Britain's Brexit economy is "mediocre" compared to other EU countries

Opinion piece (New Europe)
26 September 2016

Brexit Britain: The Poor Man of Western Europe?”, the latest report of the Centre for European Reform authored by Simon Tilford criticizes Britain’s economy and decision for Brexit.  It brings forth evidence that Britain is not the strong economic leader that the public perceives it as being.

Through a series of graphs, Tilford demonstrates the significant shortfalls that the UK’s economy has experienced.  He compares the UK to the other big players in Europe – France, Germany, Spain, and Italy – and concludes that Britain is doing substantially worse than them in multiple comparisons.

Britain’s GDP per capita has been the same or below the other countries’ as shown in one graph, while another shows “Britain’s awful productivity performance” as compared to the productivity of the other countries.  It has been falling for the last ten years.  British people are also working more hours for their money, whereas people in France and Germany are working less than they did in 2000.

He also highlights the extreme differences in GDP between London, the rest of the UK, and the EU-15 average, in which London is significantly above the other regions including Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

In order to explain the gap between Britain and the other countries, Tilford looks to reasons such as education and points out that there are much fewer British 18 year-olds in school than in the other four countries.

He also looks to Britain’s housing system, claiming that “despite strong population growth and rapid price increases, the UK is building little more than half as many houses as in the 1970s.”

Physical infrastructure, political centralization, and corporate governance are some of the other reasons that he gives for “the UK’s mediocre performance.”

Brexit will have impacts on the UK’s economy, particularly in the field of trade.  “The loss of unimpeded access to the EU’s single market will reduce the attractiveness of the UK to foreign investors,” he writes.

Overall, the author believes that “Brexit is likely to exaggerate most, if not all, of these problems” and concludes that “the result is that the UK economy is likely to remain at best a mediocre performer in EU-15 context.”