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Fiscal watchdog slashes United Kingdom growth forecast to lowest since financial crisis
16 March 2019, 12:42 | Joann Bryant
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In documents released alongside Chancellor Philip Hammond's Spring Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said growth in the United Kingdom and global economies had slowed since October's Budget, leading to a downgrade in its short-term forecasts.
The downgrade was included in an otherwise upbeat set of forecasts from the economic watchdog in yesterday's spring statement.
Lawmakers were expected to vote later on Wednesday against a leaving the European Union without a transition deal, then vote on Thursday on seeking a delay to Britain's departure, now scheduled for March 29.
But he insisted the economy remained "remarkably robust".
The OBR's estimate of 1.4% growth for 2020 remains unchanged, but 2021 and 2022 are now expected to deliver slightly higher growth, with 1.6% forecast for both years.
But the OBR also warned that a disorderly no-deal would pose a risk to the predicted growth rates, as the numbers are based on an assumed scenario in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union with a deal on March 29, and enters a transition period.
His statement comes after Parliament overwhelmingly rejected May's Brexit deal for a second time on Tuesday night.
He warned: "Leaving with no deal would mean significant disruption in the short and medium-term and a smaller, less prosperous economy in the long-term, than if we leave with a deal".
Borrowing is expected to be lower this year, coming in at £22.8 billion, down £2.7 billion since October, which the OBR put down to higher income tax receipts and lower debt interest spending.
Analysts expect parliament instead to favor delaying Britain's departure beyond the March 29 exit date, in a further vote due Thursday.
New half-yearly fiscal forecasts showed that Britain's public finances were in better shape than in October, when Hammond gave his full, annual budget statement, even against the backdrop of a weaker outlook for the country's economy. "That is not what the British people voted for in June 2016", he said.
Britain's leading tax and spending thinktank said the chancellor's fiscal headroom - described by Hammond as a "deal dividend" - could be effectively wiped out under a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Hammond said rejecting an immediate no-deal Brexit and extending Article 50 could help find a "deal we can collectively support".
However, Britain's independent budget forecasters said nearly half of Hammond's fiscal headroom might be lost, depending on how official statisticians treat student loans in the public accounts.
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