The effects of the Brexit trade deal are becoming clearer as new data are released. Figures for UK food imports and exports from and to the EU for the first quarter of 2021 have been published by the Food and Drink Federation. These show a 46.6% fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in Q1 2021 when compared with Q1 2020, and a 55.1% fall when compared with Q1 2019 (before COVID).
The dairy sector has been the hardest hit, with exports of milk and cream to the EU down by more than 90% and exports of cheese down by 67% compared with Q1 2020. Other hard-hit sectors have been soft drinks, fish, potatoes and chicken. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the following chart.)
The Brexit trade deal did not involve the imposition of tariffs on exports and imports. However, with the UK having left the EU single market, there are now many regulatory checks and a considerable amount of paperwork to be completed for each consignment of exports. These frictions are slowing down trade and adding to costs. Although food and drink exports are beginning to recover somewhat, the delays while formalities are completed will have a lasting dampening effect on exports to the EU, especially in the case of perishable goods, such as meat and fish.
Also, farming has been badly affected by labour shortages, with many EU citizens returning to the EU. For example, according to the British Poultry Council (BPC), 10 per cent fewer chickens had been produced since Easter because of worker shortages. Across meat processing generally, similar shortfalls are being recorded because of a lack of labour.
- Find out how exports to the EU from sectors other than food and drink have fared since January this year.
- What are rules of origin? Why are they less likely to apply to food exports to the EU than to manufactured exports?
- Would you describe the Brexit trade deal (the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement) as a ‘free-trade’ deal? Explain.
- What are the particular difficulties for the food and drink sector in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement?
- Find out which parts of the food and drink sector have been particularly affected by labour shortages.
According to Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, the slow growth in global productivity is acting as a brake on the growth in potential income and is thus holding back the growth in living standards. In a recent speech in Washington she said that:
Over the past decade, there have been sharp slowdowns in measured output per worker and total factor productivity – which can be seen as a measure of innovation. In advanced economies, for example, productivity growth has dropped to 0.3 per cent, down from a pre-crisis average of about 1 per cent. This trend has also affected many emerging and developing countries, including China.
We estimate that, if total factor productivity growth had followed its pre-crisis trend, overall GDP in advanced economies would be about 5 percent higher today. That would be the equivalent of adding another Japan – and more – to the global economy.
So why has productivity growth slowed to well below pre-crisis rates? One reason is an ageing working population, with older workers acquiring new skills less quickly. A second is the slowdown in world trade and, with it, the competitive pressure for firms to invest in the latest technologies.
A third is the continuing effect of the financial crisis, with many highly indebted firms forced to make deep cuts in investment and many others being cautious about innovating. The crisis has dampened risk taking – a key component of innovation.
What is clear, said Lagarde, is that more innovation is needed to restore productivity growth. But markets alone cannot achieve this, as the benefits of invention and innovation are, to some extent, public goods. They have considerable positive externalities.
She thus called on governments to give high priority to stimulating productivity growth and unleashing entrepreneurial energy. There are several things governments can do. These include market-orientated supply-side policies, such as removing unnecessary barriers to competition, driving forward international free trade and cutting red tape. They also include direct intervention through greater investment in education and training, infrastructure and public-sector R&D. They also include giving subsidies and/or tax relief for private-sector R&D.
Banks too have a role in chanelling finance away from low-productivity firms and towards ‘young and vibrant companies’.
It is important to recognise, she concluded, that innovation and structural change can lead to some people losing out, with job losses, low wages and social deprivation. Support should be given to such people through better education, retraining and employment incentives.
IMF chief warns slowing productivity risks living standards drop Reuters, David Lawder (3/4/17)
Global productivity slowdown risks social turmoil, IMF warns Financial Times, Shawn Donnan (3/4/17)
Global productivity slowdown risks creating instability, warns IMF The Guardian, Katie Allen (3/4/17)
The Guardian view on productivity: Britain must solve the puzzle The Guardian (9/4/17)
Reinvigorating Productivity Growth IMF Speeches, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF(3/4/17)
Gone with the Headwinds: Global Productivity IMF Staff Discussion Note, Gustavo Adler, Romain Duval, Davide Furceri, Sinem Kiliç Çelik, Ksenia Koloskova and Marcos Poplawski-Ribeiro (April 2017)
- What is the relationship between actual and potential economic growth?
- Distinguish between labour productivity and total factor productivity.
- Why has total factor productivity growth been considerably slower since the financial crisis than before?
- Is sustained productivity growth (a) a necessary and/or (b) a sufficient condition for a sustained growth in living standards?
- Give some examples of technological developments that could feed through into significant growth in productivity.
- What is the relationship between immigration and productivity growth?
- What policies would you advocate for increasing productivity? Explain why.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivered the annual Budget on 23 March. He was very keen to have a ‘Budget for growth’ given the pessimism of consumers (see Table 1, UK, line 3, in Business and Consumer Survey Results, February 2011) and the bad news on inflation (see 4.4% and rising?).
But what could he do? Despite being urged by the Labour opposition to stimulate aggregate demand by cutting the deficit more slowly, he ruled out this alternative. It would be perceived by markets, he argued, as a sign that he was ‘gong soft’ on the commitment to tackle the deficit.
If stimulating aggregate demand directly was out, the alternative was to use supply-side policy: to provide more favourable conditions for business by cutting ‘red tape’, providing tax incentives for investment, reducing regulations, simplifying tax, cutting corporation tax financed by tax increases elsewhere, creating 21 ‘enterprise zones’ and funding extra apprenticeships and work experience placements.
The links below give details of the measures and consider their likely effectiveness. Crucially, the Budget will be much more successful in encouraging investment if people think it will be successful. In other words, its success depends on how it affects people’s expectations. Will it help confidence to return – or will the impending tax increases and cuts on government expenditure only make people more pessimistic?
Budget: Chancellor George Osborne opens speech BBC News (23/3/11)
Budget: Osborne wants to ‘simplify taxes’ BBC News (23/3/11)
Budget: Osborne lowers corporation tax BBC News (23/3/11)
Budget: BBC Economics editor Stephanie Flanders BBC News (23/3/11)
Budget: BBC business editor Robert Peston BBC News (23/3/11)
Enterprise Zones on the way back Channel 4 News, Siobhan Kennedy (22/3/11)
Osborne’s Budget ‘to fuel growth’ BBC News (23/3/11)
A budget for big business BBC News blogs, Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (23/3/11)
Budget 2011: tax grab is the real story Guardian, Patrick Collinson (23/3/11)
Budget 2011 – full details Independent (23/3/11)
Osborne shakes up corporation tax Financial Times, Vanessa Houlder (23/3/11)
Osborne unveils ‘Budget for growth’ Financial Times, Daniel Pimlott and Chris Giles (23/3/11)
Budget 2011: Guardian columnists’ verdict Guardian, Jackie Ashley, Martin Kettle, George Monbiot, Julian Glover (23/3/11)
Budget 2011: a million low-paid people escape tax but fiscal drag catches others The Telegraph, Ian Cowie (23/3/11)
Budget 2011: some good news and lots of micro-management The Telegraph, Janet Daley (23/3/11)
Micro trumps macro BBC News Blogs: Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (23/3/11)
George Osborne, growing giant of the Tory party, launches ‘slow burn’ Budget Guardian, Nicholas Watt (23/3/11)
2011 Budget, HM Treasury (23/3/11)
Budget 2011 press notice, HM Treasury (23/3/11)
2011 Budget documents, HM Treasury (23/3/11)
- What supply-side policies were included in the Budget?
- What will be the impact of the Budget measures on aggregate demand?
- What are the major factors that are likely to influence the rate of economic growth over the coming months?
- What would have been the advantages and disadvantages of a more expansionary (or less contractionary) Budget?
- What will be the effects of the Budget measures on the distribution of income (after taxes and benefits)?