500 replica stormtroopers are placed on the steps at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall of China during a promotional event (Telegraph Images)

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, chose a speech in Oxford this week to wade into the debate around EU membership.  Carney stressed that Britain was possibly the leading beneficiary of the EU's single market and that being in the bloc had been one of the drivers of strong economic performance over the last 4 decades.  That said, the Governor made it clear that Britain's close ties to the EU had left the UK vulnerable to the sovereign debt crisis that swept through the eurozone and more exposed to financial shocks.  He therefore urged David Cameron to demand "clear principles" to safeguard Britain's interests when he reaches the negotiating table.  Sensible, balanced advice.  The concern, however, is whether the voters in the referendum will actually take any of these arguments on board.  A recent Ipsos MORI poll revealed that only 52% of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, down from 61% in June.  The reason for the shift in opinion - the refugee crisis playing out across Europe and the fear of a massive influx of migrants.  The economic arguments for "in" or "out" are complicated and nuanced; a refugee crisis is visible, emotive and now swaying public opinion.   

Moving away from Oxford, all eyes were on Manchester when the Chinese President visited the city on the last day of his State visit.  The city is being placed firmly on the diplomatic map as part of George Osborne's campaign to promote the "Northern Powerhouse" and secure investment.  The President, who announced plans for direct flights between Manchester and Beijing, will have found the city in rude health.  According to Bilfinger GVA's Big Six Report, office take-up in the city centre for 2015 has been impressive, driven by pre-letting activity equating to almost 50% above the five year average.  Add to this the announcement that Colliers (who should know something about rents!) have set a new landmark rent for the city at £34 psf and the news that Freshfields is close to going under offer on around 80,000 sq ft in the One New Bailey scheme in Salford, and you get the sense that Manchester is booming.  Hopefully President Xi - a reported Manchester United fan - shares our enthusiasm, despite being taken on a tour of the Manchester City ground during his visit! 

Wednesday 21 October 2015 marked the much anticipated "Back to the Future day" - the date Marty Mcfly and Doctor Emmett Brown "travel forward" to in the 1980's hit movie.  Unsurprisingly social media has been awash with articles comparing the Robert Zemeckis 1989 vision of the future - then still more than a quarter of a century away - with the reality of life in 2015.   The flying cars and hover-boards have sadly not yet materialized, but virtual reality goggles are no longer imaginary and the flat screen TVs in our sitting rooms are far more advanced than anything envisaged in the movie. Accurate predictions, or not, everyone was certainly keen to mark the day.  David Cameron suggested that Jeremy Corbyn should just hop into his DeLorean and go back to 1985, whilst Michigan State police claimed to have stopped two men travelling at 88 mph in a silver DeLorean in a 55 mph zone.  When given a verbal warning to drive more carefully on the roads, one occupant replied, "Roads?  Where we're going we don't need roads".  We'd suggest that is one line from the film that is most definitely timeless.

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