British economy shrunk in 2nd quarter, figures show

The British economy contracted in the second quarter of 2019, driving fears it may be headed for its first recession in 10 years — as the deadline for leaving the European Union looms in October.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said Friday Britain’s economy remains strong despite concerns over its EU departure in October. File Photo by Hugo Philpott

The Office of National Statistics reported Friday Britain’s gross national product fell for the first time in nearly seven years, as unsettled questions over Brexit shook the business community.

ONS head of national accounts Rob Kent-Smith said the contraction followed “robust growth” in the first quarter and that manufacturing output fell off after a strong start in 2019. He added the construction sector also slowed while the service sector was flat.

“The trade deficit narrowed markedly, as imports fell following a sharp rise in the first quarter ahead of the U.K.’s original departure date from the EU,” Kent-Smith said.

The statistics office said growth from April through June declined 0.2 percent, continuing a steady decline that followed growth to start the year.

“This is a challenging period across the global economy, with growth slowing in many countries,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said. “But the fundamentals of the British economy are strong — wages are growing, employment is at a record high and we’re forecast to grow faster than Germany, Italy and Japan this year.

“The government is determined to provide certainty to people and businesses on Brexit — that’s why we are clear that the U.K. is leaving the EU on Oct. 31,” he continued.

In light of Britain’s forthcoming EU exit, Javid announced a one-year spending review to give government departments “financial certainty.”

ByClyde Hughes