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Country Forecast United Kingdom July 2018 Updater

Country Forecast United Kingdom July 2018 Updater

  • July 2018
  • ID: 1697442
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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  • Following a snap general election in June 2017, in which the Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority, the prime minister, Theresa May, formed a minority government based on a "confidence and supply" agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party. The Economist Intelligence Unit does not expect the government to last a full five-year term; its working majority of 13 (down from 17 before the election) may be eroded by defeats in by-elections, and it will face domestic and external challenges during the Brexit process.
  • Mrs May will continue to face difficulties in reconciling opposing factions in her cabinet, who have very different views about negotiating the UK's future relationship with the EU. A key milestone came in March, when EU leaders approved the terms of the transition period, which will last for 21 months after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. However, divisions in the cabinet and on the Conservative backbenches over Brexit are likely to persist in 2018-19.
  • Completing the agreement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal will take priority in 2018, but talks on the future trading relationship will also begin. The government has published a plan for an "association agreement" with the UK that would involve a free-trade area for goods and requires a "common rulebook" to avoid customs and regulatory checks. The plan is subject to negotiation with the EU, but is likely either to lead to the UK accepting a "softer" Brexit than Mrs May initially said she would pursue, or a snap election that could well install a pro-Brexit government that pursues a tougher line in negotiations. We expect the UK to reach a trade agreement with the EU by 2021.
  • The economy has been resilient in the wake of the Brexit vote, growing by 1.8% in 2016 and 1.7% in 2017, but is likely to lose further momentum in 2018-19 as rising inflation and uncertainty about the Brexit negotiations dampen domestic demand. We forecast average annual real GDP growth of 1.5% in 2018-19, picking up to an average of 1.7% per year in 2020-22.
  • The government's budget deficit narrowed from 4.2% of GDP in 2015 to 1.9% of GDP in 2017. We expect a further gradual contraction in the 2018-22 forecast period, with the deficit reaching 1% of GDP in 2022. The Bank of England (the central bank) has signalled a readiness to raise interest rates again after doing so in November 2017 for the first time in a decade, and we expect the next increase to take place in August 2018.

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