The UK government on Wednesday announced that it is setting aside an extra 3 billion pounds over the next two years in preparation for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) after last year’s referendum in favour of Brexit, reports news agency PTI.
In his much-anticipated Budget speech, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond was cheered in the House of Commons as he announced that the government will stand ready to allocate further sums in preparation for “every possible outcome” in the tough Brexit negotiations with Brussels.
“While we work to achieve this deep and special partnership [with the EU] we are determined to make sure the country is prepared for every possible outcome,” Hammond said.
“We have already invested almost 700 million pounds in Brexit preparations and today I am setting aside over the next two years another 3 billion pounds and I stand ready to allocate further sums if and when needed. No one should doubt our resolve,” he said.
The finance minister designed his Budget as a vision for a “Global Britain” after Brexit, which will have a “prosperous and inclusive economy where everybody has the opportunity to shine wherever in the UK they live, whatever their background”.
And he described this Global Britain as an “outward looking, free-trading nation, a force for good in the world, a country fit for the future”.
His announcements will help curb some of the brewing rebellion within the ruling Conservative party ranks, where many of Hammond’s colleagues believe his pro-EU views have prevented him from being proactive on financially preparing for Brexit.
The Budget announcement is also an indication to the EU that the UK is prepared for a worst-case, no-deal scenario ahead of crunch talks at a summit in Brussels next month.
Britain has been pushing EU leaders to move on to post-Brexit trade discussions, while Europe has been insisting that no such talks can begin until the so-called “divorce bill” of the money owed by the UK to EU is finalised.
This week’s Budget statement was seen as a “make or break” scenario for Hammond’s future as Chancellor in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet and many of his Brexit related announcements will see him through a major hurdle. Among some of the other populist measures include abolition of stamp duty for most first-time buyers in the UK.
The change, effective immediately, will mean those buying properties worth up to 300,000 pounds or up to 500,000 pounds in more expensive areas will save 5,000 pounds.
With housing singled out by Theresa May as the key crisis facing the country that her government pledged to address, the Chancellor’s statements have been widely welcomed. He also allocated an additional 44 billion pounds investment as part of the government’s drive to deliver 300,000 new homes a year.
Hammond promised to spend an extra 2.8 billion pounds on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) up to 2022 and pledged support for electric cars including a 400 million pounds towards charging infrastructure fund.
The senior Cabinet minister claimed the UK economy “continues to confound those who talk it down” and revealed that the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility predicts 1.5 per cent growth for 2017, which is lower than the 2 per cent forecast in the March Budget but predicts borrowing to be lower than it did in March, at 49.9 billion pounds.