Philip Hammond has admitted that the Brexit vote’s blow to the economy would force the government to borrow £122bn more than hoped as he pushed back government plans to balance the books in his autumn statement.
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In the government’s first major economic announcement since the vote in June to leave the EU, the new chancellor said the economy was faring well in the wake of the referendum result but growth would slow markedly next year on the back of weaker business spending and a squeeze on household budgets from rising living costs.
“Our task now is to prepare our economy to be resilient as we exit the EU and match-fit for the transition that will follow,” said Hammond, who replaced George Osborne as chancellor in the political crisis that followed the referendum.
Labour said Hammond’s statement was an admission that the government’s long-term economic plan had failed. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said it showed “the abject failure of the last six wasted years”.
Hammond began his speech with a robust defence of the economy’s performance following the 23 June referendum, saying it had “confounded commentators at home and abroad with its strength and resilience since the British people decided, exactly five months ago today, to leave the European Union and chart a new future for our country”.
But the chancellor soon began outlining a very different picture, saying the government had “more work to do to eliminate the deficit”.
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