The eurozone slowdown spells trouble for the UK

Eurozone growth is at its weakest level since October 2009.

The world economy appears to be slowing. This is bad news for Slasher and the UK economy.

This morning, Markit released its flash eurozone purchasing manager indices (PMIs), which are pretty good predictors of what is happening to output. Official data takes some months to be published and is frequently revised, so the timeliness of the PMIs is a big asset. What do they show?

Eurozone growth turns out to have been the weakest since October 2009, led by a sharp manufacturing slowdown. Input costs showed their smallest rise in eight months.

The main indices were as follows:

Flash eurozone PMI composite output index at 53.6 (55.8 in May). Twenty-month low.

Flash eurozone services PMI business activity index at 54.2 (56.0 in May). Six-month low.

Flash eurozone manufacturing PMI at 52.0 (54.6 in May). Eighteen-month low.

Flash eurozone manufacturing PMI output index(4) at 52.4 (55.2 in May). Twenty-one-month low.

Yesterday, the Fed completed its policy meeting and Ben Bernanke held his second press conference, in which he left open the possibility of more quantitative easing. Most importantly, the members of the FOMC downgraded their forecast for US growth and increased their forecasts for unemployment. This had an impact on oil and other commodity prices, which fell on the news. West Texas intermediate crude was down to $92.75 a barrel on the news, having been over $102 earlier in June.

The hawks on the MPC are wrong. Inflation is headed down.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a “hard” version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day.

The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the scheduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.