The outspoken political presenter lifted the lid on Britain’s recession data and urged Britons to “beware of reports” after official figures published today showed the world’s sixth-biggest economy entered a recession as it shrank for a second quarter in a row. His warning comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed Britain’s economy shrank by a record 20.4 percent between April and June when the coronavirus lockdown was tightest, the largest contraction reported by any major economy so far, with a wave of job losses set to hit later in 2020.
But Mr Neil urged readers to “beware of reports saying UK is in recession”.
He tweeted: “The UK downturn in H1 of this year is deepest since the Office for National Statistics started tracking quarterly GDP in 1955 + worst of any developed country during COVID-19 crisis. Q2 drop was 20.4 percent.
“This compares with 12.1 percent for eurozone, 9.5 percent for US, 10 percent for Germany, 8.6 percent for Sweden (no lockdown) and 18.5 percent for Spain, worst after UK.
“UK heavily reliant on services, worst hit by lockdown. ONS also says UK in lockdown for longer period than other economies.
“Beware of reports saying UK is in recession. It was in H1, by two consecutive quarters of downturn definition.
“It is no longer in recession, since economy growing again in Q3 and will too in Q4. But not by enough to reverse H1 fall.”
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The ONS said the economy is still a long way off from recovering the record falls seen in March and April after tumbling into “the largest recession on record”.
The grim second-quarter figures showed the UK suffered the biggest economic hit from the pandemic in western Europe, even beating Spain’s eye-watering 18.5 percent drop.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the ONS figures “confirm that hard times are here”.
He said: ”Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will.
“But while there are difficult choices to be made ahead, we will get through this, and I can assure people that nobody will be left without hope or opportunity.”
The ONS said the UK economy is now 22.1 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019 and 17.2 percent below levels seen in February, despite two months of growth since the nadir of the recession in April when the UK was in full lockdown.
Jonathan Athow, a deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “The recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led to the biggest fall in quarterly GDP on record.
“The economy began to bounce back in June, with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover.
“Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck.
“Overall, productivity saw its largest-ever fall in the second quarter. Hospitality was worst hit, with productivity in that industry falling by three-quarters in recent months.”