There’s no let up in the efforts to talk the UK economy down. PMI rushed out a week early their July survey, with less than a full set of responses, to show that the confidence of a number of senior business executives fell when they got the result of the Brexit vote wrong. There’s a surprise!
These surveys have forecast recessions in the past that did not happen. Confidence took a nasty knock on 9/11 for understandable reasons but it did not lead to a recession. It would be surprising if many executives who by a large majority seemed to vote Remain suddenly expressed confidence a few days after losing the vote. As I discovered in the referendum campaign a large proportion of senior large company executives were keen to remain.
I suggest commentators and pundits calm down and await data on what actually happens June- October in the real economy. The signs I see suggest there will be no recession. Employment is at high levels, real wages are rising, and export intentions are up.
The Chancellor has said that he will await more data and come to a judgement about the balance of the budget and economic policy at the time of the Autumn Statement in the normal way. I welcome that commonsense approach. If government borrowing rates remain at the new much lower levels we have reached in recent weeks post Brexit, he will have an immediate windfall in the form of lower future interest charges on government debt. He could use this to cut the deficit or to spend a bit more. There is also the question of when will the government cease making financial contributions to the EU. That money should be spent on our priorities, as argued here before.
There is no need to move to a government surplus by 2020-21, unless the economy has by then heated up too much and is in danger of going too fast. At current borrowing rates using some borrowed money for investment could make sense. It will be important to make sure the chosen investments do add to national wealth and income by being well thought through.