An influential global body has upgraded its forecasts for UK economic performance, but warned of continuing “high uncertainties” over the outcome of Brexit.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s twice-yearly Economic Outlook report found that economic growth remains “modest” in the UK, compared with other major economies.
It warned that the Government must stand ready to ease up on austerity measures if growth weakens significantly in the run-up to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Brexit negotiations should aim to “preserve open trade with the European Union and high access for financial services to EU markets”, said the report.
After Bank of England Governor Mark Carney held back from expected hikes in interest rates, the OECD said that the historically low rates in place since the financial crash of 2008 can be expected to return to “normal” levels only at a “very gradual pace”.
The May 2018 Economic Outlook projected GDP growth of 1.4% in the UK this year – up from 1.2% in its November 2017 forecast.
Growth in 2019 was also nudged up from 1.1% six months ago to 1.3% now.
But the UK continues to lag behind most major economies, with world economic growth forecast at 3.8% this year and 3.9% in 2019.
Projected growth in the eurozone remains above 2% and in the US at about 3% in both years, with only Italy and Japan slated to underperform the UK.
The report said that “modest” growth in the UK was due to “high uncertainties about the outcome of Brexit negotiations”.
Belt-tightening measures planned by the Government for 2018 and 2019 were judged to remain “appropriate” in the economic circumstances.
But the authorities should “stand ready to further increase productivity-enhancing measures on investment if growth weakens significantly ahead of Brexit”.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second Brexit referendum, said: “The OECD are forecasting that the slump in growth caused by Brexit shows no sign of ending.
“The reality is that if we leave the EU, our economy will be badly hit for years to come.
“Brexit is a big deal, too big to ignore. That is why the demand for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal is growing all the time.”