Boomtime for steel and cars as Britain motors ahead of the G7 to become the fastest growing major economy in the developed world last year
Britain was the fastest growing major economy in the developed last year, official figures are likely to show today [thurs].
Analysts believe the Office for National Statistics will reveal that the UK economy grew by around 2 per cent in 2016 – faster than G7 rivals the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.
Economists believe gross domestic product (GDP) data for October to December will show a resilient performance from the UK economy, slowing slightly to 0.5 per cent from 0.6 per cent in the second and third quarters. That would mean 2 per cent growth across the 12 months.
Meanwhile, new figures yesterday showed that car production at a 17-year high and one of Britain’s leading steel makers back in profit.
The pro-EU CBI, which vehemently opposed Brexit, also said British manufacturers had reported the strongest inflow of orders in nearly two years. It said confidence was rising at the fastest pace for two years as the pound boosts exports.
‘UK manufacturers are firing on all cylinders right now,’ said CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith. ‘The weaker pound is driving export optimism, but is having a detrimental impact on costs.’
Brexit supporter John Longworth, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce and now co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, added: ‘The avalanche of good economic news we are seeing bodes well for growth in 2017 – in stark contrast to the predictions of the Brexit doom merchants.’
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed more than 1.72million cars were built in the UK in 2016 – up 8.5 per cent on the previous year and most since 1999.
Of those, a record 1.35million were shipped abroad, as the weak pound and booming demand for British-made cars boosted exports.
UK production is now on course to break its all-time record set back in 1972 of 1.92million – and may accelerate through the 2million barrier, according to the SMMT.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘The UK motor industry is in rude health and enjoying significant growth. We are in a good place. It is tremendously successful and growing.’
Growth was spear-headed by Britain’s biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover, which yesterday delivered a stunning vote of confidence in Brexit Britain.
‘We are proud to call ourselves a British company and are committed to ensuring manufacturing remains the backbone of the British economy,’ said Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover global sales director.
The comments came as British Steel revealed it has returned to profit less than one year after it was rescued during the depths of a crisis engulfing the industry.
The company, once part of struggling Tata Steel, said it ended 2016 in profit and was on track for growth having won a string of contracts on projects including Hinkley Point.
It marks a remarkable turnaround for the business that was bought from Tata by investment firm Greybull Capital last year for just £1 and renamed British Steel.
The company now has 4,400 staff in the UK, at plants in Scunthorpe, Teesside and Workington, and a further 400 in France.
It said it now plans to reinstate the 3 per cent salary sacrifice it agreed with workers when it took the business over last summer.
Executive chairman Roland Junck said: ‘I’m pleased to report that after our first seven months of trading, we are building on our promising start to life as British Steel.
‘Having implemented the first stage of our turnaround plan, returning the business to profit and putting it on a sustainable footing, we are now well positioned to implement the next stage of the plan.
‘This will be focused on ensuring tactical growth of both our business and brand which we see as crucial next steps in our strategy.’
It comes amid signs of recovery in the UK’s steel industry, with the Port Talbot steelworks no longer earmarked for closure and new investors joining the market.
Gareth Stace, director of trade group UK Steel, said: ‘The announcement from British Steel is really welcome, not just for the company but for the sector as a whole given where we were this time last year.
‘We were facing the worst steel crisis in a generation – steel prices were extremely low. The price of steel globally has now significantly increased. We are far from the very dark days that we saw a year ago – we are not out of the woods now but the signs are favourable.’
Union chief Paul McBean said: ‘It’s really encouraging to see the progress we’ ve made as a business since becoming British Steel. We’ve shown we’re fighters, we’ve shown we’re survivors and now we’ve got to show that we can become industry and national champions.’
January 26th, 2017: Daily Mail