Behind the British recession, the crumbling caused by Brexit


It’s other people’s fault. In presenting the UK budget on Thursday 17 November, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, took great care to recall that the recession in which his country is currently plunged – GDP fell in the third quarter by 0.2 % and is forecast down 1.4% for the whole of 2023 – comes from somewhere else. She is “made in Russia”he says.

Moreover, he stresses that the United Kingdom is not a special case. “Inflation is high here [11,1 % en octobre], but it is higher in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Interest rates have gone up here [de 0,1 % à 3 % en un an], but even faster in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. »

And Brexit? Mr. Hunt only mentioned it once in passing, to congratulate himself on the “freedoms” that it gives it in its economic policy. “It was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about, annoys David Bailey, professor of management at Aston University in Birmingham. It is not acceptable for the government to refuse to talk about it. It’s time to have an adult conversation on the subject. »

Read also: Resignation of Liz Truss in the United Kingdom: Brexit, “elephant in the room”

Brexit was passed in June 2016 and the effective exit from the European single market took place on 1er January 2021. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine make the analysis of statistics very difficult, but the first serious conclusions can begin to be drawn. “It is indeed not Brexit that is causing the recession, which is due to the war in Ukraine and rising prices, like everywhere else, but Brexit has reduced the cruising speed of the British economy”says John Springford of the Center for European Reform, a think tank.

Precious lost years

The pandemic, with its economic collapse and then its sudden rebound, having made it very difficult to read the data, Mr Springford compared the United Kingdom to the economy of twenty-two other countries. From 2008 to 2016, this control group experienced similar performance. But since 2016, the United Kingdom has stalled: its growth has been 5.2% lower than that of the control group, its investments by 13.7% and its exports by 13.6%.

Not that the British economy has collapsed: between the second quarter of 2016 (date of the referendum) and the second quarter of this year, its cumulative growth was 6.8%. It is worse than the United States (12.9%) or France (7.6%), but better than Germany (5.5%) or Italy (4.2%). Simply, according to Mr. Springford, everything indicates that the United Kingdom would have done better without Brexit. “It is a slow erosion, not a collapse”adds Mr. Bailey.

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