FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tomorrow, Philip Hammond will stand at the steps of Downing Street with the impoverished, characteristic, yet iconic red budget box, to deliver the 2017's budget after his initial full year period as Chancellor of the Exchequer. As the second budgetary announcement since the vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd June 2016, the Article 50 deadline of May 2019 fast approaching, talks in the European Union stalled and the new homes for both the European Medicines Agency and European banking Authority decided this week, all eyes will be watching Philip Hammond's address, keen for assurances and urgent action to save the UK economy from the cliff edge drop the UK currently seems headed towards.
Small businesses and consumers alike, who have seen costs rise as inflation sky-rocketed, without a corresponding increase in wages, are desperate to stem rising raw material and living costs. With recent reports of farming stagnation, inflation at 3%, Bank of England base rate rises for the first time in a decade and continuation of credit-crunch austerity seeing those on welfare hit hardest, consumer confidence is at an all time low.
UK businesses stand to experience an increase of almost £10 billion in export tariffs on it's 50 highest trade sector exports with the European Union alone, discounting secondary trade agreements making up 10 times more agreements the UK must [re]negotiate with the rest of the world. Such costs are not insignificant, will be distributed through economic supply chains and threaten many, key sectors, especially those receiving continental subsidies and reliant on continental staff.
There are two ways businesses can absorb such costs. The first is to simply swallow it. With margins in sectors such as retail and leisure, heavily reliant on volume to cover costs, such increases more than swallow margins. This naturally means that for such sectors, absorption is not possible without shutting down some time in the not too distant future. This means such businesses have to cover it another way. Cost cutting, which is work reduction in any event or consumer prices have to rise. Exactly what we saw in the recently reported inflationary figures. This is all despite the fact the UK is still part of the European Union and has not left yet.
Of course, such effects don't exist in isolation. Together with new and used cars, restaurants, pubs and bars are one of many barometers of UK consumer confidence and prosperity. Like all non-essential activity, leisure activities are highly sensitive to consumer income. The more residual income families have the more people eat out. Leisure activities are the last to increase when an economy recovers and the first to be culled from household budgets when it starts to recess. So take longest to recover in the event of a recession. With a quarter of workers in the hospitality industry coming from the EU and these having little financial room to absorb such costs, the UK stand to lose around 5,500 hospitality businesses in that time. In turn pushing around 55,000 people in to unemployment, 75% of whom are Brits entitled to welfare.
It isn't the only sector too. As companies in the The City move operations to European countries like France and Germany, 100,000 jobs in turn, are expected to go. Whilst this is a drop in the ocean for the financial services industries that employ almost 4 million people in the square mile, this again has noticeable, knock on effects on small business in the area. 2.5% of their trade will disappear and do so within working hours. The City is almost empty during weekends, so there is no opportunity to recoup such losses. In turn, having knock on effects on rents, increasing uncertainty and debt burdens.
With more severe damage being done to farming, nursing & NHS care, car production and UK Science and Technology, as well as the rise in racist attacks, the UK's economy and social fabric has much bigger problems to face. Yet, Hammond has the chance to at least allay the fears of business and public services, and contribute to their survival. Yet, he has faced calls from hard-line Brexiteers to create a "Budget for Brexit". To flood the market with finances, despite the fact that the Bank of England controls central money flow. Yet, the reality is that preparations for a 'no deal' scenario have now got to be planned in.
In both business and economic terms, step changes are dangerous beasts. It's well know that previous Conservative policy killed off entire communities in England and industries in England. Herein lays jeopardy. Change an environment faster than its ability to adapt and you kill the delicate balancing act that makes complex sociological systems and even life itself, work. Yet, with competing financial reliance on EU funding totaling over £50 billion a year, Hammond will have to go some way to covering that from a net membership fee of £7 billion. For those with a basic grasp of primary school math, that doesn't go. So, the Chancellor will have to take the lead and present to David Davis' stalled negotiations and the very creativity Theresa May and David Davis seek from the European Union. If Hammond can make it work, they'd move too.
But it's a long shot!
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