Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Pound Sterling At 2-Year Low As UK Economy Shrinks

The pound fell sharply against the dollar after UK GDP was announced The pound fell sharply against the dollar after UK GDP was announced
Russell Knight | 13 August, 2019, 17:02

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May in July after winning the governing Conservatives' leadership contest on a pledge to take Britain out of the bloc with or without a divorce deal on October 31.

In a series of television interviews after the release, new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid sought to play down the numbers, saying they "were not a surprise in any way", and that he doesn't expect a recession "at all".

But the figures appear to confirm dire predictions about Brexit.

Governor Mark Carney says the reaction to a no-deal Brexit, which would push down the pound and drive up inflation while further denting growth, could go in either direction. What most economists are fearing is another quarterly decline report in the near future, which would spell the end of the long growth period of the country and the start of a technical recession, one that has arrived a quarter earlier than expected.

It came after a boost to growth in the first three months of 2019 because of Brexit stockpiling.

ONS head of national accounts Rob Kent-Smith said the contraction followed "robust growth" in the first quarter and that manufacturing output fell off after a strong start in 2019.

The contraction compares to 0.5% growth in the previous quarter, when the highest quarterly pickup in manufacturing since the 1980s was recorded.

"If it comes to no deal, it's not anything that I'm frightened of, I'm not anxious about, I think we will be ready for it, we will get through it, and we will come out stronger and even more resilient", Javid told Sky.

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The ONS said companies had been building up additional goods in the first quarter in anticipation of a March Brexit. That's lower than what experts had expected (they had forecast growth to be flat).

The main pathway for Brexit to infect the Irish economy will come from tariffs and trade barriers that may come into play after the United Kingdom leaves rather than a direct large impact from falling growth in what is still a large market for exporters here, accouting for 12pc of overall merchandise sales overseas.

The employers' body, the CBI, said the contraction was "concerning".

The Federation of Small Businesses - which is calling for an emergency Budget - said that if the Treasury delays action until after 31 October, the date for Brexit, its efforts are likely to prove too little, too late.

"Time is of the essence".

Meanwhile, Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to EY Item Club, said the economy should show signs of recovery once Brexit has been finalised. "So we could face a very, very hard dilemma". Adding to the pound's woes, industrial production and manufacturing figures also missed expectations by large margins.

On Thursday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Labour Party would send leader Jeremy Corbyn "in a taxi" to Buckingham Palace if Mr Johnson refused to step down if he lost a vote of no confidence.

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