Brexit’s toll: UK economy at weakest since financial crisis

LONDON (AP) – Mounting uncertainty over Brexit saw the British economy slow last year to its weakest growth rate since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, said official figures released yesterday.

The Office for National Statistics said that the British economy grew by a quarterly rate of only 0.2 per cent during the fourth quarter, down from the 0.6 per cent tick recorded in the previous three-month period. Output actually fell in the month of December by 0.4 per cent from the month before.

Over 2018 as a whole, the economy grew by 1.4 per cent, its lowest rate since 2009, when it contracted by 4.2 per cent in the wake of the global financial crisis that had brought much of the world’s banking system to its knees.

Statisticians did not directly blame Brexit for the slowdown but there is plenty of evidence showing that the uncertainties relating to the country’s departure from the European Union (EU) are weighing heavily on economic activity, particularly business investment.

Statistics agency’s Head of GDP figures Rob Kent-Smith said the slowdown in the last three months of the year was particularly “steep” in car manufacturing and steel production, offset by continued growth in the services sector, which makes up around 80 per cent of the British economy.

The British economy largely held up better than expected in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave the EU in June 2016.

However, as Brexit day draws nearer, firms are getting edgy. There is no sign that the uncertainty, described as the “fog of Brexit” by the Bank of England, is going to lift anytime soon.