Monday 16 September 2019

Extreme Brexit could be worse than financial crisis for UK - Bank of England

  • Bank of England sees 8pc slump in GDP in worst-case Brexit
  • UK government says economy would suffer less with May's plan
  • Automotive and chemicals face potentially biggest no-deal hit
  • Finance minister Hammond denies charge of "Project Fear 2.0"
  • Bank of England analysis on Brexit implications due at 16.30
Stock photo
Stock photo

David Milliken, Huw Jones and William Schomberg

Britain risks suffering an even bigger hit to its economy than during the global financial crisis 10 years ago if it leaves the European Union in the worst-case Brexit scenario in four months' time, the Bank of England said.

Hours after the British government issued its own stark warning about the risks of a no-deal Brexit, the central bank said the economy could contract by as much as 8pc in the space of about a year.

The separate reports could add to pressure on lawmakers to drop their opposition to a Brexit agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May struck with other EU leaders on Sunday, which is far from certain to be approved in parliament on Dec. 11.

The BoE said the "disorderly" scenario -- involving severe delays at UK borders and financial markets' loss of confidence in British institutions -- was not its base case.

But if it happened, there would be a 25pc tumble in the value of sterling -- taking it close to parity against the dollar -- a spike in inflation to 6.5pc and a jump in interest rates. House prices would fall by 30pc.

A merely "disruptive" Brexit, with goods flowing across borders but facing tariffs and other barriers, would cause a 3pc fall in gross domestic product, the central bank warned.

"Our jobs is not to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst," Carney told reporters at a news conference.

Hours earlier, the government acknowledged that any Brexit option would be worse for the economy than staying in the EU, but said that leaving the bloc without any agreement with Brussels would weigh heavily on growth at least into the 2030s.

By contrast, the plan that May agreed with EU leaders on Sunday "delivers an outcome that is very close to the economic benefits of remaining in", finance minister Philip Hammond said.

The government report was immediately criticised by supporters of a more definitive break with Brussels as a "Project Fear" attempt to scare opponents of May's plan.

But opponents of Brexit said it undermined promises by Brexit campaigners that leaving the EU would make Britain, and Britons, more prosperous.

"These figures show that the government's stated policy is to make our economy smaller and weaker," said David Lammy, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party who wants Britain to stay in the EU.

The government said that, in a scenario based on the Brexit plan that May announced in July, rather than Sunday's amended agreement with EU leaders, national output would be 2.1pc smaller in just over 15 years' time than if Britain remained in the bloc.

If there was no deal, it would be 7.7pc smaller.

The government's forecasts assumed for the purposes of comparison that there would be no changes to migration rules, but that some non-tariff trade barriers would be introduced.

However, perceptions that immigration was too high under the EU's freedom of movement policy were a key reason why many Britons voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

Assuming there was zero net migration from the EU in the future, the hit to the economy would be bigger: 3.9pc under May's deal, and 9.3pc without a deal.

The report said Britain's automotive and chemicals sectors faced the biggest potential losses from a no-deal Brexit - more than 20pc of output.

Reuters

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