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UK Economy Grew in Final Year of EU Membership

The British economy picked up a little speed in 2019 despite registering no growth at all in the final quarter of the year, as the U.K. outpaced both France and Germany in its final year as a member of the European Union.

The figures nevertheless add to a subdued picture for the global economy last year, as trade tensions between the U.S. and China weighed on activity worldwide. Prospects for growth in 2020 perked up following a December truce between Washington and Beijing, but may dip again as the coronavirus outbreak in China spreads across the world.

The U.K.’s fortunes in 2020 and the years ahead depend heavily on negotiations between London and Brussels to settle future economic ties following Britain’s formal departure from the bloc on Jan. 31. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is aiming to secure a free-trade accord with the EU by Dec. 31, an ambitious deadline that raises the risk of a messy rupture at the end of the year as standstill arrangements on trade with the bloc expire.

The U.K. economy grew 1.4% in 2019, according to a preliminary estimate by the Office for National Statistics published Tuesday. That was faster than the 1.3% pace recorded in 2018 and the 1.3% average of more than two dozen economic forecasts compiled by the U.K. Treasury.

The 19 countries that use the euro expanded by 1.2% in 2019, according to an official estimate. France similarly grew by 1.2%, though Germany’s economy grew by just 0.6%. The U.S. expanded 2.3%.

The British economy has held up better than many economists expected in the three years since voters chose to exit the EU in a referendum. Consumer and government spending has supported growth even as business investment has stalled, a pattern repeated in 2019, figures show.

The economy recorded no growth at all in the final three months of the year. Manufacturing output fell, capping a poor year for British factories, which have been buffeted both by uncertainty over Brexit and weak global demand.
Source: Dow Jones

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