Brexit manifestos, it turns out, are like buses. Seven months on from the referendum, this week saw the launch of not one, not two, but three Brexit manifestos from property industry bodies.
The British Property Federation (BPF) led the field with an event on Monday night hosted by Oxford Properties at the Cheesegrater, followed in quick succession on Tuesday by the Property Industry Alliance (PIA) and the City and Westminster property associations.
Their timing could hardly have been better, following hot on Theresa May’s (kitten) heels. The prime minister launched her 12-point plan for Brexit just last week, prompting HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver to issue a dire warning that the bank was preparing to move 1,000 people from London to Paris.
He wasn’t alone. Manoeuvring by both government and industry is becoming ever more frenetic ahead of the triggering of Article 50, so it is right that property is making its voice heard.
But there’s the rub: the industry isn’t speaking with one voice. While there are significant crossovers between the three Brexit manifestos, they are also strikingly different documents. At the one extreme, the City and Westminster property associations document is big on detail (it contains no fewer than 52 points) and demands passporting rights for financial services and legal equivalence with the EU for financial and insurance activities.
In stark contrast, the BPF manifesto confines itself to just five points - and to hammering home familiar messages on issues such as housing supply, tax and planning. Most strikingly, neither the BPF nor the PIA mention the Brexit negotiations at all.
The BPF’s Melanie Leech argues Brexit is currently the stuff of “high politics” and that “we have to be realistic about how much influence we can have”, adding that “the things that are important to us are practical things that will make a huge difference to the way we do business”.
There is some truth to all three statements, but if you don’t ask, you certainly don’t get. What is required is a unified response from the industry setting out clearly and volubly what it needs to make Brexit as painless as possible.
Ditch the duty
Speaking of unity, this week has also seen yet more leading build-to-rent investors calling on chancellor Philip Hammond to exempt institutions from the 3% stamp duty surcharge on second homes. The firms, including Grainger, M&G Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management, have received legal advice that an exemption would be lawful and are now demanding the government perform a screeching U-turn.
The abandonment of the 3% surcharge, or at least the exemption of institutional investors, is a key plank of our Call Off Duty campaign, so it is encouraging to see such high profile and respected investors putting pressure on the government in the build up to the Budget on 8 March. If you agree, add your name to those who have already signed our petition.