DESPITE THE current constraints, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s low-key Spring Statement did try to dispel the view that the business of government has completely ground to a halt because of Brexit.
He reiterated the Government’s commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail and said that Transport for the North’s spending plans would be appraised before the Budget this Autumn.
Mr Hammond should also be praised for other short-term measures – like the £100m being made available to the police this year for additional patrols, albeit on the back of overtime, to combat the epidemic of knife and violent crime.
Yet, while he said the forthcoming Spending Review, supposedly spanning three years, will encompass policing as well as social care, education and local government, there was a clear caveat. “If we leave the European Union with a deal,” he said with emphasis.
And, in many respects, the word ‘if’ was the most significant of all in a setpiece speech which warned of significant repercussions if there is a no-deal Brexit.
For, despite Mr Hammond’s bullishness about the robust of the economy compared to other G7 countries, the Chancellor could not gloss over the fact that economic growth this year has been reduced to 1.2 per cent – a significant downgrade – and that future improvements to the funding of schools and other key services, frequently and vociferously demanded by MPs of all parties, are contingent on a Brexit resolution of sorts.