Among the corridors of economists and financial analysts, there has been largely quiet praise for the UK’s approach to the global recession, the banking crisis and the high levels of debt which have resulted. The cut backs in Government spending are of course not everyone’s prescription for the troubles and equally many suspect it has hindered and slowed the recovery.
The reality is that much of the UK Government’s spending levels were simply unsustainable and austerity although unpopular would have been inevitable at some point in time. Increased growth obviously impacts these figures too and a healthy growing economy can also be used to reduce debt levels in tandem with any spending cuts.
For several years this reduction in Government debt levels has been the main focus for the economy, however the Brexit decision seems to have thrown these goals up to the winds of political expediency. If you watch the UK news and political reports, austerity now rarely get’s a mention – apart from the brief distraction of the Olympics, the talk is all about leaving the European Union. The reality is that this decision is likely to have a much bigger effect than any trimming of welfare payments or cutting back government departments.
The most urgent problem though is the uncertainty, the simple fact that no-one seems to know what is happening. The protagonists who promoted the leave campaign now seem to have stepped into the background, leaving a variety of pledges and promises in the dust. The truth was none of these were ever guaranteed and indeed many simply contradicted themselves, and in truth will probably be set aside mostly by the new government entrusted to deliver some sort of Brexit result.
It looks like nothing much is happening soon, and the uncertainty looks likely to continue for months and possibly years to come. There is a suspicion that something is happening behind closed doors, in the corridors of power some sort of workable compromise is happening but we may just have to wait and see. Until then it’s almost certain that economy will start to shrink, maybe slowly but the current situation is not conducive to growth.
Business investment has already hit a 10 year low, as companies wait for direction. There are lots of rumours of impending trade deals and agreements, but none of these can actually be implemented until the country leaves the European Union so all the talk is very premature.
Many seem to see the ‘free trade deals’ as a passage to huge prosperity and a sales fueled bonanza for a UK freed from the shackles of the EU. The problem is that ‘free trade’ can also be extremely detrimental to an economy as well as being beneficial. It’s why these agreement sometimes take a decade to negotiate, a bad deal can be much worse than no deal at all. International trade, even is you simply use the base economic model of comparative advantage can be a complex and difficult area. Establishing a ‘free trade’ agreement sounds like a simple, beneficial thing to establish however it’s implication is that you offer trade advantages over other countries, which can have huge knock on effects in an economy.
The worry for the UK economy is on many fronts – the indecision, the confusion and what is actually going to happen. Sometimes no decisions are actually worse that ‘bad decisions’ – government debt is only going to increase while the confusion remains.