This is music to the ears of the Brexit crowd: “The referendum result appears, so far, not to have had a major effect on the UK economy.”
That is the official verdict from Joe Grice at the Office for National Statistics, who is officially an unbiased economist due to his position there.
“There has been no sign of a major collapse in confidence and, within the data that is available, some indicators of strength,” he added.
If you are a Leave voter — or a Tory MP trying to persuade Theresa May to hurry up and trigger Article 50 — you could not ask for more.
All the dire predictions, the worst-case scenarios of the Remain crowd — none of that has come true. Remember, just weeks ago, the pro-Europe camp was predicting a “do-it-yourself recession” beginning in the third quarter this year.
So get ready for the UKIP-pers and their fellow travellers to start celebrating. We told you so, they will say. People still want to trade with Britain! We’re not dependent on Europe for our economy!
But hold that thought.
Grice is talking about the past, not the future.
While it is certainly true that the predictions of immediate doom have not come true, we are still only a few weeks into the process yet. The UK may have shrugged off the uncertainty caused by the EU Referendum. But no actual real-life changes have taken place yet — so it is perhaps not terrifically surprising that the consequences have been so light, do far.
In fact, a much more important report was published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Brexit will cut UK GDP growth from 2% to 1% next year, it said. UK GDP is about £1.8 trillion per year. So that 1 percentage point cut will wipe about £18 billion of economic activity off the chart.
£18 billion in damage is not a trivial amount. It is twice the value of all the activity generated by banks that hold EU passporting rights for financial services, for instance.
So, let the Leavers drink their champagne now.
The real test will come in 2017, when prime minister May triggers Article 50. All the foreign companies with operations in Britain will begin moving their HQ offices to France, Germany and Amsterdam. There won’t be much call for champagne at that point.
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