United Kingdom watchdog puts Brexit war chest at £26.6b

United Kingdom watchdog puts Brexit war chest at £26.6b

Britain has lowered its official forecast for economic growth in 2019, finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday as he delivered a half-yearly budget update.

But he insisted the economy remained "remarkably robust".

In documents released alongside Chancellor Philip Hammond's Spring Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said growth in the United Kingdom and global economies had slowed since October's Budget, leading to a downgrade in its short-term forecasts.

That raises the prospect that Brexit will be delayed, bringing relief to businesses but extending the uncertainty hanging over the economy.

Despite this year's downgrade Mr Hammond said: "Cumulative growth over the five years is now slightly higher than the Budget forecast".

Philip Hammond has promised to spend £26 billion on public services and investment if MPs vote to leave the European Union with a deal.

"I'm confident that we're going to do a deal", Hammond said on Brexit.

Delivering his spring statement after MPs emphatically rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal for a second time on Tuesday night, the chancellor said the issue was "damaging our standing and reputation in the world".

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He warned: "Leaving with no deal would mean significant disruption in the short and medium-term and a smaller, less prosperous economy in the long-term, than if we leave with a deal".

Global growth is slowing, but United Kingdom wages are rising at their highest rate for a decade, amid record job creation.

Hammond revealed in his Spring Statement that the forecast for the country's growth in 2019 was 1.2 percent, the weakest since 2009, a sharp drop from the 1.6 percent predicted in the his budget last October.

He said that it was "disappointing" that the chancellor had missed the opportunity to provide desperately-needed funding for local services, and added that Brexit can not be a distraction from the challenges facing our public services.

Analysts expect parliament instead to favor delaying Britain's departure beyond the March 29 exit date, in a further vote due Thursday.

Responding to the Spring Statement, chairman of the LGA Lord Porter said: "The government's plan to publish the Spending Review alongside the Autumn Budget this year could exacerbate the funding challenges facing councils and will severely hamper their ability to plan ahead for next year and beyond".

He remarked: "By once again declining to set totals for the forthcoming spending review, [the chancellor] deferred making some of the biggest non-Brexit decisions of the parliament".

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