No summer budget but it’s not plain sailing: Osborne breaks Brexit silence as bank shares take hit

George Osborne at the Yorkshire Post office during the Vote Remain campaign
George Osborne at the Yorkshire Post office during the Vote Remain campaign
  • Chancellor avoids questions about his future
  • No repeat of ‘recession’ warning
  • Osborne seeks ‘active role’ in Brexit
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TRADING in shares of two major banks was suspended this morning after they suffered major falls in value despite Chancellor George Osborne’s attempts to reassure the markets.

Mr Osborne broke his post-referendum silence before markets opened this morning to insist the UK economy was in the best position possible to deal with the uncertainty ahead.

But within hours the value of RBS and Barclays shares had fallen by more than 10 per cent triggering an automatic suspension of trading.

Mr Osborne postponed his so-called Brexit Budget until the autumn but warned there will be an impact on the public finances.

He stood by his pre-referendum forecasts of the negative impact of Brexit but stressed the UK economy was as well prepared as it could be to deal with the consequences.

The Chancellor stopped short of repeating his previous predictions that a Leave vote would trigger a recession but warned there would be an "adjustment" in the economy.

Mr Osborne fended off questions about his own future, insisting his responsibility was to deal with the consequences of last week's vote.

The Chancellor had not been seen in public since the referendum result was announced but broke his silence this morning ahead of the opening of the London financial markets.

He said Britain was approaching the economic challenges from a "position of strength" after six years of action to "rebuild the British economy".

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"I said we had to fix the roof so we were prepared for whatever the future held and thank goodness we did. As a result our economy is about as strong as it could be to confront the challenge our country now faces."

Mr Osborne defended his doom-laden predictions of the dire impacts Brexit would have on the economy.

"I don't resile from any of the concerns I expressed during the campaign but I fully accept the result of the referendum and will do everything I can to make it work for Britain."

Mr Osborne predicted there would be ongoing volatility in the markets following the referendum result but insisted the Treasury and Bank of England were prepared for that outcome.

But he warned: "It will not be plain sailing in the days ahead."

During the referendum campaign, Mr Osborne said a Budget would be needed quickly after a Brexit vote but today he indicated that would not take place until a new prime minister is in place in the autumn.

The Chancellor said he wanted to play an "active role" in determining the agreements with Europe and other countries that would have to be negotiated as part of leaving the EU.

"I do not want to turn its back on Europe or the rest of the world. We must bring unity of spirit and purpose and condemn hatred and division wherever we see it. Britain is an open and tolerant country and I will fight with everything I have to keep it so."

Mr Osborne's prominent role in what Leave campaigners dubbed Remain's "project fear" had led to speculation that last week's result could see him resign or indicate a future departure date in line with David Cameron.

But Mr Osborne dismissed any suggestion he would go in the short term.

"Today I am completely focussed on the task in hand as Chancellor of the Exchequer to bring stability and reassurance.

"There will be questions about the future of the Conservative Party, and I will address my role within that in the coming days," he said.

The Prime Minister will hold a cabinet meeting later this morning and make a statement to MPs.