Strong PMI figures indicate return to growth in Q2 2013

Maybe things don't suck?

Good news, everybody! The economy may actually not be terrible forever, according to data from Markit economics.

The UK all-sector PMI, an index which measures business activity throughout the economy, indicates that growth in Britain is set to be the highest it's been since March 2011. Values above 50 represent an expanding economy and values below 50 a contracting one: for June, the PMI is 56.0. That also means that the average for Q2 2012 is 54.2, well up from the average of 51.2 for Q1 2012. In other words, expect a healthy GDP figure on 25 July, when the ONS releases its preliminary estimate.

The best news in the release, though, is the data on new business inflows. That's the amount of new orders taken on by companies, and could be seen as representing a truer picture of economic growth, because it is less skewed by fluctuations in productivity or order fulfilment. And it is the highest it's been for six years. So too is the estimate Markit gives for employment. If it follows through into the ONS statistics (unemployment figures are due 17 July), there'll really be something for the government to celebrate:

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The chlorine chicken row is only the beginning – post-Brexit trade deals won't be easy

The real problem isn't the bureaucracies of the EU, but the fears of voters.

What's wrong with a little bit of chlorine in the chicken? That's the question splitting the cabinet as far as a US-UK trade deal goes. It also goes to the heart of Britain's post-Brexit dilemma.

As far as public health goes, both chicken slaughtered and sold the American way and chicken in the United Kingdom and the European Union are just as hygienic by the time they end up in supermarkets. But banning chlorine-washing means that the entire production chain, from farm to abattoir, has to be cleaner in the UK and the rest of the EU than in the States, where farmers know that no matter what happens to the chicken, that chlorine bath will absolve all manner of sins.

The EU's own research concedes that there is no public health difference. The problem, both in the rest of the bloc and the UK, is voter resistance: among French farmers and shoppers across the EU27. We all know how British people are about animal cruelty – not that they're so het up they won't actually eat them you understand – and any change that makes it easier to treat animals worse is going to be politically painful for the government.

In the long-term, changing our regulations to US standards also makes it harder to sell into the European Union. It's not a choice where you can have the best of both worlds but one where ultimately one market may preclude the freest use of the other.

And without wishing to offend any poultry farmers among our readership, this is a fairly small issue as far as the average British voter goes, even allowing for the UK's thing for animals. Just wait until things like “the NHS” start to be used in the same paragraph as the words “trade deal”.

One criticism that Brexiteers make of the EU is that it takes such a long time to strike trade deals. But the real problem isn't the bureaucracies of the EU – but the fears of voters. A cabinet clash over chicken is only going to be the beginning. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.