It comes as GDP shrank by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2019 as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) latest figures on the state of the economy showed the first contraction since 2012.
Reacting to the dire numbers, Sajid Javid, the chancellor, insisted the “fundamentals” of the British economy remained strong, but admitted that it was a “challenging period” across the globe.
His opposite number, however, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, seized on the figures as a “direct result of Tory incompetence”.
“The Tories’ Brexit bungling, including Boris Johnson now taking us towards no-deal, is breaking the economy,” he said.
The Conservatives, Mr McDonnell added, “are responsible for tumbling business investment and stagnating productivity – and that, along with nine years of austerity, has contributed to GDP contracting today”.
Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat MP and treasury spokesperson, said the figures were evidence that Mr Johnson’s threat of leaving the EU without a deal has “crashed our economy”.
He continued: “Pursuing a no-deal Brexit is a political choice without a mandate: these figures show people’s jobs and livelihoods are being sacrificed at the altar of political extremism”.
Labour MP David Lammy added: “Two weeks into Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit government and we are now officially halfway towards a recession.
“Struggling families, schools, hospitals and other vital services will suffer unless we change course.”
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the prime minister’s “toxic” threat to take the UK out of the EU without a deal “only adds to the alarm” and major worries facing workers and businesses.
“No responsible leader would contemplate inflicting such a crisis on the nation,” she said.
Speaking as the figures were unveiled, Mr Javid claimed: “This is a challenging period across the global economy, with growth slowing in many countries.
“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 UK is leaving the EU on 31 October.”
The chancellor reiterated the government will accelerate plans for departmental budgets with a 12-month spending round to be completed next month – in order to free up ministries for Brexit on 31 October.
“I’ve announced an accelerated Spending Round so ministers can focus on delivering Brexit, while also delivering the investment we promised in priority areas like schools, police and our NHS,” he said on Friday.
Alpesh Paleja, the lead economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the contraction in the economy was concerning, but attributed it to a “number of one-off factors”.
She continued: “Growth has been pushed down by an unwind of stockpiling and car manufacturers shifting their seasonal shutdowns.
“Nonetheless, it’s clear from our business surveys that underlying momentum remains lukewarm, choked by a combination of slower global growth and Brexit uncertainty”.
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