gas, and told news site Euractiv who that “freedom” was for: Europeans.

Perry said that, after liberating Europe from the Nazis in the 1940s, “the United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent,” adding that, “rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquified natural gas.”

(The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, unsurprisingly, declined to comment.)

The World War II references were slightly muddled, given Perry’s metaphor appeared to target Russia—not Germany—and specifically the controversial Nordstream 2 pipeline. The project has been a source of deep division among European countries for years over how closely the bloc’s energy security should be intertwined with Russia. Perry also said that sanctions against European companies involved in the Nordstream 2 pipeline were still on the table.

The Nord Stream Baltic Sea gas pipeline to western Europe was inaugurated in 2011. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Nord Stream Baltic Sea gas pipeline to western Europe was inaugurated in 2011. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

That pipeline, which is backed by Russia’s Gazprom and a handful of other European energy companies, would bring Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, rather than through traditional “transit countries” in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, which provide a market for gas as well as a route from Russia to western European markets.

Those transit countries receive payments for allowing gas pipelines to pass across their borders, which means the pipeline could imperil crucial revenue. Meanwhile, it has inflamed concerns about European energy security, given memories of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine that devolved into Russia shutting off European access to gas during the winter of 2006.

The rise of an LNG giant

But behind the DOE’s bizarre branding, of course, is the rise of a global LNG giant. Not only has the U.S. become largely energy independent, but the shale boom has brought such a surplus of oil and gas production that the U.S. has now gone for stretches of more than a year as a net exporter of natural gas, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in May.

Those exports have redrawn the map of the global energy market, leaving no port or refinery completely untouched, including in Europe. U.S. LNG exports to countries in the EU, including the U.K., were more than 13 million cubic feet in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is about 13 times what exports were in 2016, when exports began in earnest.

American LNG still makes up only a fraction of the gas delivered into Europe—it’s far eclipsed by traditional pipeline exports from Russia, followed by Norway and Algeria. Plus, the primary destination for U.S. LNG is actually in Asia, making the European focus somewhat odd.

But the pace of U.S. LNG exports has been exceptional. And if those numbers continue to grow, it will be a potent reminder that for oil and gas, “freedom” was probably not the word Perry was looking for. In that case, “dominance” would likely be a better fit.

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The U.K. Conservative Party Once Swore It Was Pro-Business. Thanks to Brexit, Now Its Just Swearing

http://fortune.com/2019/05/29/uk-prime-minister-candidates-brexit-business/

When U.K. Finance Chief George Osborne declared five years ago that his Conservative Party was “proud to be the party of firms and of businesses and of peoples’ incomes and peoples’ jobs and peoples’ livelihoods,” the statement was something of a cliché. Tony Blair’s center-left Labour Party may have briefly seized the “party of business” mantle at the turn of the millennium, but everyone knew the garment traditionally belonged to the party of Margaret Thatcher. Osborne—the British chancellor from 2010 to 2016—was just driving that point home.

Then came the Brexit debacle, which has prompted a serious identity crisis in the Conservative Party—and a clash of ideas that’s being conducted in extremely salty terms.

New ideology

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a leadership contest by announcing her imminent resignation. The frontrunner to replace her is former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who backs the idea of the U.K. leaving the EU with or without a deal (and who is currently being sued for allegedly lying to British public about the benefits of Brexit during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign. His representative have called the lawsuit a “stunt” that was “brought for political purposes.)

Everyone in the business world knows a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for supply chains, jobs and consumer prices. “Fuck business,” was Johnson’s reported response to those concerns, apparently relayed to a Belgian ambassador in June last year. Johnson has never denied uttering that phrase, and now it is being wielded against him by his rivals.

“To the people who say ‘fuck business,’ I say fuck ‘fuck business,’” proclaimed Matt Hancock, the British health secretary and another leadership candidate, in a Tuesday interview with the Financial Times. He did not name Johnson—the candidates are nominally trying to keep things civil—but the target of his comment was quite clear.

Eyebrow-raising profanities aside, there is a serious ideological contest underway here: is the Conservative Party still about pro-business conservatism, or has Brexit turned it into a radical, populist party?

On the latter side, we have Johnson and other hard-Brexiteers such as Dominic Raab and Esther McVey, both of whom resigned from May’s government in protest of her relatively soft-Brexit stance. These candidates bring with them the promise of pulling back votes from the thoroughly populist Brexit Party of Nigel Farage, which won the most British support in last week’s European Parliament elections (the Tories were trounced with a miserable 8.9% of the vote, while the Brexit Party scored 30.8%.)

More traditional Conservatives gunning for 10 Downing Street include Hancock, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.

‘Political suicide’

Hunt recently warned that the pursuit of a no-deal Brexit would be “political suicide” for the Conservative Party, though his point was less about business concerns and more that such a move would probably trigger a general election and end up with Labour taking over.

Matt Hancock, who's entered the Conservative leadership race, added to the debate over the party's business stance on Tuesday. (

Matt Hancock, who’s entered the Conservative leadership race, added to the debate over the party’s business stance on Tuesday. (

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS AFP/Getty Images)

That fear is real. As much as the hardcore Brexiteers might be comfortable with the no-deal scenario, there is no majority in Parliament on their side, and if lawmakers gang up against a new prime minister to block a no-deal Brexit, then the new prime minister’s authority would be gone almost as soon as it had begun. That would probably trigger a general election, and possibly a victory for Labour, whose leadership is firmly against a no-deal Brexit.

McVey responded to Hunt’s “political suicide” comment by saying there was no way the deal negotiated between May and the EU could be approved by the U.K. Parliament, so the only way to deliver Brexit was “to actively embrace leaving the EU without one.” And here’s Johnson last week: “We will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal.”

This argument is expected to go on until mid-July, when the Conservative Party membership chooses its new leader. In the meantime, the business world is not happy.

‘Brexit paralysis’

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said Wednesday that business conditions were worsening in the U.K. services sector. A CBI survey showed that optimism in the sector had fallen for the fourth quarter in a row, and profitability was falling more quickly than at any time since late 2011.

“Brexit paralysis continues to take a toll on the U.K.’s services firms. Profits, optimism and investment spending are falling sharply amidst a torrid operating environment,” said CBI deputy chief economist Anna Leach. “Business and the country need Westminster to rule out No Deal, and deliver an urgent resolution to the Brexit mess.”

The British economy did get a bit of a boost early this year, due to a flurry of stockpiling from businesses that were trying to mitigate the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. But, the CBI reported last week, manufacturers have been holding back on investment and industry desperately needs a viable deal. “With investment down, stockpiling up, and the threat of a no-deal ever present, we desperately need Parliament to thrash out a viable deal in the national interest,” Leach said at the time.

The message couldn’t be clearer. But will the new Conservative prime minister be listening?

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