Five questions answered on the Post Office’s new current account service

When does it start?

It has been revealed that the Post Office plans to offer current accounts in the UK. We answer five questions on this new service.

Why has the Post Office decided to start offering current accounts to its customers?

Earlier in the year it was highlighted by a regulator that the market is dominated by few providers – most notably, by Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and HSBC, which make up 75 per cent of the market – resulting in a lack of choice for customers.

The Post Office has decided to enter the market to offer ‘simplicity, transparency and good value for money’, according to its director of financial services, Nick Kennett.

Doesn’t the post office already offer some financial services?

Yes, currently, at its 11,500 branches, the Post Office already offers savings accounts, mortgages and insurance policies in collaboration with the Irish Bank.

What details have the Post Office released about its new current account?

Very little at the moment. However, we do know that the service will be launched with the Irish bank and that is will be rolled out in some stores over the next few weeks, with more offering the service next year.

Kennett did tell the BBC: "We have carried out extensive research into the current account market and the findings tell us that customers want simplicity, transparency and good value for money.”

What are the experts saying?

Experts are very positive about the new current account. Rachel Springall, spokeswoman for financial information service Moneyfacts, speaking to the BBC said: "The Post Office has a good High Street presence, perfect for people who prefer the more personal branch banking. It will be interesting to see whether this account will be as transparent and simple in structure as they suggest.”

While, Kevin Mountford, head of banking at comparison website Moneysupermarket, added: “I expect this account will be very popular."

What other new entrants into the banking sector have there been in the last few years?

Metro Bank launched in 2010 and M&S Bank in 2012 , while Tesco Bank has announced it will launch an account soon. However, according to the Office of Fair Trading, none of these banks are yet in a position to challenge the big four.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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The Brexit effect: The fall in EU migration spells trouble for the UK

The 84,000 fall in net migration to 248,000 will harm an economy that is dependent on immigration.

The UK may not have left the EU yet but Europeans are already leaving it. New figures from the ONS show that 117,000 EU citizens emigrated in 2016 (up 31,000 from 2015) - the highest level for six years. The exodus was most marked among eastern Europeans, with a fall in immigration from the EU8 countries to 48,000 (down 25,000) and a rise in emigration to 43,000 (up 16,000).

As a result, net migration has fallen to 248,000 (down 84,000), the lowest level since 2014. That's still nearly more than double the Conservatives' target of "tens of thousands a year" (reaffirmed in their election manifesto) but the trend is unmistakable. The number of international students, who Theresa May has refused to exclude from the target (despite cabinet pleas), fell by 32,000 to 136,000. And all this before the government has imposed new controls on free movement.

The causes of the UK's unattractiveness are not hard to discern. The pound’s depreciation (which makes British wages less competitive), the spectre of Brexit (May has refused to guarantee EU citizens the right to remain) and a rise in hate crimes and xenophobia are likely to be the main deterrents. Ministers may publicly welcome the figures but many privately acknowledge that they come at a price. The OBR recently forecast that lower migration would cost £6bn a year by 2020-21. As well as reflecting weaker growth, reduced immigration is likely to reinforce it. Migrants pay far more in tax than they claim in benefits, with a net contribution of £7bn a year. An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent.

Brexit has in fact forced ministers to increasingly acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: Britain needs immigrants. Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. Brexit secretary David Davis, for instance, recently conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall after the UK leaves the EU. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (a level not seen since 1997), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

Alongside the new immigration figures, GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017 was revised down to 0.2 per cent - the weakest performance since Q4 2012. In recent history, there has only been one reliable means of reducing net migration: a recession. Newcomers from the EU halved after the 2008 crash. Should the UK suffer the downturn that historic trends predict, it will need immigrants more than ever. Both the government and voters may only miss migrants when they're gone.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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