Brexit “Paralysis” Sees Moody’s Downgrade UK Debt Rating

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The bills are starting to arrive for Britain for the black comedy known as Brexit with Moody’s warning that it could further cut the UK’s sovereign debt rating.

The ratings group said Brexit had eroded the country’s ability to tackle the challenge of its high levels of borrowing.

“It would be optimistic to assume that the previously cohesive, predictable approach to legislation and policymaking in the UK will return once Brexit is no longer a contentious issue, however that is achieved,” the ratings agency said in a statement issued late on Saturday morning, our time after trading had closed around the world.

Moody’s stripped the UK of its AAA rating in 2013, well before the 2016 Brexit referendum, and downgraded it again in 2017. It said in the statement that while it was affirming its Aa2 rating on Britain’s sovereign debt, it had moved the outlook from stable to negative, which usually means a downgrade in the next 18 months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a December 12 election in an attempt to break the three-year deadlock.

Moody’s said the “increasing inertia and, at times, the paralysis that has characterised the Brexit-era policymaking process” showed how the UK’s institutional framework had diminished.

The decline in institutional strength appeared to be structural in nature, it said, and was likely to continue after Brexit, given what it said were deep divisions within society and the country’s political landscape.

It also said the government, after taking steps to reduce Britain’s budget deficit between 2010 and 2015, had been increasingly willing to “move the goalposts” on fiscal targets in recent years.

“Successive governments have announced large, permanent increases in public expenditures, most notably a large increase in spending on the National Health Service (NHS), outside the normal calendar for fiscal policy changes and without detailed policy plans,” it said.

Both of the main political parties have promised big spending increases ahead of next month’s election.
Moody’s said the risk was that Britain’s 1.8 trillion pounds of public debt – more than 80 percent of annual economic output – would begin to rise.

“In the current political climate, Moody’s sees no meaningful pressure for debt-reducing fiscal policies,” it said.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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