government debt

Fitch holds UK debt at AA-, outlook negative

Agence France-Presse

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Fitch holds UK debt at AA-, outlook negative

People cross London Bridge on September 25, 2020, as new restrictions are introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus. - Britain has tightened restrictions to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, ordering pubs to close early and advising people to go back to working from home to prevent a second national lockdown. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)


The affirmed negative outlook 'reflects the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the UK economy'

Fitch Ratings on Friday, September 25, left Britain’s debt rating unchanged at AA- and the outlook at negative, after downgrading both in March on fears of economic damage from COVID-19.

The affirmed negative outlook “reflects the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the UK economy and the resulting material deterioration in the public finances, with Fitch forecasting the fiscal deficit to materially widen this year and government debt set to increase to well over 120% of GDP (gross domestic product) over the next few years,” the agency said in a statement.

Fitch saw Britain’s deficit climbing to 17.7% of GDP this year from 2.2% in 2019, an increase well above that seen during the 2008-2010 global financial crisis, which the agency blamed on the slowdown in economic activity and government measures to fend off the pandemic.

The deficit is predicted to drop back to about 12% of GDP by next year and below 10% of GDP in 2022.

The forecast comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week announced a raft of new restrictions in England, mirrored to varying extents in other UK nations, to try to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. 

Such measures “are modest and, in our view, could slow but not stall the economic recovery,” Fitch said, though they could be tightened if COVID-19 cases don’t decrease.

Adding to the uncertainty is Britain’s process of negotiating a new trade agreement with the European Union following its departure from the bloc, which Fitch predicted is “likely to curtail the pace of recovery” for the rest of the year. –

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