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A very busy seven days in UK politics has had a huge impact on the world of finance and investment: Parliament has passed the Brexit bill to pave the way for the triggering of Article 50 and Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to call for a second referendum on Scottish independence. We also bring news of record operating profits for Prudential and a first fall in average monthly rents for six years.


Parliament passes Brexit bill, clearing path for Article 50 trigger

The UK government is set to begin talks regarding the UK's withdrawal from the European Union (EU) after parliament passed the Brexit bill. The government is now expected to trigger Article 50 in the last week of March after peers backed down over issues of EU residency rights.

The process of leaving the EU is expected to take around two years following the triggering of Article 50, which represents the UK giving formal notice to the EU of its intention to remove itself from the bloc.

"We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation," said Brexit Secretary David Davis. 

Nicola Sturgeon announces second Scottish referendum plans

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed her intentions to ask permission for a second Scottish independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon explained the move would help to ensure Scottish interests are protected after the UK voted to leave the EU.

She said that such a vote would hopefully take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, which is around the time that the UK's divorce from the EU is expected to be finalised.

Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that any announcement of a second referendum would lead to greater "uncertainty and division" in Scotland, adding: "Instead of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland." 

Prudential reports record operating profits

Prudential has posted record operating profits thanks to strong growth in its Asian business. The insurance giant recorded a group profit climb of 7% to £4.3 billion, with profits for its Asian operations leaping by 28% to £1.5 billion.

In contrast, operating profits in the UK tumbled by almost one-third, due mainly to a £175 million charge handed out following a review of its annuity business's sales practices.

Prudential's shares climbed 3% on Tuesday following the release of the figures, which helped to push the benchmark FTSE 100 index up by 0.2% to 7,379.07.

Countrywide: Average monthly rents fall for first time since 2010

New figures from Countrywide have revealed that the average monthly rent for newly-let properties in the UK have fallen for the first time in six years. The research showed that the average new tenancy in England, Wales and Scotland now stands at £921 a month after falling 0.6% in the 12 months to February.

This marks the first fall in such rents since late 2010, and a significant increase in the number of properties becoming available - especially in London - was cited as a key reason for this.

Johnny Morris, Research Director at Countrywide, commented: "Rents are growing in most of the country, but falls in London and the south east are dragging down the national growth rate."


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