How Will Brexit Impact Economic Growth?

Schroders Senior European Economist, Azad Zangana, considers the implications of Brexit on the UK's economic growth and interest rate prospects

Schroders Investments 28 June, 2018 | 1:02PM

This article is part of Morningstar's "Perspectives" series, written by third-party contributors.

Brexit European Union economy UK stock market interest rates economic growth

The UK economy was supposed to plunge into recession soon after the vote to leave the European Union, but the majority of forecasters were wrong.

Consumer confidence remained positive, encouraging increased spending, despite a slowdown in almost every other sector of the economy. As household consumption is a large contributor to GDP growth, it more than offsets the weakness elsewhere, painting a picture of success for those backing Brexit.

However, the growth in consumption to its fastest rate since 2005 was unsustainable. As the pound plunged after the vote, the cost of imports rose for manufacturers and retailers. This did not deter shoppers at first; indeed, households reduced their savings rate to record low levels in order to fund the post-Brexit splurge. Eventually, inflation caught up and households were forced to cut back, causing the economy to slow sharply over 2017. The UK went from being the fastest growing economy in the G7 to the slowest.

Businesses had started to postpone and cut investment projects as far back as 2015, well before the referendum result was known. Since then, business investment has fallen further, only to recover a little in recent months. However, at just 2.4% growth in 2017, it is running at half the rate averaged between 2011 and 2015.

Moreover, the initial surge in foreign direct investment after the fall in the pound has now ended. There was an 82% fall in inward forward direct investment in the last quarter of 2017 compared to the same three months in 2016.  Instead, pessimism has taken hold and some are planning for the worst-possible outcome. 

What Should We Expect?

Looking ahead, UK growth is likely to be sluggish at around 1.4% in 2018. With inflation forecast to average 2.6%, the UK will feel like a stagflationary environment for some time. As for 2019, the outlook is very uncertain. We assume a transition period will be agreed that preserves the status quo of the single market and customs union membership, but this is unlikely to help growth recover much.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England is closely monitoring Brexit events and the reaction in the economy. After aborting a rate hike in May, the consensus has shifted dramatically away from a hike in the near-term, to one possibly by the end of the year; 73.5% chance priced by markets.

The next Bank of England Inflation Report is due in August, which provides the Bank another opportunity to consider its policy stance, but given recent weakness in both UK and overseas data, this is likely to remain on hold. We forecast the Bank to hike once more in 2018 – in November – and two more times in 2019 after Brexit.

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Schroders Investments  manages more than £200 billion on behalf of institutional and retail investors, financial institutions and high net worth clients from around the world. 

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