This week in Politics
The week began with Theresa May declaring that MPs and Peers would not be allowed a veto over the final Brexit deal in case it gives the EU the incentive to offer the UK bad terms. Downing Street confirmed that the Prime Minister was concerned that the EU would pre-empt any notion of a fair deal by offering unfavourable terms to ensure the agreement was rejected which would mean Britain would remain in the European Union.
However, on Tuesday, the House of Lords voted to support a Labour amendment which called for Parliament to have a veto over the final Brexit outcome. This followed on from the vote last week, in which peers voted to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK after its formal withdrawal from the EU. The Brexit Secretary, David Davis, saw the result as an attempt to frustrate the Government’s negotiations and pledged to overturn the amendment when the bill returns to the Commons next week.
With the middle of the week dominated by the Spring Budget, Thursday saw the Prime Minister attend the latest (and almost certainly her last) EU leader’s summit with European politicians locked in a vocal battle with Poland over the re-election of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council.
At the same summit, Mrs May faced calls from Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, for the UK to pay a “leaving bill” to withdraw from the EU. With surprisingly prescient timing, the BBC broadcast an interview with Boris Johnson in which he urged Britain to follow in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher and fight to secure a British rebate on EU contributions as she did at the 1984 Fontainebleau summit.
This Week in the Economy
The start of the week saw the Chancellor receive a boost as the OECD upgraded its growth predictions for the UK economy. After expanding 1.8% last year, it was predicted that the British economy would grow by 1.6% up from the 1.2% forecast announced last November. However, no changes were made in terms of its projections for 2018, still pegged at 1% which would be the weakest performance since 2009.
This was supported by forecasts released by the OBR which raised its economic growth forecasts for the UK from 1.4% up to 2%, however, it also suggested that the pace of growth would slow down as higher levels of inflation would lead to a curb on consumer spending.
Wednesday saw the release of the Chancellor’s first (and last) Spring Budget. Ahead of the announcement, Mr Hammond underlined there would be “no big surprises” and that any fiscal policy changes would have to be mindful of any economic turbulence caused by triggering Article 50. For a detailed breakdown of the Chamber’s position on the Budget, click here. A number of back-bench Conservative MPs questioned the validity of raising National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, claiming this would discourage entrepreneurialism and revoke a manifesto pledge made in 2015.
The week ended with Theresa May confirming that the implementation of the controversial policy would be delayed until the Autumn.
Here at the GBCC
With the closure of the fieldwork period for our latest Quarterly Business Report, this week saw the announcement of our panel at the Quarterly Business Report launch event. Representatives from the likes of Deutsche Bank and Skan Holdings will be on hand to discuss business confidence in our region and how it ties into the national picture; for more information on the event click here.
This week saw the launch of National Apprenticeship Week with a number of businesses holding events across the region to highlight the importance of hiring apprentices to increase productivity and bolster economic growth. This follows on from the GBCC’s month long Growth Through People campaign which explore a range of topics including upskilling workers and supporting young people in business.
To coincide with the launch of the Midlands Engine Strategy, the Midlands Engine held a regional Trade Summit at the Vox in Birmingham on Thursday. Representatives from the GBCC met with delegates across the business community who were keen to find out more about export opportunities and how they could expand their international reach.