U.K. Chancellor Hammond unveiled the government’s plans to provide fiscal support to prep the economy for Brexit, but my spies tell me that the BOE has a secret mission of its own.
Here’s what you need to know about the Autumn Forecast Statement and Mark Carney’s hush-hush meetings.
Autumn Forecast Statement
- Office for Budget Responsibility upgraded the 2016 growth forecast to 2.1%
- 2017 growth forecast downgraded to 1.4%
- OBR projects the U.K. economy to grow 1.7% in 2018 and 2.1% in 2019
- U.K. debt to rise to 87.3% of GDP this year and 90.2% in 2017-2018
In an effort to bolster confidence in the U.K. economy, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond started off by boasting that the IMF predicted that the U.K. is poised to be the fastest-growing major advanced economy this year. He even highlighted that unemployment is at a record low and that this year’s growth is set to outpace their estimates made back in March.
However, Hammond admitted that growth is slated to slow in the next couple of years due to lower investment and weaker consumer demand, likely spurred by rising domestic price levels on sterling depreciation and Brexit-inspired uncertainty. To combat this, the government is introducing these fiscal stimulus efforts to keep the economy afloat:
- Corporate tax cut to 17% by 2020 to benefit 1 million businesses
- £400 million in investments to innovative small businesses
- Increasing the rural rate relief to 100% in April 2017 for businesses to save £2900 a year
- Freezing fuel duty in 2017 for drivers to save £130 a year on average
- Raising the Personal Allowance to £12,500 and the Higher Rate Threshold to £50,000 by 2020-21
- Increasing the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage by April 2017
- Reducing the Universal Credit Taper from 65% to 63%
- National Productivity Investment Fund to provide £23 billion in infrastructure spending
- New Housing Infrastructure Fund of £2.3 billion
- £390 million investment in future transport technology
- £1 billion investment in full-fiber broadband and 5G mobile network trials by 2020-21
- £2 billion increase per year in research and development funding by 2020-21
- £800 million for the Scottish Government, over £400 million for the Welsh Government and over £250 million for the Northern Ireland Executive for additional spending
- £10 million in support for culture and heritage projects across the U.K.
Phew! Quite a list, eh?
Pound bulls seem to be impressed by the government’s plans to loosen its purse strings, something that Prime Minister Theresa May already hinted at in an earlier speech. Naysayers, however, were quick to point out that a bunch of these are just lofty goals rather than an immediate injection of funds, so the U.K. may still find itself in a too-little-too-late situation later on.
Carney’s “Brexit Buffer”
Of course, BOE head honcho Mark Carney isn’t looking forward to this predicament one bit as he is reportedly on a top-secret mission to convince Prime Minister May to push the Brexit date much later.
Apparently, the BOE Guv’nah has hosted dinners for senior investment bankers and finance directors of major British banks over the past couple of weeks in what is being interpreted as an attempt to come up with a transitional agreement dubbed as the “Brexit Buffer.” Some sources even mentioned that Carney is trying to make similar appeals with EU officials.
You see, Carney has repeatedly stated that businesses need time to adapt to leaving the single market and that two years isn’t enough to make the necessary adjustments. “Carney knows there needs to be a two to a three-year extension to allow Britain to adjust from the old rules under Europe to the new order,” shared a banker who attended one of Carney’s secret meetings. “His key word is continuity.”
By the looks of it, the Confederation of the British Industry and the British Bankers Association is on Carney’s side, as their leaders have recently turned their speeches into a plea for Prime Minister May to delay invoking Article 50 or to retain access to the single market.
While the ball seems to be in 10 Downing Street at this point, keep in mind that the BOE is set to release the results of the bank stress tests this week, along with its assessment of major risks to the financial system, so Carney could use that platform to lobby his anti-Brexit sentiment. Stay on your toes!