Bank of England policymakers are set to hold rates firmly at 0.75% next week as the “fog” of Brexit continues after the six-month EU departure delay. The Bank’s latest rates decision – which will be accompanied by its quarterly Inflation Report forecasts – comes amid signs that Brexit stockpiling has boosted recent economic growth figures. Data suggests the economy may have expanded by 0.4% in the first quarter, up from 0.2% in the final three months of 2018. But this was largely due to “no deal” precautionary stockbuilding ahead of the original March 29 Brexit deadline and relatively mild weather, which experts believe will unwind in the April to June quarter. Until the “fog” of Brexit – as Bank governor Mark Carney put it earlier this year – is lifted, policymakers are seen as remaining in wait-and-see mode for some time.
Lenders shrugged off Brexit uncertainty on Friday as mortgage loans hit a nine-month high in the month that the UK was supposed to leave the European Union. Industry data from the UK Finance industry body showed High Street banks approved 39,980 mortgages in March, up 6% on a year ago and 2% ahead of the previous month.
A change of rules aimed at helping lower the housing costs of thousands of so-called "mortgage prisoners" has been proposed by the City watchdog. Some 150,000 homeowners are stuck on high interest-rate home loans with unregulated or inactive firms, and are unable to switch to a cheaper deal.