The United Kingdom has posted its fastest quarterly growth for a year, beating expectations and defying the gloomy forecasts made by Remain campaigners and establishment institutions before the country’s referendum on membership of the European Union (EU). The figures come as a blow to diehard Remain campaigners led by Tony Blair, who said the public could “change their minds” about Brexit following “real damage” to the British economy.
Before the referendum, papers published by the George Osborne-led Treasury claimed “a vote to leave would represent an immediate and profound shock to our economy. That shock would push our economy into a recession and lead to an increase in unemployment”.
Mark Carney, the former Goldman Sachs employee who heads Britain’s central bank, was broadly supportive, alleging that the consequences of a Leave vote “could possibly include a technical recession”.
UK Q4 GDP growth revised up to 0.7%q/q off the back of a big contribution from net trade. Consumers chipped in too. pic.twitter.com/YG8CGnoVlb
— Rupert Seggins (@Rupert_Seggins) February 22, 2017
Industrial output, initially thought to have been flat, was revised up to 0.3 per cent. Construction output was also revised up, to 0.2 per cent, while services sector expansion was estimated at by 0.8 per cent.
The pound hit a two-month high against the euro, which has now fallen its lowest level against a basket of currencies since November 2016, in advance of the new figures being published.
The developments will be unwelcome news for former prime minister Tony Blair, who courted controversy last week when he assumed leadership of the so-called “Remain Resistance”.
Blair called on europhile campaigners to “rise up” against Brexit, claiming that the people’s decision “was based on imperfect knowledge”.
— /dev/null (@smbthomas) February 17, 2017
“Yes, the British people voted to leave Europe, and I agree the will of the people should prevail,” he said. “I accept, right now, there is no widespread appetite to rethink.”
He added the caveat, however, that it was “their right to change their minds”, telling his audience that “Our mission is to persuade them to do so”.
Blair’s intervention provoked widespread condemnation online.
Could there be a more potent image of how toxic the EU is than Tony Blair & Junker hugging in front of its flag pic.twitter.com/NABSdnwuvT
— Eliza Bee (@_Eliza_Bee) February 17, 2017
Overall, the ONS estimate for growth in 2016 has been revised slightly down, from 2 per cent to 1.8 per cent, but this has been attributed to the sector-specific issue of weaker than expected North Sea oil and gas production.
This in itself is an issue for Remain campaigners in the devoutly europhile Scottish National Party (SNP), who based the financial case for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom on estimated oil revenues of £8bn in 2014.
Such revenues have since plunged by over 95 per cent.