Britain’s economic performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been stronger than previously thought, with faster growth than Germany or France, according to revisions to official data released on Friday.
The Office for National Statistics said Britain’s economy in the second quarter of 2023 was 1.8% larger than in the final quarter of 2019, the last full quarter before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
.This represented an upward revision from the most recent previous ONS estimate, on Aug. 11, that the economy was still 0.2% smaller than before the pandemic, which had placed it at the bottom of the table among major advanced economies.
An increased estimate of the size of Britain’s economy had been widely expected, after the ONS published preliminary revisions on Sept. 1 suggesting the economy was already 0.6% larger than its pre-pandemic size in the final quarter of 2021.
Britain’s relative economic performance since the pandemic and its departure from the European Union has been a focus of political debate, especially with a national election likely next year.
“We know that the British economy recovered faster from the pandemic than anyone previously thought and data out today once again proves the doubters wrong,” finance minister Jeremy Hunt said.
Britain’s growth of 1.8% over the period exceeds growth of 1.7% in France and 0.2% in Germany, but trails far behind the 6.1% expansion seen in the United States and is also weaker than in Japan, Italy or Canada.
Recent growth has been lacklustre by historic standards, and many households have been severely affected by the soaring cost of living which accelerated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“The data … does not change the big picture that the economy has lagged behind all other G7 countries aside from Germany and France since the pandemic. And that’s before the full drag from higher interest rates has been felt,” said Ruth Gregory, deputy chief UK economist at Capital Economics.
The Bank of England has raised interest rates 14 times since December 2021 to tame soaring inflation, before unexpectedly keeping them unchanged last week at a 15-year high of 5.25%.