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By the time you read this, the outcome of the latest “meaningful vote” on Brexit will be known, but as a leading economist said at an Independent Experts conference I attended earlier this week, whatever the outcome, the chaos of Brexit will be with us for many years yet. So uncertainty is the new norm, whilst new trade deals are forged and the politians tie themselves in knots! However, she said that the statistics show that the UK economy is doing okay and whilst growth has slowed that’s as much due to a global slowdown and the USA/China trade war than our local difficulties with Europe, where Germany seems to be on the verge of recession. So what does that mean for the UK property market? Retail continues to be a challenge, but is far from dead was the expert’s conclusion, as she believed people will always want to shop. However, standing in a windswept, wet Regent Street yesterday with a client who owns one of a run of five empty shops, all on the market and finding hardy shoppers in scarce supply and footfall notably absent, this optimism seemed questionable! Many shoppers were taking refuge in the Brunel Centre, where the new Food Court seemed to be doing a good lunchtime trade and is a useful attraction for the town centre. However, the challenges Swindon faces are all too clear to anyone venturing down the Bridge Street/Fleet Street area, where Wilkinsons lies empty, alongside many empty pubs and clubs. Swindon’s other major challenge comes from the surprising announcement of the proposed Honda shutdown of its car manufacturing plant in 2021, which will have a major knock on effect to suppliers, its skilled work force and effect on the local economy. Who knows what will happen to Honda’s 370 acre site as it is hard to imagine a new car manufacturer moving in. Perhaps the site will be amalgamated into the New Eastern Villages proposed development, but is lots of new housing still required when the Honda closure will cost 3,500 jobs from those directly employed by Honda and who knows how many in the myriad of smaller companies supplying Honda and occupying various warehouse buildings around the town. Undoubtedly replacing Honda will be a major challenge over the next two years, which reminds me of the old saying that when Honda sneezes, Swindon catches a cold!