Tomorrow, the United Kingdom’s chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will present an economic update to his colleagues sitting in the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and will detail what is likely to be that nation’s smallest deficit in the past 16 years. It’s not a full-blown budget per se, more a briefing on how the economy is performing. For most ministers of finance, a difference of just 2 per cent between what’s spent and what’s taken in might be the cause to loosen the purse strings. For Hammond, that is highly unlikely, given that he must plan for the economic shock, disruption and the simply unknown as his nation prepares to leave the European Union.
Right now, Hammond is only all too aware that the UK’s National Health Service is broken, patients lying in corridors, the sick waiting too long to be seen, operations delayed, and overworked staff — particularly non-British nurses and carers unsure of a post-Brexit future — leaving in droves. The UK’s trains are straining from angry passengers upset at operating franchises, high fares and poorer service. And public service workers are demoralised by frozen pay levels and years of austerity and service cuts.
But into this mix is added Brexit. Economic forecasts from the government’s own public service has been dismissed by Brexiteers as not being reliable, yet the best-case scenario offers slower economic growth and an 8 per cent difference between out and in of the EU. Hammond must also set aside revenue to cover the £40 billion (Dh203 billion) cost of leaving. So much then for the Brexit campaign claim that leaving would mean £350 million weekly for health services. And those pounds are worth far less now that before.