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JUPITER ECOLOGY: Blue sky and wacky? The UK has had its credit rating downgraded by a leading agency, which blamed the Government’s relaxation of austerity and the likely impact of Brexit. The agency said the Government’s plans to fix the public finances were increasingly in question and debt levels are expected to rise. The agency highlighted the economic risks that leaving the European union poses for the world’s fifth-biggest economy. The UK’s annual budget deficit has come down from about 10 per cent of economic output in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis to 2. But Moody’s said the outlook for public finances had weakened significantly as May’s government has rowed back on the austerity drive of former Chancellor George Osborne – most recently by removing the public sector pay cap. Moody’s expects weaker public finances going forward, partly linked to the economic slowdown under way but also reflecting the increasing political and social pressures to raise spending after seven years of spending cuts,’ it said in a statement.

The agency also highlighted the economic risks that leaving the European union poses for the world’s fifth-biggest economy. Ambitious’: Moody’s was not impressed by PM May’s Florence speech. Moody’s believes that the UK government’s decision to leave the EU single market and customs union as of March 29 2019 will be negative for the country’s medium-term economic growth prospects,’ the report said. The government hit back, saying Moody’s assessment of the Brexit hit to the economy was ‘outdated’ and that May had set out an ‘ambitious vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU’ in her speech In Florence yesterday.

But a Moody’s official said the speech made no difference to the agency’s gloomy long-term view for Britain’s economy. The evidence on the UK’s economic vitality have been mixed this year. The most recent official data showed that retail sales were far stronger than expected in August, suggesting household confidence is robust. And the Bank of England has hinted strongly that it thinks, in the face of rising inflation, the UK economy is strong enough to withstand gradual rate rises.

Against this looms the uncertainties surrounding how Brexit will unfold and its impact on trade, UK exporters and prices. Moody’s also cut its rating for the Bank of England to Aa2 from Aa1, but revised the UK’s outlook to stable from negative, meaning a further downgrade is not imminent. Why have stock markets fallen and what should investors do? Could these LED lights on crossings save lives on the road?

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