It’s not often there is some incontrovertibly positive news about the economy, but today we’ve had some.
Audit and business advisory firm PwC has polled 1,600 chief executives, and found that they think the UK is the fourth most important target in the world for companies looking to make investments. PwC said Britain’s reputation for stability – which we all thought was in tatters after the last three years of Brexit rowing – has been restored to levels last seen in 2015, pre referendum.
Bosses in Germany France, and Italy in particular were particularly effusive in their regard for Britain as a land of investment opportunity, and overall we were the joint-fourth most important country for growth for those CEOs, after the United States, China, and Germany.
What is interesting about this poll though, is it was conducted last autumn, when political fever was at its highest. Remember, Boris Johnson was leading a minority government, Brexit bills were being thrown around the place, rows about parliamentary process were commonplace.
It would be fascinating to know what those same CEOs think now that stability really has manifested in the form of a Tory majority, the certainty of the next 12 months of the implementation period, and the sense that political stalemate has finally been overcome. Those were all serious sources of doubt about the future of Britain’s reputation for soberness and pragmatism.
PwC’s chairman, Kevin Ellis, tried his best to elucidate: “The findings provide timely perspective on the UK’s standing as a place to invest and do business. Viewed against the turbulent global backdrop, the UK is a beacon of relative stability.
“You can’t replicate natural advantages like our timezone and location between the US, Asia and the rest of Europe, but more than that the UK is a fair and trusted place to do business.”
The news gets even better. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reckons the UK will grow faster than any Eurozone country for the first two years after Brexit – a change of tune for an organisation that had predicted growth difficulties for Britain as a result of leaving the European Union.
The IMF said the UK economy had grown faster than the Eurozone average in 2019, which amounts to three consecutive years of faster growth, according to the latest forecasts.
The IMF also reckons that the German recovery will be weaker than hoped, and a slowdown in Spain is likely to be a drag on the European economy during 2020, a situation worsened by the the spectre of a global slowdown, though this threat does seem to have receded somewhat.
The prospect of British growth is nothing to write home about however, given that it is likely to be 1.4% in 2020 and 1.5% in 2021. Inflation in the UK is currently hovering around the 1.7% mark, meaning there is unlikely to be a great boom-feeling among businesses. But it is at least welcome, given how worried industry has been, that do not look to be going into reverse.