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

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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