With disruptions at European borders and supply chains perturbed by new tariffs, the U.K. economy has begun to show the negative economic impact of leaving Europe’s single market and customs union at the beginning of the year, several indicators show.
- Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, said this week as she was presenting the organization’s new economic forecast, that Brexit would shrink the U.K. economy “by about 1%” this quarter.
- It was the only economy whose performance in 2020 was downgraded by the IMF, which estimates the country’s gross domestic product fell 10% last year.
- Surveys by data company IHS Markit show that U.K. manufacturers and service providers are reporting the most severe disruptions of their supply chains, which is “almost exclusively linked to both Brexit disruption and a severe lack of international shipping availability.”
- Freight volumes between the U.K. and the rest of Europe were down 38% in the third week of January compared with last year.
- Paperwork, higher costs and compliance delays are severely affecting the traffic of goods on the U.K.-European Union routes, but they have an even more severe impact on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, which remains in the single market.
- The Office for Budget Responsibility, the official fiscal watchdog, predicted back in November that Brexit would shrink the U.K. economy by 4% in the long run with a free trade agreement such as the one that was signed between the two sides just before Christmas.
The outlook: Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently qualified as “teething problems” the many incidents and trade disruptions triggered by the start of Brexit. But from British fishermen to City of London finance professionals, many rather expect the government to act to try soften the blow.
The massive economic hit triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic may help hide the detrimental Brexit impact to the general population in the first half of the year. But it is hard to see how the government will be able to mitigate the consequences of being an outsider to the single market without taking steps back toward the EU and opening further discussions.