Minister brands IMF ‘unduly pessimistic’ despite new figures showing UK economy flatlined in February

Home office minister Chris Philip has dismissed the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) economic forecast for the UK, claiming the organisation’s predictions are “unduly pessimistic”.  

Mr Philp, the policing minister, said this morning that the UK has a “track record” of “consistently outperforming” the IMF’s forecasts — that is despite new figures showing the UK economy flatlined in February.

It comes after the organisation predicted that the UK would contract by 0.3 per cent this year before rebounding to grow by one per cent next year. The UK is said to be being outpaced by sanctions-hit Russia, with Germany the only other major country predicted to experience an economic contraction.

This morning it was also revealed that no economic growth was recorded in February, with industrial action said to be acting as a drag on GDP as thousands of workers walked out.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), detailed that: “There was … a boost from retailing [in February], with many shops having a buoyant month. These were offset by the effects of Civil Service and teachers’ strike action, which impacted the public sector”.

The broader picture, Mr Morgan told the BBC’s “Today” programme, is that the economy has been “pretty much flat since last Spring”.

The new ONS figures followed growth of 0.4% in January and confirmation that the UK economy avoided recession in the second half of 2022 and even grew 0.1% in the final three months of the year.

Mr Philp was asked if he was concerned by the IMF forecast and by the latest ONS figures.

He told Sky News: “Well, first of all these IMF forecasts often are unduly pessimistic. We have got a track record in the UK of consistently outperforming the IMF forecasts”.

“Obviously we would like to see growth and in fact in 2021 we the UK had record GDP growth in the G7. In 2022 we also had record growth, the highest growth rather, amongst G7 countries.

He added: “We have had two straight years of top G7 growth. We would obviously like to continue that trend”.

Also responding to the new figures was chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who said: “The economic outlook is looking brighter than expected — GDP grew in the three months to February and we are set to avoid recession thanks to the steps we have taken through a massive package of cost of living support for families and radical reforms to boost the jobs market and business investment.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, said: “Despite our enormous promise and potential as a country, Britain is still lagging behind on the global stage with growth on the floor.

“The reality of growth inching along is families worse off, high streets in decline and a weaker economy that leaves us vulnerable to shocks.

“These results are exactly why Labour’s mission to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 is so important – it’s that level of ambition that we need to strengthen our economy, get our high streets thriving again and make families across every part of Britain better off.”