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Research theme 4: Brexit and UK Economic Growth in the Public Debate

  • Theme 4, Brexit and UK economic growth in the public debateHow well-informed are the positions on Brexit’s economic impacts within the public debate and political process?
  • How much account is taken of independent assessments like the OBRs?

As well as the technocratic practices of UK growth assessment, this project maps the contours of the charged politics of economic policy. Differing views of the UK’s productive capacity, and which economic policies and trade relations do most to increase future growth potential, are at the heart of UK party political debates, not least in the context of Brexit.

There is little understanding of actual and potential growth assessments, and their implications amongst policy elites, let alone the wider public. The citizenry is denied access to debates about economic policy, unaware of potential biases and problems of false precision introduced by evaluating policy, and future growth, in these terms. Yet the definition and deployment of UK potential growth is crucial for evaluating the fiscal stance, and government economic policy. Under-estimating the potential growth rate can lead to too much fiscal consolidation, whilst over-estimating it could undermine fiscal sustainability.

One way OBR growth forecasts define the limits of the fiscally possible for UK economic and industrial policy is through the ‘fiscal remit’ and the UK's fiscal rules. Spending decisions about, for example, infrastructure investment will be crucial for post-Brexit UK productivity. Through its charting of the UK growth path (and the likely path of the public finances) OBR growth forecasts are imbricated into the politics of austerity.

The project looks into how economic policy and growth debates are covered to unearth what gets accepted as common sense about the UK economy, Brexit and government policy. It then digs deeper to explore what understandings of the British model of capitalism these common sense positions reflect.