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Is Growth Possible in a Brexit Economy?

by John Brian Shannon

“KPMG predicts economic growth of 1.4 per cent next year, but cuts this to 0.6 per cent if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.”The Times

While some firms predict slower than normal growth for the UK economy in the post-Brexit timeframe, it’s always good to reflect on the assumptions that forecasters employ in creating their reports and why such forecasts can cause more harm than good.

  1. If you tell your employees that, ‘the chips are down, the economy is sinking, and corporate belt-tightening isn’t far off’ they are likely to respond in a negative way. Some may look for other employment, some will opt for early retirement, while others spend more time in the staff room talking with their coworkers about their employment concerns than getting their work done. Which means such reports can actually cause the negative outcome they’re warning about. It’s human nature to perform to a predicted level instead of trying to exceed expectations. There are few exceptions to this behavior and they are called names like; Olympic athlete, Pulitzer Prize Winner, President, or Astronaut who have the innate ability to ‘power through’ the negative times without losing momentum.
  2. Such reports deal with known inputs only. For example, a zero-tariff trade deal with the Americans may seem far off today, but by 2020 it may already be signed. And not only the U.S., other political and trade blocs are likely to sign trade deals with the UK following Brexit. The AU (Africa), MERCOSUR (the South American trade bloc), the Pacific Alliance (several Pacific nations), the CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) nations, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), The Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Nations), and China, are likely to expand their trade links with the UK after it departs the European Union. America and those seven trading areas will have a combined total of 7.0 billion people by 2020. That’s a lot of potential consumers, and the massive opportunities presented by signing zero-tariff trade deals post-Brexit are absent in most economic projections by design. Even if the UK were to sign only one free trade deal (with the U.S., for example) it could improve UK growth by a full 2 per cent or more. Presto! A shiny new UK economy!
  3. “Now we’ve got them!” While economic forecasting provides vital information for policymakers, Brexit negotiators aren’t helped by the news that growth will slow even in the face of a ‘good Brexit deal’ and will slow moreso in a ‘no Brexit deal’ scenario. It’s the kind of report that makes Michel Barnier’s day! KPMG is certainly one of the most respected firms around, but if you’re a Brexiteer and a report like this has been released to the public instead of it remaining in the hands of policymakers it plays with your mind; “Are they working for the UK’s best interests or are they working for the EU’s best interests?” (and) “Who commissioned (who paid for) this report and what parameters were used?”

So, while the good people of KPMG do their best to provide policymakers with the best near-term assessment of the UK economy, making such reports public can actually cause the negative things to occur about which the report warns.

That’s why policymakers everywhere must be ahead of the curve and treat all such documents as ‘the worst-case scenario’ without exception.

Now that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been reliably informed that the worst the UK can do is 0.6 per cent growth between now and 2020, it should be an easy matter to arrange a number of free trade deals and blow the doors off that projection by 3 or 4 per cent by 2020.

Looking at this in the proper context means accepting that exiting the European Union is merely a necessary stepping stone to get the UK to 4 per cent growth by 2020 — which should result in Theresa May keeping the PM’s chair for at least one more term and with all past ‘political sins’ forgiven.

Not a bad deal Theresa, if you’re up for it! 🙂