In the run-up to the referendum, Philip Hammond was one of those warning of the dire consequences of a vote to leave the EU. He predicted that Brexit would have a ‘chilling effect’ on the UK economy and said there would be uncertainty for years to come. Since being made Chancellor, Hammond has softened his language about the doom and gloom of Brexit. But only just. This morning, he’s been touring the studios and airwaves ahead of his keynote speech at the Tory party conference in Birmingham. His headline announcement? Ditching the policy put in place by George Osborne to wipe out the deficit by 2020. But while the Chancellor has partly torn up his predecessor’s plan, he’s also borrowing a thing or two from Osborne in suggesting – despite many of the signs since the vote – that Brexit might not be all good news, saying our economy is facing a ‘rollercoaster ride’ ahead.
Nick Robinson this morning took him to task on this point during his interview on Today. He asked him, given that job figures are healthy, the service and retail sectors look to be resilient and Britain’s GDP growth seems encouraging, ‘What is the problem to which you’re trying to look for a solution?’. Hammond had this to say:
‘There is a problem that businesses are now uncertain about what the future arrangements with the EU will be. We will have to wait for the hard data but anecdotally we hear of businesses postponing investment decisions. And if we don’t do something, if we don’t intervene to counteract that effect, in time that would have an impact on jobs and growth.