UK posts slowest growth in six years ahead of Brexit

A man walks past a reflection of office buildings in a window in the City of London on February 7, 2019. Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned that Britain was "not prepared" for a no-deal Brexit.

AFP

LONDON - Britain's economy grew at the slowest pace in six years in 2018 with near-flat output in the final quarter, data showed on Monday, as Brexit uncertainty and weaker global growth bites.

Gross domestic product growth stood at 1.4 percent last year, down from 1.8 percent in 2017, while growth was only 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2018, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

"Following a pickup in activity over the summer months -- in part due to warm weather and the World Cup -- real GDP growth slowed markedly in the final quarter of 2018, with GDP falling by 0.4 percent in the month of December," the ONS said. 

"Construction, production and services output fell in the month, the first time that there has been such a broad-based fall in monthly output since September 2012."

The data comes after the Bank of England last week slashed its forecast for UK growth this year to 1.2 percent from 1.7 percent, blaming the downgrade on a global economic slowdown and "the fog of Brexit".

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It also comes as the British government is seeking to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29.

Businesses and governments are on edge as Britain is just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still has no firm arrangements in place.

The Bank of England last week stressed that Britain's economic output was also being dragged down by a global slowdown, with growth dampening in China, the United States and eurozone.

The point was echoed by analysts reacting to Monday's data.

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"Brexit uncertainty is certainly not helping matters on the economic front, but it is probably only a secondary factor in this slowdown, with the primary cause being a drop in overall global activity," noted David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB trading group.

"The eurozone in particular has been especially weak on the data front of late, and the focus now is very much on whether there can be a tangible breakthrough on the trade front between the US and China, with Beijing back after their New Year's holiday."

Source
AFP