The budget's effect on growth? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

The OBR confirms: this budget is tinkering around the edges.

The Chancellor closed his budget declaring that it was:

A Budget for a Britain that wants to be prosperous, solvent and free.

In actual fact, the budget is unlikely to do any of that. In fact, on the macro-scale, it will do precisely nothing. And that's not my estimate, that's the OBR's, which writes:

The Government has announced a number of policy measures that are expected to have a broadly neutral fiscal impact in aggregate between 2012-13 and 2017-18, with ‘giveaways’ almost exactly offsetting ‘takeaways’ over this period. Correspondingly, we also assume that they will have a broadly neutral effect on the economy, with no impact on the level of GDP at the end of the forecast horizon.

So the OBR thinks the fact that the budget is fiscally neutral means it is unlikely to have much effect on growth. But what about the medium-term changes?

The reduction in the main rate of corporation tax from 2015-16 has a small positive effect on business investment in our forecast, while the decision to abolish the contracted-out NICs rebate slightly reduces disposable income and household consumption. The Government has also decided to increase capital spending and reduce current departmental spending from 2015-16. Given the long time horizon and the fact that the overall net effect of these changes is relatively small, we have not adjusted our overall GDP forecast.

No change there then. It goes on and on. Introducing an allowance for employers' national insurance contributions:

Given the small size of these potential effects we have not made any explicit adjustments to our forecast.

The expansion of the Help to Buy scheme, the Build to Rent Fund, and the Right to Buy scheme:

…likely to have a relatively small additional impact on transactions and residential investment.

The only major impact assessed is with the cut in beer duty and fuel duty, which are likely to reduce CPI inflation by around 0.1 percentage points for 12 months.

That's it.

It's not a budget for prosperity, it's not a budget for growth. It's a budget for nothing at all.

Freya, the Number 11 cat. Photograph: Getty Images

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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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.