It’s not so long ago that we were being given the grim news that the UK economy had suffered its worst setback for 300 years in 2020. Brexit uncertainty had been part of the problem, but the main culprit was the pandemic. Negative story after negative.
But now, long-standing records – this time on the positive side – are beginning to fall wherever you turn. The latest quarterly survey from the CBI found that optimism among manufacturers was rising at the fastest rate for nearly half a century (since 1973). The CBI’s optimism gauge now stands at +38 compared with -22 at the start of this year.
Output growth expectations are the strongest on record and expectations for employment growth are the highest since 1974. Investment plans for buildings, plant and machinery, product process and innovation, training, and retraining – all helped by new incentives announced in last month’s Budget – are the strongest since 1997. Even UK exports, which took such a battering at the start of the year due to post-Brexit friction with our former partners, have got some way to go, but are recovering sharply. Spring is most definitely in the air, a mood helped by the success of our vaccination roll-out.
Britain’s economy is now officially forecast to grow this year by 4%, followed by a 7.3% rise in 2022 and a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2022. Independent experts are even more optimistic; the respected EY ITEM Club thinktank has upgraded its UK GDP growth forecast for 2021 from 5 to 6.8% and expects full recovery by Q2 2022. Either way, the consensus is that the bounce-back is gathering momentum. With Britain signing new global trading partnerships on a regular basis, Brexit has already been consigned to the rear-view mirror.
And there are other reasons for good cheer, starting with the Government’s latest initiative to enshrine in law an undertaking to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared against 1990 levels. This puts us on course to be nearly three-quarters of the way towards our ultimate target of being net zero by 2050 – 15 years ahead of where we originally thought we would be.
The Government’s pledge comes with plans to create ‘pioneering’ businesses, new technologies and green innovation that will stimulate the economy and create jobs for generations to come. All things considered, 2021 is a good year to be hosting COP26. As a carbon negative company already, we can’t wait for the future. It’s already here.