Phew! The Spring Budget speech is given, Philip Hammond has stopped trying to do “jokes”, and we can begin to rake through the finer print to figure out what this latest Budget means for the country.
Because it’s an important one, isn’t it? With Theresa May set to trigger Article 50, giving notice of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, imminently, the Chancellor must be aware he has a very, very big task ahead.
Or is he? Listening to the budget speech, this mole noticed one specific word that Hammond didn’t utter – quite an important one, in fact.
Yep, you guessed it. In what is likely to be the last Budget before May triggers Article 50 next March, her Chancellor didn’t utter the word “Brexit” once.
Okay, to be fair, there were a couple of vague gestures towards “our future outside the EU” and “[starting] our negotiations to exit the European Union” – as well as a bit of #banter about the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
“And for those who care about such things, it means we are forecast to meet our 3 per cent EU Stability and Growth Pact target this year for the first time in almost a decade.
“But I won’t hold my breath for my congratulatory letter from Jean-Claude Juncker!”
But overall, this didn’t feel like a budget for a country which is about to radically change its economic set-up.
For instance, although the amount Britain may have to pay is admittedly disputed, the fact that there is – to quote the OBR – “no allowance for any one-off or ongoing EU exit-related payments” will surely raise a few eyebrows.
Public borrowing figures make no allowance for any divorce settlement. pic.twitter.com/3sXWkAqBQZ
— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) March 8, 2017
Turns out, “Brexit” mostly means “not discussing Brexit at all”.
The most-used phrases in the Budget:
“An economy that works for everyone”: 2
“The best place in the world”: 2
“Ordinary working families”: 4
“Self employed“: 16
“The NHS”: 10