By Mark Richards.
CLNews looks into the crystal ball with predictions for 2019. Brexit, Donald Trump, the UK high street, inept politicians and people taking selfies with bears… Here are our 10 predictions for the year ahead, including – of course – England winning the World Cup…
It is that time of year again. The last of the turkey has been made into ‘Leftovers Pie,’ three days have passed and it is now safe to ask your wife if she kept the receipt – and it is time to look forward to next year.
So what does 2019 hold in store for us? CLNews has looked into the crystal ball, cast the runes and examined the entrails to see what the next 12 months will bring us. Last year we did… reasonably well. A solid six out of ten. Let us see if we can improve this year.
Brexit will happen: there will not be a ‘People’s Vote’
It may not happen in the way that many people want – certainly not the die-hard Brexiteers – but by the end of 2019, the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. Expect a last-minute deal to be cobbled together that allows both sides to claim victory but which, in reality, leaves the UK in a messy halfway house that will take years to sort out.
Italy will also happen
Italy and the EU finally reached a deal on the country’s controversial budget plans last week – and now the coalition government has received approval for the budget from the upper house. But the coalition of the Five Star Movement and the anti-immigration League is determined to kick-start the Italian economy which as effectively stagnated for ten years. Expect plenty more disputes with the EU in 2019: ultimately Italy – and the precarious position of its banks – may cause the EU far more problems than Brexit.
Hungary will happen
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is determined that Hungary will not take the quota of immigrants the EU wants it to take. In Germany the anti-immigration party Alternative fur Deutschland is now the official opposition: the right-wing Swedish Democrats made big gains in the Swedish elections. 2019 is going to see a lot more tension between ‘globalists’ and ‘populists,’ with other countries following Hungary’s lead.
And, of course, Donald Trump will happen
The 49th President of the United States has already declared his intention to run again in 2020: by the end of next year, there will be just 11 months to go until that election. Right now Donald Trump is long odds-on to be the Republican candidate and 2/1 favourite to be re-elected. Through 2019 he will continue to tweet, continue to make headlines and continue to be loved and hated in equal measure. But come to the end of the year he will still be in the White House.
The China/US trade war will end
The ‘Trump Tariffs’ even have their own page on Wikipedia but sooner or later – and my money is on ‘sooner’ – the trade war between the US and China will end with a form of words which (just like Brexit) will allow both sides to claim victory. That means the Chinese economy will go on growing at around 6% per year and America will continue its inexorable progress towards a trillion dollar a year trade deficit. One day something has to give: but it will not be in 2019.
UK politicians will continue to show they know nothing about business
2018 started with Carillion, the Government’s go-to contractor, going bust with debts of £1.5bn despite being awarded an endless string of contracts by ministers. The company owed money to 30,000 small businesses, who were told to expect 1p in the pound on the debts. Now Interserve is struggling with £500m of debt and London’s Crossrail project is way behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. There are few certainties after death and taxes but UK politicians being utterly incapable of delivering projects – paid for with your money – on time and within budget is certainly one of them. That will not change in the coming year.
The UK high street will continue to decline
This prediction was inevitable. If 2018 in the UK had one theme running through it then that theme was the decline of the nation’s high streets, as shops, restaurants and banks all closed down. Mike Ashley, boss of Sports Direct, snapped up House of Fraser but that did not stop him warning that the “high street will be dead by 2030” if the Government does not act.
Chancellor Philip Hammond responded with the introduction of a Digital Services Tax in his November Budget but, as I have written previously, it is the equivalent of taxing the motor car to protect the horse-and-buggy economy. Millennials and Generation Z simply want to shop online: my children (aged 20 to 25) did not buy a single Christmas present on the high street. I bought one: and that was a phone case costing £8. With early indications showing that footfall on Boxing Day was sharply down on last year, expect the New Year to start with plenty more tales of woe. Visit your local Debenhams while you can…
Spying will be the word on everyone’s lips…
We wrote recently about the growing number of countries wary about Chinese company Huawei’s systems in their 5G networks. In the UK, O2 has confirmed that it will use Huawei equipment in its 5G tests. Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has echoed US concerns about Huawei equipment, worrying that it will – bluntly – be used for spying so that China can gain an advantage, both politically and economically. This will be one of the big stories of 2019: I may be a long way down Xi Jinping’s priority list, but I will not be buying a Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
England will win the World Cup
Ah, sorry… Not that one. The Cricket World Cup starts on May 30th when England take on South Africa. Stokes, Butler, Bairstow, Root: how can we possibly lose…
Lastly – people will continue to be stupid
One of my favourite stories of 2018 concerned Apple, and the company’s decision to spend a cool $3.6bn (£2.85bn) on its new headquarters. But there was a problem. The building was designed so that the genius engineers did not “have to adjust their gait when entering the new building” so they weren’t distracted from their thinking. The solution was doors with completely flat thresholds and massive glass windows with ‘extra transparency and whiteness.’ So transparent and white that several Apple engineers have been left concussed and bleeding from walking into doors they cannot see.
Sadly that pales into insignificance alongside the tragic story of Prabhu Bhatara of India. Driving home from a wedding Mr Bhatara stopped to relieve himself in the woods. As he did so he spotted what he took to be an injured bear. ‘Goodness me,’ he thought, ‘I’ll take a selfie…’
If there is just one thing we can be sure of in 2019 it is that from government ministers to building designers to taking selfies, people will continue to be stupid…