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Country Forecast United Kingdom March 2018 Updater

Country Forecast United Kingdom March 2018 Updater

  • March 2018
  • ID: 5352125
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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  • Following the snap general election on June 8th, 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 (DUP). The government will be fragile, and The Economist Intelligence Unit does not expect it to last a full five-year term; its working majority of 13 (down from 17 before the election) will be eroded by by-elections, and it will face domestic and external challenges during the Brexit process.
  • Mrs May's position, which had become increasingly difficult, was boosted by the deal achieved in December 2017 on the first phase of the Brexit negotiations. However, there is a risk that tensions within the cabinet and the Conservative Party over the government's Brexit strategy will come to a head in 2018-19, resulting in a political crisis.
  • In March 2017 parliament approved Article 50, beginning the two-year process by which the UK will leave the EU. Completing the agreement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal will take priority in 2018, but talks on the future trading relationship will begin this year. The government intends to leave the single market and the customs union, and will aim to reach a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the EU. The UK will formally leave the single market in March 2019, but a transition period should minimise disruption while trade negotiations continue. We expect a trade deal to be in place by 2021.
  • The economy has been resilient in the wake of the Brexit vote, growing by 1.9% in 2016 and 1.8% in 2017, but is likely to lose momentum in 2018-19 as rising inflation and uncertainty about the Brexit negotiations dampen domestic demand. We forecast real GDP growth of 1.5% in 2018 and 1.4% in 2019 as the economy adjusts, picking up to an average of 1.8% per year in 2020-22.
  • The government's budget deficit has narrowed from 4.3% of GDP in 2015, but we expect it to stabilise at close to 2016 and 2017 levels (2.8% of GDP) in 2018 as the government eases off its austerity drive. A deficit will persist throughout the forecast period (2018-22), contracting to less than 2% of GDP in 2021. The Bank of England (BoE, 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. However, we expect that a slowdown in economic growth in early 2018 will delay a move to normalise policy until later in the year.

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