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CEP BREXIT Analysis
The Brexit Vote, Inflation and UK Living Standards
Holger Breinlich, Elsa Leromain, Dennis Novy and Thomas Sampson
November 2017
Paper No' CEPBREXIT11:
Read Abstract | Full Paper (pdf)
| Technical Paper (pdf)

Tags: brexit; economic uncertainty; trade; eu; inflation; uk living standards

THE BREXIT HIT TO LIVING STANDARDS: New evidence on how much the referendum vote is already costing UK households

UK households are already paying a high economic price for the vote to leave the European Union. According to the first detailed statistical analysis of how the referendum outcome has affected UK inflation, real wages and living standards, Brexit is costing the average household £7.74 per week through higher prices - which is equivalent to £404 a year.

Higher inflation has also reduced the growth of real wages. The impact of price increases due to the referendum is equivalent to a £448 cut in annual pay for the average worker. In other words, the Brexit vote has cost the average worker almost one week's wages.

Households at all income levels and in all UK regions have experienced higher inflation because of the referendum. The costs have been evenly shared across the income distribution, but not across regions. The rise in inflation has been lowest for households in London, while Scotland, Wales and especially Northern Ireland have been worst hit.

The largest inflationary effects are for product groups with high import shares. These include bread and cereals; milk, cheese and eggs; coffee, tea and cocoa; beer; wine; furniture and furnishings; and jewellery, clocks and watches.

The report, published by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) and based on research funded by 'The UK in a Changing Europe' programme, shows that:

  • The vote to leave the EU was an unanticipated shock to the UK economy that increased uncertainty and reduced the expected future openness of the UK to trade, investment and immigration with the EU.

  • The pound depreciated by approximately 10% immediately after the referendum. That depreciation raised inflation by increasing the cost of importing both final goods and intermediate inputs. For each 10 percentage point rise in a product group's import share, inflation increased by 0.71 percentage points in the year after the vote.

  • Accounting for both the depreciation and other effects of the referendum, the Brexit vote increased aggregate inflation by 1.7 percentage points in the year following the referendum. There is uncertainty about the exact size of this effect, but the analysis unambiguously shows that the referendum led to a substantial rise in inflation.

  • The 1.7 percentage point increase in inflation implies that by June 2017, the Brexit vote was costing the average household £7.74 per week through higher prices. That is equivalent to £404 per year.

  • Higher inflation has also reduced real wage growth. The impact of the referendum is equivalent to a £448 cut in annual pay for the average worker. Put another way, the Brexit vote has cost the average worker almost one week's wages due to higher prices.

  • Pass-through from the exchange rate depreciation to higher import costs peaked in the first quarter of 2017, but it continued in the third quarter of 2017.

  • Households at all income levels and in all UK regions have experienced higher inflation because of the referendum. The costs have been evenly shared across the income distribution, but not across regions.

  • The rise in inflation due to the referendum has been lowest for households in London, while Scotland, Wales and especially Northern Ireland have been worst hit.

Co-author Dr Thomas Sampson of the CEP comments:

"Even before Brexit occurs, the increase in inflation caused by the Leave vote has already hurt UK households."

"Our results provide compelling evidence that, so far, UK households are paying an economic price for voting to leave the EU."

Dr Dennis Novy of the University of Warwick adds:

"Our research is not a Brexit forecast. It is about the costs of Brexit that have already materialised. The results show that living standards in the UK have already suffered."

"Households all across the country are hit by higher inflation without matching pay rises. The increase in inflation can be directly traced back to last year's referendum when the sterling exchange rate dropped sharply."

Dr Holger Breinlich of the University of Nottingham says:

"Ahead of Wednesday's Budget statement from the Chancellor, our findings show that the Leave vote has led to a sharp increase in inflation."

"At a time of growing disenchantment with austerity, this is clearly unwelcome news for living standards across the UK."




This release refers to the CEP BREXIT Analysis Paper No.11 ‘The Brexit Vote, Inflation and UK Living Standards’ which will be available to download from: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/brexit11.pdf on Monday 20 November 2017.

The report authors are:

Thomas Sampson, research leader, The UK in a Changing Europe and Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Associate at CEP.

Holger Breinlich, co-investigator, The UK in a Changing Europe and Professor of International Economics at The University of Nottingham. Professor Breinlich is also a Research Associate with CEP.

Dennis Novy, co-investigator, The UK in a Changing Europe and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick. Dr Novy is also an Associate of CEP.

Elsa Leromain, London School of Economics and Research Economist with the Trade Programme at CEP.

They are part of The UK in a Changing Europe’s Economics of Brexit team.

For media interviews please contact Ben Miller, The UK in a Changing Europe communications manager, email ben.miller@kcl.ac.uk or contact Romesh Vaitilingam, email romesh@vaitilingam.com.

The UK in a Changing Europe promotes academics’ rigorous, high-quality and independent research into UK-EU relations. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is based at King’s College London.