Brexit agreements, mortgages, travel industry, Paperchase: your commercial news round-up

updated on 07 January 2021

Read this week’s commercial news round-up for some of the latest news relating to the business and legal worlds.

  • While a post-Brexit trade agreement was settled in late December 2020, just a week before the end of the UK’s transition period, an agreement on London’s future relationship with the EU is set to provide, at the most, only minimal access to EU markets, according to industry insiders. Post-Brexit talks with the EU are due to be led by Treasury Minister John Glen this week, with plans to have these talks finalised by March.
  • Following the UK’s departure and the post-Brexit trade agreement, which does not cover financial market access, the first day of trading saw a shift as trading in euro-denominated shares moved away from the City to new platforms.
  • Despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, UK mortgage approvals hit a new 13-year high as the housing market continues to surge following the government’s stamp duty holiday, which is due to come to an end on 31 March. Mortgage borrowing initially fell during the first UK lockdown in March 2020, but towards the end of the year recovered with November borrowing rising £1.2 billion up from October’s level to £5.7 billion. However, analysts have warned that the end of the government’s stamp duty holiday and rising unemployment could lead to a decline in activity and a collapse in house prices.
  • Travel firms have cancelled holidays as the UK enters its third national lockdown to curb coronavirus infection rates. Virgin Holidays announced that its schedules will be cancelled until mid-February and affected customers will receive an automatic “digital voucher for the value of their trip, redeemable up until 30 September 2021, which they can use to rebook a holiday, departing any time before 31 December 2022". Thomas Cook explained that customers will be contacted regarding refunds or rebooking; and Tui revealed that it was “cancelling all holidays in line with international travel restrictions”, with customers due to be contacted to discuss their alternative options, including rebooking, receiving a credit note or a full refund.
  • The UK’s second lockdown in November forced stationery chain Paperchase to close most of its stores over the Christmas period, a time in which the firm makes a significant proportion of its sales (40%). The company, which has 127 stores and around 1,500 employees, and is now on the verge of administration, has submitted a notice to appoint administrators and has 10 working days to draw up a rescue plan. The firm said: "Out of lockdown we've traded well, but as the country faces further restrictions for some months to come, we have to find a sustainable future for Paperchase.".

"We are working hard to find that solution and this [notice of administration] is a necessary part of this work,” it added.

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