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The Brexit benefits timebomb is ticking for poor working families

The May Government continues Universal Credit and the benefits freeze. 

In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May addressed the families who are “just managing”. 

She declared: “I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. 

“The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.”

What May didn’t mention is that such a family may be working all hours, but they are probably reliant on tax credits too. 

And for Mr and Mrs Just Managing, the years post Brexit will introduce a new reality – the creeping reduction in benefits. 

Theresa May’s Government could have abolished Universal Credit. The reform has been widely criticised – the shake-up of thresholds means that for certain groups, such as single mothers, it makes work less attractive. The roll out has been delayed, meaning that most politically sensitive demographics are still on the old system. 

But she didn’t. Instead, she has kicked Universal Credit into the long grass, with the final deadline now pushed back to 2022. The benefits reform will continue to roll out and start to affect families in larger numbers. 

For some families, this means losing all in-work benefits altogether. A forecast slipped out by the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted 690,000 households would lose out by 2020. By contrast, just 200,000 will gain it. 

Indeed, when George Osborne famously U-turned on tax credit cuts, savings were passed onto Universal Credit instead. Owen Smith, the Labour leadership challenger, has described Universal Credit as a “vehicle for austerity”. 

Another longstanding Osborne policy is also likely to start to bite. Unless May dramatically overhauls policy, the freeze on working-age benefits means that the Just Managings have little protection against inflation. 

When the current four year freeze began in April, the OBR estimated it would lead to a 6.1 per cent fall in real term value of benefits by 2020. 

But if Brexit triggers rising prices, as expected, the Resolution Foundation now predicts the value of benefits in real terms will slump as much as 12.5 per cent. 

Resolution's senior economic analyst David Finch said: “The impact of the four-year benefit freeze now in train has been little discussed – in part because of the tax credit furore and also because very low inflation means it hasn’t really bitten recipients yet. 

“But post-referendum that is likely to change, with expected higher inflation potentially doubling the freeze’s impact on spending power.”

Add in lower real wage growth, he added, and the squeeze on living standards will only tighten. 

May could reverse Osborne's policies - one of her first moves was to sack him after all. But the financial climate suggests she will have little money to play with, and she appears more likely to favour investing in spade and shovel infrastructure projects than topping up the wages of the working poor. 

Both Universal Credit and the benefits freeze are already in motion. May has not expended any political capital on them, but she will reap the savings all the same. Meanwhile, the Just Managings may find they are not managing at all. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.