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Brexit Government Submits First Fiscal Policy Statement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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British Finance Minister Philip Hammond. AFP

London- Philip Hammond has delivered his first Autumn Statement since being appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer in July.

A set piece in the parliamentary calendar, the Autumn Statement is generally used by governments to provide an incremental update on economic and fiscal policy.

But given that the current government only came to power in July, 2016’s statement took on increased importance.

Hammond confirmed that the government has formally abandoned its plans to reach a budget surplus by 2020, but that the aim remains to “return to balance as early as is practicable in the next Parliament.”

“Given the weaker growth outlook, and the period of uncertainty that is likely while the UK negotiates a new relationship with the EU, the government will no longer seek to reach a fiscal surplus in this Parliament,” the Autumn Statement said.

The government is now targeting a deficit of 2% of GDP by the end of the current parliament, and a “balanced budget as soon as possible thereafter.”

Hammond presented the latest forecasts from the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), showing that it expects the British economy to grow 1.4% in 2017, down from 2.2% in previous OBR forecasts thanks to “lower investment and weaker consumer demand,” driven by the Brexit vote.

He said on Wednesday that corporation tax would be cut to 17% by 2020 and promised to create a £23 billion investment fund for areas like transport and infrastructure.

For her part, Theresa May told business leaders that she wants to avoid a “cliff edge” after Brexit, but insisted that she will not delay leaving the European Union.

The Prime Minister indicated Tuesday that she will try to get a “transitional” deal for London in a move that could mean that the UK still has to pay EU contributions after Brexit.