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Philip Hammond dodges the question

The main point of the budget was to avoid the real question marks looming over the UK’s economic prospects—Brexit and demographic strains

By Jonathan Portes  

Photo: Claire Doherty/SIPA USA/PA Images

The relatively healthy state of the UK public finances is a mixed blessing for Philip Hammond and the Treasury. While Brexit has—as the OBR and other credible independent forecasters have shown—depressed growth, the impact on the public finances has largely been offset by unexpected strength in employment growth and unforeseen underspends in the public sector. The chancellor has essentially spent all of this windfall gain of £15bn a year or so—enabling him to claim that “austerity is coming to an end.” Hardly: the extra…

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