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British Economy Defies Anti-Brexiteers to Outpace Europe

Europe
GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty
JACK MONTGOMERY

The British economy is matching or outpacing growth in the Eurozone’s leading countries as Brexit approaches, with inflation falling and real wages rising.

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show inflation down to a two-year low of 1.8 percent, and quarterly growth is running at 0.2 percent — outpacing Angela Merkel’s Germany, which is supposed to be the economic powerhouse of Europe, and appearing to give the lie to claims by EU loyalists that Britain has become “the sick man of Europe” since the 2016 vote to Leave the European Union.

Chris Giles, economics editor of the slavishly europhile Financial Times, attempted to put a negative spin on the growth figures in a dispute with the BBC’s increasingly marginalised interrogator-in-chief, Andrew Neil — who tends to buck the common conception of the corporation biased and unbalanced in its Brexit coverage — on social media, but came unstuck when he was forced to admit that the United Kingdom is indeed the fastest-growing G7 member of the EU.

Wages, meanwhile are growing at at 3.3 percent, or 1.5 percent in real terms — modest increases, but welcome progress after years of stagnation following the financial crisis, and more marked in working-class occupations such as construction, hospitality and retail.

This has driven to a significant extent by the decrease in immigration from the European Union since the Brexit vote — although there are still tens of thousands more EU migrants entering the country than leaving, overall — with industry magazine The Caterer recently bemoaning a 38 percent rise in pay for new hospitality roles, for example.

Brexit supporters and groups keen to promote British business have been offering an increasingly sunny counter-weight to the doom-mongering of some in the Remain-leaning media, with undue focus on news such as Japanese car firm Nissan’s decision to build its X-Trail SUV in Japan increasingly counterbalanced by positive developments distributed through social media.

British manufacturing advocates the Jefferson Group, for example, have in just the last few days highlighted the opening of a new Tiger Trailers factory in Winsford, progress on the construction of a new Norton motorcycle factory, and the award of a new F-35 support contract worth half a billion pounds to a jet hub in Wales.

There is also increasing pushback against the narrative that British politics has become especially dysfunctional in the wake of the EU referendum and subsequent 2017 snap election, or that the country is now a “laughing stock” — with Brexit supporters pointing out the seemingly imminent collapse of the Spanish government, weeks of near-insurrection in Macron’s France, and the struggle of countries such as Belgium and Sweden to form and hold together their own fragile coalitions, as Germany stalls under a weak government roughly equivalent to a joint Labour-Tory or Republican-Democrat coalition.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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