Brexit set to hamper post-Covid economic recovery

Despite hopes a new Covid-19 vaccine could boost growth from early next year, the fall-out from the UK’s departure from the EU in January means the economy is not likely to recover to pre-pandemic levels for another two years, KPMG is warning

The firm’s analysis indicates Brexit could cost the UK economy 2.9 percentage points, bringing GDP growth down to 7.2% in 2021. In contrast, the economic impact of the current lockdown will be relatively mild, with GDP falling by 2% in the final quarter of 2020.

The manufacturing sectors hardest hit by Brexit, including textiles, chemicals and electrical manufacturing, could see output at the end of 2021 between 6% and 12% lower than in Q4 2019.

KPMG says this is down to bottlenecks in supply chains, border frictions and falling investment, as well as the ongoing fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Uncertainty and loss of access to the EU market for the UK’s financial services sector could lead to 10% lower output over the same period, while the UK economy as a whole is not expected to reach pre-Covid levels until the end of 2022. 

The analysis assumes that a slimmed-down Brexit deal is agreed by year-end, which excludes services, and a vaccine is ready to be rolled out early next year, which brings about the end of social distancing restrictions by late spring.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, said: ‘The impact of Brexit will single the UK out among advanced economies next year.

‘While the government will need to address the short-term needs of businesses as they cope with the transition to a new trading relationship, it is also important that it increases investment in the infrastructure and skills that will be needed in order to alleviate the longer-term impact Brexit will have on productivity and growth.’

KPMG’s analysis indicated the ongoing efforts to contain the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic across the UK could cause a milder than expected 2% fall in GDP in the current quarter, leading to an 11.2% contraction in output for 2020.

However, while the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS)  has probably forestalled a sharp increase in unemployment this year, mounting losses and business closures could push the unemployment rate to peak at 7.8% in May next year before gradually subsiding as the economy continues to recover.    

Selfin said: ‘While we can hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are further challenges ahead for the UK economy.

‘Brexit and changes to working, communicating, and shopping habits reinforced by the pandemic will require all of us to adjust to new realities.’

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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