Report paints UK as the sick man of Europe

The pro-Brexit narrative insisted that the UK was one of Europe's greatest, most vibrant economies, and that, unshackled from European regulation, the country would be able to soar to the heights it deserves.

A closer look at the figures from the Centre for European Reform tells a very different story. The UK's GDP growth 2000-2015 trails all the other major EU economies, beating only dysfunctional Italy. But if the UK isn't a good place to generate wealth, it's a very good place to be wealthy: it leads the EU in income inequality, where real wages have fallen by 10 percent since 2008. Outside of the London bubble, UK wages trail the EU-15 countries -- but UK workers pull longer hours than the EU-15, and the UK has the lowest productivity in the group except for Greece, Italy and Portugal (the UK also runs the largest deficit in the group).

All the talk about the UK's competitiveness being strangled by EU regulation is likewise bullshit. The UK has among the loosest regulations in the EU.

* Far from catching-up with the richer parts of the EU – as one might expect as they adopt technologies and working practices developed elsewhere – the UK’s poor regions have fallen further behind.

* Britain’s problems lie mainly on the supply-side and in the structure of public spending. Three key issues stand out: poor skills among a sizeable chunk of the workforce; weak infrastructure and a lack of affordable housing; and the centralisation of political and commercial power in London.

* Unfortunately, Brexit risks aggravating most, if not all, of these problems. And Britain’s already startling regional imbalances are likely to worsen further, leaving much of the country’s population living in areas considerably poorer than the EU-15 average.

* The Conservatives will provide some fiscal stimulus to counter the weakening of growth caused by Brexit, but will not make the long-term investments in infrastructure and skills needed by the UK. They have few MPs in the poorer regions that would benefit most from such spending, while the resulting higher borrowing and/or taxation would be unpopular with their core vote in England’s wealthy South.


[Simon Tilford/Centre for European Reform]

Economic ills of the UK extend well beyond Brexit [Martin Wolf/Financial Times]

(via Alice)