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Saturday, Jan 23, 2021

Chancellor fears 'significant recession' now 'very likely'

The Chancellor has warned Britain to expect a ‘significant recession’ as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Rishi Sunak branded the chances of one happening ‘very likely’ on the day that it was revealed the economy shrank a record 5.8% in March alone. Mr Sunak told the BBC: ‘It is now very likely that the UK economy will face a significant recession this year and we are in the middle of that as we speak.’

The governor of the Bank of England echoed the concerns, suggesting the country is moving sharply towards a recession. Andrew Bailey was asked about new economic figures showing the economy shrank by 5.8% in March and 2% in the first quarter of the year as a whole.

He told ITV’s Peston: ‘Well, I think it tends to confirm that we’ve got a very sharp move into recession and it was quite sudden, which is obviously what we’ve all observed from the shutting down of the economy so, to be frank, we’re not really surprised by that number at all.’

Pressed on the debate over whether a new round of cuts would be needed to deal with the economic fall-out of the crisis, Mr Bailey said: ‘Obviously, it’s not for the Bank of England to comment on fiscal policy.

‘What I would say is that I think there are choices, and I think those choices will be looked at very seriously.

‘I think one of the reasons that the Bank of England obviously acquiring a much larger stock of government debt than if you go back to the financial crisis of 10 or 12 years ago would have been imagined, is that I think what we can do, providing the overall credibility of the framework remains in place, and independence is very important to that point, is that we can help to spread over time the cost of this thing to society.

‘And that to me is important. We have choices there and we need to exercise those choices.’

He also warned about the impact of a possible second spike of the disease.

Asked if he felt the costs of the lockdown were worth paying compared with the potential second peak in infections, the Bank governor said: ‘I do think that they are right to be cautious on this front from an economic point of view.

‘Because I think that the risk of a second, a big second spike, is that it could damage public confidence in ways that would then have a much longer lasting effect, and therefore a much longer lasting effect on the economy.

‘Were there to be a substantial second wave, it would damage public confidence and it would then obviously rebound back into the economy.’

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