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The UK will be paying the Brexit divorce bill until 2064

The Chancellor may have wanted to be upbeat and “Tigger-like” at the Spring Statement, but the Treasury watchdog soon burst his bubble

The Chancellor certainly got out of the right side of the bed this morning. Walking into the chamber deliver the Spring Statement, Philip Hammond was all lighten and jokes, defiant to paint a positive picture of the country’s finances.

Hammond was keen to come across more Tigger than Eeyore, but Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility quickly brought him back down to earth with a thud.

Despite weak growth, the Chancellor presented some upgraded forecasts to the economy, and promised that there was “light at the end of the tunnel” for the era of austerity.

But for Brexit, the tunnel appears to be very long indeed. A whopping 45 years long in fact: the OBR estimated that the UK would be still be handing over so-called divorce bill payments to the EU until 2064.

While the main bulk of the bill will be paid much earlier, some expenditures will remain well into the latter part this century. Around half will be dedicated to meeting the rest of the UK’s outstanding payments, which will be paid over eight years. The rest “reflects pension liabilities” of EU officials, which accounts for why the UK will still be paying so many decades after the departure date.


The OBR also predicted that the divorce bill would come in at £37.1bn, in line with the government’s figures of between £35-39bn. The Treasury watchdog carefully said there was now “sufficient clarity” to estimate the divorce bill, but that they continued to base forecasts on “broad-brush assumptions”.

In other areas, the Chancellor was slammed for his weak growth estimates. Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson said that the forecasts – which would leave Britain near the bottom of the G7 growth league – were “dreadful”.

In a bit of true Tigger-like positivity, the Chancellor revised down the forecast deficit for this fiscal year by almost £5 billion. Deputy director of the IFS Carl Emmerson explained:

“This is good news and the deficit has been returned to pre-crisis levels. However the forecast for 2019–20 is for a £34 billion deficit, rather than the £10 billion surplus forecast just two years ago.”

Eliminating the deficit by the mid-2020s would involve even more, “difficult choices and missing it would certainly not be a surprise”.

So in a rather thin announcement, the lasting impression of this Spring Statement could end up being another Brexit headache. With nothing given out to the NHS, social care, or struggling councils, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the only thing that cuts through is the prospect of a never-ending Brexit.

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I’ll miss the youthful thrill of Claire’s Accessories – but the tween Mecca refused to grow up

From an adolescent rite of passage to struggling to stay open: how the tackiest shop on the high street lost its shine.

The first day I was allowed to go into “town” (hailing from rural Essex, that’s the local shopping centre, not London) with a friend – unsupervised by a parent – was a real cornerstone of my childhood.

We were 13, and looking back, we had neither mobile phones nor contingency plans, and my mum must have been sat at home for the entire two hours scared shitless, waiting for when she could pick me up again (by the Odeon carpark, 3pm sharp).

Finally free from the constraints of traipsing around department stores bound by the shackles of an adult, my friend and I had the most grown-up afternoon we could imagine; Starbucks Frappuccinos (size: tall – we weren’t made of money), taking pictures on a pink digital camera in the H&M changing rooms, and finally, making a beeline for tween Mecca: Claire’s Accessories.

As a beauty journalist, I’m pretty sure Saturdays spent running amok among the diamante earrings, bow hairbands and fluffy notebooks had an influence on my career path.

I spent hours poring over every rack of clip-on earrings, getting high on the fumes of strawberry lipbalm and the alcohol used to clean freshly pierced toddlers’ ears.

Their slogan, “Where getting ready is half the fun”, still rings true for me ten years on, as I stand on the edge of dancefloors, bored and waiting until my peers are suitably drunk to call it a night, yet revelling in just how great my painstakingly applied false lashes look.

The slogan on a Claire's receipt. Photo: Flickr

On Monday, Claire’s Accessories US filed for bankruptcy, after they were lumbered with insurmountable debts since being taken over by Apollo Global Management in 2007. Many of the US-based stores are closing. While the future of Claire’s in the UK looks uncertain, it may be the next high street retailer – suffering from the surge of online shopping – to follow in Toys R Us’ footsteps.

As much as I hate to say it, this is unsurprising, considering Claire’s commitment to remain the tackiest retailer on the high street.

With the huge rise of interest in beauty from younger age groups – credit where credit’s due, YouTube – Claire’s has remained steadfast in its core belief in taffeta, rhinestone and glitter.

In my local Superdrug (parallel to the Claire’s Accessories, a few doors down from the McDonald’s where we would sit, sans purchase, maxed out after our Lipsmacker and bath bomb-filled jaunt), there are signs plastered all over the new Makeup Revolution concealer stand: “ENQUIRE WITH STAFF FOR STOCK”. A group of young girls nervously designate one among them to do the enquiring.

Such is the popularity of the three-week-old concealer, made infamous by YouTube videos entitled things like “I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS CONCEALER!” and “FULL COVERAGE AND £4!!!”, no stock is on display for fear of shoplifters.

The concealer is cheap, available on the high street, comparable to high-end brands and favoured by popular YouTube “beauty gurus”, giving young girls a portal into “adult life”, with Happy Meal money.

It’s unlikely 13-year-olds even own eye bags large enough to warrant a full coverage concealer, but they’re savvy enough to know that they can now get good quality makeup and accessories, without going any higher than Claire’s price points.

They have naturally outgrown a retailer that refuses to grow with them; it’s simply not sustainable on Claire’s part to sell babyish items to a market who no longer want babyish things.

Adulthood is catching up with this new breed of teenagers faster than ever, and they’ve decided it’s time to put away childish things.

Tweenagers of 2018 won’t miss Claire’s Accessories if it goes. The boarded-up purple signage would leave craters in shopping centre walls soon to be filled with the burgundy sheen of a new Pret.

But I will. Maybe not constantly – it’s not as if Primark has stopped selling jersey dresses, or Topshop their Joni jeans – it’ll be more of a slow burn. I’ll mourn the loss of Claire’s the next time a pang of nostalgia for blue-frosted shadow hits me, or when it’s Halloween eve and I realise I’m bereft of a pair of cat ears. But when the time comes, there’s always Amazon Prime.

Amelia Perrin is a freelance beauty and lifestyle journalist.