BCC downgrades forecast as coronavirus threatens economy

Credit: Shutterstock.com/ David Carillet

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has downgraded its growth expectations for 2020 as the business group says coronavirus could further weaken the UK economy.

As the nation’s economic growth is expected to slow sharply this year amid disruption caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, BCC has downgraded its UK GDP growth expectations for 2020 to 0.8% from the previous forecast of 1.0%.

Outside of the 2008/09 financial crisis, this would be the weakest full-year growth outturn since 1992 and down sharply from UK GDP growth of 1.4% in 2019.

UK GDP growth is then expected to pick up in subsequent years: to 1.4% in 2021 and 1.6% in 2022.

The BCC forecast indicates that by the end of 2022, the UK economy will have grown below its historic average growth rate of 2.6% for eight successive years, the longest period since records began.

The disruptive impact of coronavirus is expected to weigh significantly on key drivers of UK GDP growth through the first half of 2020.

A lack of clarity on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU and other partners around the world and a struggling global economy is also predicted to limit UK’s near-term growth prospects.

On the upside, historically strong levels of government spending – both observed in Budget 2020 and anticipated in the upcoming Spending Review and Autumn Budget – are expected to support the UK economy through the forecast period.

The measures announced by the Bank of England, including lowering interest rates and steps to support business access to finance, will also help mitigate some of the impact of the Coronavirus on the UK economy.

“Our latest forecast indicates that the UK economy faces a challenging short-term outlook,” says the BCC’s Head of Economics, Suren Thiru.

“It is increasingly likely that the boost from higher government spending and more political certainty, will be surpassed over the near-term by the negative impact of Coronavirus on the UK economy.

“Although the scale and impact of Coronavirus remains highly uncertain, early evidence of disruption to supply chains and weakening in consumer demand and business activity could mean that even in the case of a temporary shock to the economy, there may be some long-term impact on economic output – particularly if significant action is needed to combat its spread.

“Failure to achieve a UK-EU arrangement conducive to trade is also a key risk to the outlook for the UK economy as disruption in early 2021 could adversely affect economic conditions.”