In Brief

Boris Johnson urged to act to end economic ‘stagnation’

Influential business group says newly re-elected government must make ‘big decisions’ and boost growth

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is calling on Boris Johnson to act decisively to boost growth and business confidence, as new research shows the British economy ended 2019 in a state of “stagnation”.

The influential business group surveyed almost 6,500 UK firms employing a total of more than 8,000 staff in November 2019, before Johnson returned an 80-strong majority in last month’s general election. The findings suggest “protracted weakness” across the economy, affecting firms in manufacturing and services, according to a newly published BCC report.

The group’s director-general, Dr Adam Marshall, is urging the Government to use its newfound parliamentary majority to “take big decisions to stimulate growth”, with a focus on bringing forward infrastructure spending, reducing business costs, supporting training and ensuring certainty on the future of trade with former EU partners following Brexit.

Marshall said: “The end of political deadlock at Westminster must also bring action to renew business confidence and tackle the prolonged stagnation that’s affecting so much of the UK economy.”

The Government must “move quickly over the coming weeks to ensure that Brexit is done right”, he added.

The BCC survey “highlighted a worsening picture in the services sector”, which accounts for almost 80% of Britain’s economic output, reports The Independent.

“All of the sector’s key indicators worsened compared to the previous quarter, remaining well below their historic average,” the newspaper says.

And “indicators for factories’ export and domestic orders were negative for two consecutive quarters for the first time in a decade, and manufacturers’ investment plans hit an eight-year low”, reports The Guardian.

Cash flow, a key indicator of the health of businesses, improved slightly, but remained weak across the manufacturing and service industries.

The BCC estimates that the UK economy grew by 1.3% in 2019 and predicts that growth will slow to 1% in 2020 - which would be the weakest performance since 2009.

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