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Households robbed of £900 since Brexit: central bank

By AFP
media Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, pictured on May 10, 2018, said business investment was still being held back by Brexit uncertainty POOL/AFP/File

British household incomes have haemorrhaged £900 ($1,200) in real terms since the vote to leave the EU, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Tuesday, warning businesses are "holding back" over Brexit uncertainty.

Economic growth has sunk by "up to two percent" against the central bank models made two years ago under the scenario where Britain voted to remain in the EU, he said.

"Real household incomes are about £900 lower than we forecast in 2016," Carney told British lawmakers on the Treasury Select Committee.

"The question is why and what drove that difference. Some of it is ascribed to Brexit."

His comments come as Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet is in deadlock over contrasting proposals for customs arrangements once Britain leaves the trading bloc.

May's preferred option is for Britain to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU on goods destined for the bloc, while imposing British tariffs on those staying inside the country.

The alternative, backed by hardline Brexiteers, would use technology to reduce the need for customs checks.

Carney said business investment was still being held back, but there was a chance there could be a "sharp pick-up" when the Brexit agreement is finalised -- a prospect which seems unlikely until the customs dispute is put to rest.

"It's understandable why businesses are holding back - there's some big decisions that are about to be made -- why wouldn't they want to wait until the path becomes clearer?" he told MPs.

Downing Street was defiant in the wake of Carney's remarks

"The economy has remained incredibly resilient, continuing to grow over the past five years," a spokesman said.

"Growth has been stronger than many expected after the referendum."

"It is absolutely not the case that Brexit has damaged the interests of this country," said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a press conference during his visit to Argentina.

 
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