Britain’s economic growth slowed in the first quarter of this year to 0.4 per cent, down from 0.6 per cent at the end of last year, according to ONS figures out today.
What did George Osborne have to say about the slowdown? Predictably enough, he invoked the threat of Brexit and turned the news into a pitch for staying in the EU. The Chancellor said:
‘It’s good news that Britain continues to grow, but there are warnings today that the threat of leaving the EU is weighing on our economy. Investments and building are being delayed and another group of experts, the OECD, confirms British families would be worse off if we leave the EU. Let’s not put the strong economy we’re building at risk and vote to remain on June 23.’
It’s difficult to argue with Osborne that the looming ‘threat’ of Brexit won’t be having some impact on these figures. But it’s unrealistic to argue that the EU referendum – despite having seized the entire political debate – is wholly to blame. Take Ranko Berich, Head of market analysis at Monex Europe, who says:
‘Brexit anxiety could certainly be behind some of the slowdown in GDP growth but the truth is the recovery remains lacklustre’.
Or Scott Corfe from the Centre for Economic and Business Research, who argues:
‘Rising inflation later this year and into 2017 will take further steam out of the household-led recovery as will signs of a softening in the labour market.’
The truth is that there are more to these most recent figures than Brexit, you just won’t hear the chancellor admit it.