10 pieces of bad news that Osborne left out of his Autumn Statement

The small print shows that the economy will shrink in the current quarter and that unemployment will rise next year.

As ever, you had to scour the small print to find the bad news that George Osborne chose to leave out of his Autumn Statement. So here, complete with references to the OBR document, are the ten stats that the Chancellor would rather you didn't know.

1. The economy is expected to shrink in the current quarter, with the OBR forecasting a contraction of 0.1 per cent. (p. 48 OBR document). It states that "headline GDP growth is likely to be negative in the final quarter of 2012 as the effect from the Olympics reverses." The day before the last set of growth figures were released, Cameron boasted that "the good news will keep coming". It's now clear that it won't.

2. Despite the government's promise to "make work pay", sixty per cent of the real-terms cut to benefits (they will rise by just 1 per cent for three years) will fall on working households. (Resolution Foundation) A working family on £20,000 with two children will lose £279 a year from next April.

3. The recent fall in unemployment is expected to be reversed as the jobless total rises from 2.5 million to 2.7 million next year. (p. 83 OBR document)

4. Were it not for the inclusion of the expected £3.5bn receipts from the 4G spectrum auction - which hasn't taken place yet - the deficit would be higher this year (£123.8bn) than last year (£121.4bn). (p. 5 OBR document).

5. The measures announced yesterday by Osborne are expected to increase GDP by just 0.1 per cent over the forecast period. (p. 51 OBR document). This was no Autumn Statement for growth.

6. Earnings are forecast to rise at a slower rate than inflation until the second quarter of 2014. (p. 86 OBR document). By then, the median full-time wage will be 7.4 per cent below its 2008 level.

7. Public sector job cuts will reach 1.1 million by 2018 (p. 83 OBR document), reducing government employment to its lowest level in post-war history.

8. An extra 400,000 people will be dragged into the 40p tax band by 2015-16, paying an extra £117 per year.

9. The government is expected to lose £16.5bn on its stakes in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, up from an estimate of £14.3bn in March. (p. 162 OBR document).

10. Osborne's decision to cut the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p means the 8,000 people earning a million pounds or more will receive an average tax cut of £107,500 from next April.

George Osborne leaves number 11 Downing Street for the Treasury on December 5, 2012 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

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.