I can find no grounds for optimism on the economy | Will Hutton

All the signs are there that a recession is just around the corner – but who will admit it?

In any other world there would be national soul searching. Britain’s economic growth rate over the past 12 months is half its average over the previous 25 years – and set to deteriorate further. Investment is stagnating. Mortgage approvals in March slumped by almost 21%. Car output for the domestic market has dropped in the same month by 13%, for export by 12%. These are dramatic numbers.

To drive the point home, on Friday we learned that in the first three months of the year, Britain grew at its slowest rate for five years. One comforting explanation is that the “beast from the east” hit construction. But dig a little deeper, and the cold snap also prompted a surge in demand for electricity and gas. As the Office for National Statistics observed, the weather alone explains little of the setback.

Everyone, outside the closed world of the Brexit advocates, knows that vandalising our hi-tech sector is supreme folly

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