Twenty months on and the immediate economic downturn we were promised within two years of a vote to leave hasn't materialised. I’m sure you’ll have seen reports of leaked fresh predictions of disaster making the rounds in recent weeks. Economic forecasts are valuable but of course they cannot predict the future with accuracy - an economic forecast is a function of the assumptions you put into a model so, as even renowned economists from key institutions such as the Bank of England and the OECD have found, forecasts usually end up being wrong.
So, #DespiteBrexit, how’s the economy looking?
The UK remains the world’s top exporter of financial and professional services with a trade surplus of £57bn, nearly twice that of the United States. Exports grew in 2016 by an eye-watering 15.8 per cent, making it the best year on record according to figures released by TheCityUK. The North East of England is now the fastest growing part of the UK for financial services, with exports increasing 29 per cent year-on-year, showing that whilst London is the preeminent financial services centre globally the benefits are rippling out across our economy.
As I’ve mentioned in previous Brexit Good News posts, our booming financial tech industry continues to go from strength to strength. Investment soared in 2017 with a record 150 per cent increase, smashing any fears about a Brexit slump in the aftermath of the referendum. I’ve long been a supporter of innovative fintech start-ups like TransferWise and Monzo and, being a champion of their development as City Minister, I was delighted to read that more than £1.3bn was injected into the market last year. The UK is now the second largest fintech centre in the world, with last year’s numbers pushing us ahead of China and into second just behind the US.
UK factory production has had its strongest year since 2014 with manufacturers enjoying their longest expansion in three decades and a rise of 0.3 per cent in December. Output has now risen for eight consecutive months.
And I am sure that those who ribbed me for daring to suggest that Brexit Britain could sell more great British food around the world will be the first to join me in celebrating the news that, since we voted to leave, Treasury figures show our food and drink exports have increased by an extra £2bn last year! All in all, the spike in overseas demand for our many excellent foodstuffs has resulted in a record £22bn in exports in 2017. As my friend and predecessor as Defra Secretary, Liz Truss, used to note: we are even selling tea to China!
It was also absolutely fantastic news to hear that the US President has confirmed his view that one of his top priorities is to sign a wide-ranging free trade deal with the UK at the earliest opportunity, allowing us to more easily export more of our fantastic products to their eager markets.
The economic news continues to confound the experts; I look forward to updating you again.