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A rare moment of Brexit brightness from the Great Remainer

Infinox Contributor
General Election - Economy
A rare moment of Brexit brightness from the Great Remainer (Source: Getty)

The man who first coined the term BRICs - the economics sage Jim O’Neill - has just passed a surprisingly upbeat judgment on the economic impact of Brexit.

Lord O’Neill, the former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, was a leading voice in the 2016 Remain campaign.

The man who first identified Brazil, Russia, India and China as the 21st century’s rising global powers is a highly regarded economist, and when he speaks, the markets listen.

So for him to say Brexit hasn’t hurt the UK as much as he’d feared is an important departure. But Brexiteers shouldn’t rush to congratulate themselves at winning a new supporter.

Interviewed by the BBC at Davos ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Lord O’Neill said the UK economy has shown terrific resilience in the face of the uncertainty caused by Brexit thus far.

That’s neither a Damascene conversion to the Brexit cause or a prediction that all will be rosy after all.

The implication is instead that were it not for the Brexit uncertainty, Britain’s economy would be flying - much like the economies of the US, most of Europe and China.

As it is, the British economy is benefitting indirectly from growth in those regions thanks to trade. Lord O’Neill suggests this is helping lessen the impact of Brexit and, in all likelihood, will lead to an upward revision of UK economic growth in 2018 and beyond.

Let’s face it, growth is growth. If the UK economy isn’t going to be blown off course completely by Brexit, this is still cause for celebration - whichever way any of us voted in the referendum.

There is, however, quite a long way to go before we know the full impact of Brexit on the UK economy. And it is impossible to say how long the global economic boom will last.

As Lord O’Neill says, it does seem odd to be leaving a European economy that is currently booming.

But then again, maybe, for Brexit to actually work for Britain rather than doing irreparable damage, now is also the best time to leave.

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