high street
© Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
As consumer spending stalled, thousands of high street jobs have been lost this year.
The British economy is on track for the weakest year outside a recession since the second world war, as political turmoil and Brexit uncertainty dragged down growth, a Guardian analysis reveals.

At the end of a turbulent year and following Boris Johnson's election victory, surveys of business activity suggest economic growth in the final three months of 2019 has essentially stalled. The jobs market is showing signs of stress and public borrowing is steadily rising again after a decade of improvement.

The Bank of England has downgraded its forecast for gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by only 0.1% in the fourth quarter as high street spending stalled and business investment was kept on hold before the election and amid Brexit uncertainty. Economic growth for 2019 as a whole is forecast to be just 1%, the weakest expansion outside a recession for more than half a century.

It comes as Andrew Bailey prepares to replace Mark Carney as the Bank's next governor in March, tasked with steering the economy after Britain withdraws from the EU and while it attempts to strike new trade deals with other world partners.

The Conservatives promised a "tidal wave" of business investment would return to Britain if they secured a majority and unblocked parliament to take the UK out of the EU at the end of January.

However, two former Bank interest rate-setters warned the UK economy would continue to struggle for growth as Johnson faces complex trade talks with Brussels next year. The also warned the prime minister's decision to leave the option of no-deal Brexit on the table will hold back business investment.

Writing in the Guardian, Andrew Sentance, a former member of the Bank's monetary policy committee (MPC), said: "A new government and a new Bank of England governor. This should be a fresh start for the UK economy. But the dark shadow of Brexit continues to overhang our economic performance and prospects."