The UK economy shrank in size between April and June 2019, the first fall since 2012. The news came as a surprise to the markets and if a second quarterly fall is confirmed later in the year then the UK economy would technically be in a recession.
Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rejected any notion of a second quarterly fall, saying:
“I am not expecting a recession at all. And in fact, don’t take my word for it. There’s not a single leading forecaster out there that is expecting a recession, the independent Bank of England is not expecting a recession. And that’s because they know that the fundamentals remain strong.”
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:
“Today’s dismal economic figures are a direct result of Tory incompetence. The Tories’ Brexit bungling, including Boris Johnson now taking us towards no-deal, is breaking the economy. The Tories are responsible for tumbling business investment and stagnating productivity – and that, along with nine years of austerity, has contributed to GDP contracting today.”
Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has confirmed that £2.1 billion of additional funding will be made available to help with the preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The money will consist of £1.1 billion immediately to deal with critical areas relating to the UK’s departure from the EU, with a further £1 billion earmarked to enhance operational preparedness at the time of departure.
Javid said in a statement:
“With 92 days until the UK leaves the European Union it’s vital that we intensify our planning to ensure we are ready. We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop. But if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one. This additional £2.1 billion will ensure we are ready to leave on 31 October – deal or no deal.”
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a statement:
“This is an appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash, all for the sake of Boris Johnson’s drive towards a totally avoidable No Deal. This government could have ruled out No Deal, and spent these billions on our schools, hospitals, and people. “Labour is a party for the whole of the UK, so we’ll do all we can to block a No Deal, crash-out Brexit – and we’ll deliver a transformative economic policy that delivers for the many, not the few.”
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said in an interview with the BBC that a second vote on Brexit may now be “inevitable”. He said that the Labour Party would prefer a General Election, but said that in the event that the party couldn’t force an election, they would likely be in favour of a second referendum to clear the deadlock.
McDonnell said that he would vote to remain in any second vote, but that he didn’t feel that the outcome would be inevitable. He said to the BBC:
“So, the caution for them and for all of us, whichever argument you put, is the people will decide. As we saw in the last referendum, it’s very difficult to predict which way the people will decide on this. I’ve seen a lot of polls that have said there has been a shift from Leave to Remain. I’ve also seen other polls saying actually we’re just about the same as we were then”.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, criticised the plan saying that a second vote by the British electorate was “an attempt to overthrow the will of the people”.
The Office for the National Statistics, the ONS, has said that UK growth increased by only 0.1% over the last quarter, increasing fears that Brexit has caused damage to the economy.
The ONS said:
“The preliminary estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) shows that the UK economy grew by 0.1% in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, the weakest quarterly growth since Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2012. The weak growth in Quarter 1 2018 was driven by a sharp fall in construction output and a sluggish manufacturing sector, while growth in services also slowed. Today’s figures suggest that the overall impact from the recent snow and adverse weather conditions across the UK was relatively small”.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that the figures were “disapppointing”.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:
“It’s clear to everyone except Philip Hammond that our economy is in need of increased investment and working families are struggling with the cost of living and the burden of increasing household debt”.
Christine Shawcroft, a member of the Labour’s governing National Executive Committee, has plunged the party into a new anti-semitism crisis after she has refused to stand down after backing a Holocaust denier party member. Shawcroft stood down from her disciplinary role on the committee, but has refused to resign from it.
Around 40 Labour MPs and Peers have today responded by writing a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, calling for Shawcroft to be suspended from the party pending an investigation. Some of the signatories of the letter are members of the Shadow Ministerial team, including Mike Kane, Jonathan Reynolds and Lord Hunt.
Corbyn has yet to comment on the letter, but John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said that the leadership would not intervene, saying “it’s an elected position and it’s up to the electorate to decide if she should be elected again”.
When standing down from the disciplinary role Shawcroft said that she hadn’t been aware of the situation when she called for the candidate to be reinstated and she said in a statement:
“I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes. We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members”.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has clarified Labour’s position on the Salisbury attack and said that he considers that the Russians were responsible. He also denied that Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, had a different policy and said that the Labour Party was supportive of the Government’s position.
When asked if McDonnell thought that Putin was responsible for the attack he said:
“He is responsible whichever way you look at it, he is responsible and all the evidence points to him”.
When asked if Jeremy Corbyn had a different policy and was critical of the Prime Minister, McDonnell said:
“It was a critique. It was asking questions about investment in diplomacy, it was asking questions about where you go from here in building that international coalition. That is what oppositions do and it was a constructive critique, I think others have misread that”.
Jared O’Mara, the newly elected MP for Sheffield Hallam, has been suspended from the Labour Party following a series of racist, homophobic and sexist comments made before he was elected. It has been alleged that O’Mara did not draw the party’s attention to these comments before being selected for the seat, with further allegations made about his recent conduct.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that a number of Labour MPs had defended O’Mara until further revelations had been uncovered. McDonnell said:
“New information has come to light, so quite rightly the Labour Party has acted swiftly. He’s been suspended, the whip has been withdrawn”.
The Liberal Democrats have confirmed that they are selecting a candidate in case O’Mara is forced to resign from his role as an MP.
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, questioned whether O’Mara had lied to the party before seeking election as an MP. Speaking to ITV she said:
“One of the key questions you are asked when you become a candidate for the Labour Party — and you have to sign a contract to say this — is there anything in your past that would bring the party into disrepute? And I don’t understand how in all honesty Jared could have signed that paper”.
The Labour Party has confirmed that conference delegates will not get the chance to discuss Brexit as one of the eight key debates chosen for discussion. The debates will instead focus on other domestic issues such as housing, social care and the economy.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that a debate might split the party, saying:
“On Brexit, the interesting thing is people are trying to build a consensus now, and not divide the party. And also, what I think is interesting is to build a consensus not just in our party but within our communities. I think that’s the nature of the decisions”.
Chris Leslie, the Labour MP for Nottingham East and the former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, criticised the move and said on Twitter:
“How utterly ridiculous. Many members will be shocked at manoeuvring to avoid biggest issue of our time”.
Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, also criticised the move writing on Twitter:
“I can’t believe no Brexit related motion is being debated at #Lab17 tomorrow. We should not be ducking this debate -we should be leading it”.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said that the party would limit the amount of interest that could be charged on credit card debt. The measure will be announced in the Shadow Chancellor’s speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and he is expected to say:
“The Financial Conduct Authority has argued for action to be taken on credit card debt as on payday loans. I am calling upon the government to act now apply the same rules on payday loans to credit card debt.
It means that no-one will ever pay more in interest than their original loan. If the Tories refuse to act, I can announce today that the next Labour Government will amend the law”.
The ONS has warned that there has been a “notable slowdown” in the economy following the publication of the second quarter GDP figures. The UK economy has grown by 0.3% between April to June 2017, but construction and manufacturing growth is negative compared to the previous quarter.
Darren Morgan from the ONS said:
“The economy has experienced a notable slowdown in the first half of this year. While services such as retail, and film production and distribution showed some improvement in the second quarter, a weaker performance from construction and manufacturing pulled down overall growth”.
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, welcomed the economic growth but added:
“We need to focus on restoring productivity growth to deliver higher wages and living standards for people across the country”.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said in a statement:
“Growth for the first half of 2017 is below expectations, and it follows continued data showing working families are being squeezed with wages not keeping up with prices. The truth is that the Tories’ austerity cuts have undermined working people’s living standards and weakened the UK economy”.