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Britain defies the critics, says ALEX BRUMMER

Any port in a storm: Despite efforts to paint the UK economy as broken, it refuses to oblige

Britain defies critics, says ALEX BRUMMER: Fascinating to see if the IMF revises its dismal projections for the UK in its spring outlook

  • Despite efforts to paint the British economy as broken, he refuses to oblige
  • No Excuse for the BoE to Predict We’re Looking Down the Barrel of a Long Recession
  • The Office for National Statistics says the opposite: there is reason to be optimistic

Conventional wisdom about the UK economy is uniformly negative. It is regrettable that the hoped-for improvement in the inflation outlook so far has not materialized in the official figures.

This could correct itself as soon as the energy price explosion that followed the war in Ukraine disappears from the data.

However, there is still reason to be optimistic. The benefits may be remote, but Britain’s membership of the awkwardly named CPTPP, which links our economy to 11 nations on the fast-growing Pacific Rim, is to be welcomed.

Continental Europe remains our largest trading partner and the United States is the country with which we have the largest trade surpluses. But the Pacific Rim is the big growth opportunity. Britain’s stellar financial and professional services sector is uniquely positioned to make inroads.

Despite efforts to paint Britain’s economy as broken, she refuses to oblige. There is no excuse for the Bank of England’s forecast in November (since revised) that real incomes are facing severe pressure and we are eyeing a barrel of the longest recession in the history of the country. Data from the Office for National Statistics says something different.

Any port in a storm: Despite efforts to paint the UK economy as broken, it refuses to oblige

Any port in a storm: Despite efforts to paint the UK economy as broken, it refuses to oblige

Output actually rose 0.1% in the last quarter of last year, recession was averted, and real household disposable income rose 1.3%. Observers of contemporary data, such as retail footfall, should be convinced that the glass is half full.

A forecast from Lloyds Bank shows UK businesses were more confident last month than at any time since last spring and reinforces the idea that the UK will avoid recession. Hiring is improving, job growth is accelerating and wage pressures are easing.

What is not yet clear is whether the recent turmoil in the global banking sector will affect the availability of credit. It will be fascinating to see if the International Monetary Fund revises its dismal projections for the UK when it publishes its Spring World Economic Outlook later this month. It should.

Amex verified

American Express customers pay £250 a year for the privilege of using the company’s credit card and collecting BA Avios frequent flyer points. As a user since 2016, I was surprised last year to learn that my card had been suspended while Amex awaited further information. Several direct debits were automatically stopped (without notice) and I had the inconvenience of seeing my card refused in several establishments. On contacting the UK HQ in Brighton I was told the information was required due to money laundering regulations. Other holders have reported similar experiences.

A list of information required for verification arrived which included a passport/driver’s license for me and my wife, utility bills, recent bank statements and details of my income. This latest information was uploaded online, but Amex refused to accept my payslip as proof of income.

An official letter from my employers has been sent to the correct department in Brighton, by registered post, with this information. Yesterday I received an email from Amex saying I was in the last chance lounge and needed more information “to avoid suspension”. This was incorrect since he is already suspended! When I sought to resolve the issue over the phone, I ended up being diverted to the Philippines.

The official on the other end of the line put me on hold three times “to check his notes” before concluding that none of the requested data had been provided. This, despite a letter from Amex to my home ten days ago explaining that the only data missing was proof of income. It had been provided both online and by post.

The experiment raises two distinct questions. First, why did it take seven years for Amex to verify that it complied with money laundering regulations? Second, why is the company’s customer service so misinformed?

My advice is if you’re tempted to sign up for an Amex card, don’t. Save yourself a subscription and aggravation.

Royal approval

Buried in Powering Up Britain, the UK’s latest energy plan is one of the most fascinating projects backed by none other than Mohammed IV, King of Morocco.

The Xlinks project will exclusively supply the UK with high-voltage electricity through a wind, solar and onshore battery site in the North African country. According to current plans, the submarine cable would land in Cornwall. Could be a glorious tale of two kingdoms.

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