Main points of UK budget dominated by coronovirus

AFP
London Updated: Mar 11, 2020, 11:18 PM(IST)

Rishi Sunak Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The measures will be paid for by an increase in borrowing, and a previously announced decision to cancel a planned decrease in corporation tax.

Rishi Sunak's first budget since becoming Britain's finance minister was packed with big spending announcements on Wednesday, but overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak.

The measures will be paid for by an increase in borrowing, and a previously announced decision to cancel a planned decrease in corporation tax.

Here are the main points from the chancellor of the Exchequer's inaugural announcement:

Coronavirus 

Sunak promised "the most comprehensive economic response of any government anywhere in the world to date" to address the impact of coronavirus.

He pledged £7 billion in support for the self-employed and businesses, including an extension of statutory sick pay, amid government warnings that one in five employees could be off work at the peak of the outbreak.

There is also a £5 billion "emergency response fund" for the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and other public services.

This is in addition to £18 billion in spending on public services and infrastructure "to support the economy this year", as it prepares for life outside the European Union.

"I am announcing today, in total, a £30-billion ($39-billion, 34.4-billion euros) fiscal stimulus to support British people, British jobs and British businesses through this moment," Sunak said.

"If further action is needed, as the situation evolves... I will not hesitate to act."

Brexit 

The budget is the first since Brexit, which took place on January 31, although Britain is in a transition phase until the end of the year.

Sunak, who only took over last month after predecessor Sajid Javid quit in protest over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's demands on the treasury, said that "billions of pounds we would have sent to the EU can now be spent on our priorities".

He announced that a so-called "tampon tax", a totemic issue for some Brexiteers, would be abolished now that Britain no longer had to abide by EU rules.

But the independent Office for Budget Responsibility said the economic effects of Brexit had already hit the economy since Britons voted to leave the bloc in 2016.

Potential economic output had been cut by about two percent, relative to what would have happened if they voted to stay in the EU, the office said.

It blamed the loss in part on lower levels of net migration.

But it also said there was "weaker productivity growth on the back of depressed business investment and the diversion of resources from production" to Brexit preparations.

The OBR also warned that the government's plans for a free trade agreement with the EU could see a loss of around four percent of potential GDP over 15 years.

Infrastructure 

Johnson won a thumping majority in December's general election promising huge spending on infrastructure, and Sunak's budget spelled out the scale of the plans.

He promised £600 billion for infrastructure projects, leading the OBR to call it the "largest planned sustained giveaway at any fiscal event since Norman Lamont's ill-fated pre-election budget in 1992".

The OBR said the funding, which includes cash injections for roads, railways, broadband and research and development, could contribute to an extra five percent on the national debt by 2025.

Health Service 

Sunak promised an extra £6 billion boost for the NHS over the next five years, to help start work on 40 new hospitals and fund 50,000 more nurses. 

The surcharge levied on immigrants using the service will be increased to £620.

'Sin taxes' 

Duties on spirits, beer, wine and cider have all been frozen for only the second time in almost 20 years. Fuel duty will also remain unchanged.

Environment 

Sunak announced a levy of £200 per tonne on manufacturers and importers of packaging that is less than 30 percent recycled plastic, to be introduced from April 2022.

He will also abolish a diesel tax relief scheme for most industrial sectors and spend £500 million to expand the network of charging hubs for electric cars.

 

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