Economic lookahead: w/c 12 March

Unemployment figures released, second Greek bailout discussed, and goldbugs debating at the IEA.

Monday

  • Eurozone finance ministers meet, and are expected to approve the second Greek bailout now that the country has fulfilled it requirements by convincing creditors to drop more than €100bn of debt'
  • UN World Water Development Report says demand for water is threatening all major development targets.
  • World Travel & Tourism Council say that air passenger duty is costing the UK economy billions.
  • Centre for Economics & Business Research blame rising commodity prices for a fall in real disposeable income in the UK.
  • FSB's Voice of Small Business Index released.

 

Tuesday

  • Annual review of the inflation basket. Previous years have seen the introduction of Blu-ray players and flatscreen TV's, and the merging of "women's trousers" and "women's skirts".
  • OECD harmonised unemployment rates; released the day before the UK's own unemployment figures, these serve as a useful international comparator.
  • Department for Communities and Local Government release their house price index. The only government-collated house price index, these will be the figures to use to examine the NewBuy program.
  • ONS releases the UK trade figures.

 

Wednesday

  • UK unemployment figures released. Expected to show a rise in unemployment and youth unemployment.
  • Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary, will be up in front of the European Scrutiny Committee talking about the eurozone debt crisis.
  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service will release their annual statistical yearbook. Personal debt has fallen out of the spotlight, but there's growing consensus that if there is another debt crisis, this is the sector it will fall upon.
  • Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA, will interviewed by the Treasury Select Committee about mortgages.

 

Thursday

  • OECD launch their report on the medium term environmental outlook.
  • IEA host a discussion on the return to the gold standard, 6:30pm, London.
  • Debate on lowering the price of motherhood at the Resolution Foundation, 10:30am, London.
  • IMF board to discuss the second Greek bailout.

 

Friday

  • Financial policy committee of the Bank of England to meet.
  • Japan releases its monthly economic report.

 

The basket of goods which determines inflation is set to change. Credit: Getty

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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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.