Sun | Feb 17, 2019

Brexit toll: UK economy at weakest since financial crisis

Published:Monday | February 11, 2019 | 10:18 AM
AP photo

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s economy slowed last year to its weakest growth rate since the global financial crisis as mounting uncertainty over Brexit weighed on businesses and kept a lid on their investments, official figures showed Monday.

The Office for National Statistics said that the British economy grew by a quarterly rate of only 0.2 percent during the fourth quarter, down from the 0.6 percent tick recorded in the previous three-month period.

Output actually fell in the month of December, by 0.4 percent from November, though monthly data are known to be volatile.

For 2018 as a whole, the economy grew by 1.4 percent, its lowest rate since 2009, when it contracted by 4.2 percent in the wake of the global financial crisis that had brought much of the world’s banking system to its knees.

Britain’s economy was likely hurt by global trends, such as trade tensions between the U.S. and China that have weighed on world growth.

And many trading partners in Europe, such as Germany and Italy, have suffered a slowdown.

But there is plenty of evidence that uncertainty around to the country’s departure from the European Union was the main factor weighing on the economy, particularly on business investment.

In the fourth quarter, business investment fell by 1.4 percent for the fourth straight quarterly decline — the first time that has happened since the financial crisis.

With less than 50 days to go to Brexit day on March 29, firms have no idea what the country’s new trading relationship with the EU will look like, so they’re taking a safety-first approach.

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