BBC Question Time, factchecked

Published: 18th Nov 2016

The IMF on Brexit

“The IMF is saying that the UK is going to be the fastest growing economy in the G7 this year, having said it was going to be a disaster”

Merryn Somerset Webb, 17 November 2016

This is correct, although the International Monetary Fund has also reduced its expectations for the UK’s economy next year by  more than any G7 country.

The IMF publishes a closely watched World Economic Outlook that forecasts the economic prospects of different countries and regions. The October 2016 version says that the UK economy will grow by 1.8% in 2016. That’s more than any of the other ‘G7’ countries, forecasts for which range from 0.5% (Japan) to 1.7% (Germany).

In June, the IMF had said that growth could be as low as 1.1% in 2016 if there were a Brexit vote. The previous month, it highlighted the risk of “an abrupt reaction to an exit vote… this could entail sharp drops in equity and house prices”. This hasn’t materialised.

But it still thinks that there will be economic repercussions, even if there’s been a “soft landing” for now. The UK growth forecast for 2017 is now 1.1% lower than it was in April. The latest World Economic Outlook says:

“Although the market reaction to the Brexit shock was reassuringly orderly, the ultimate impact remains very unclear, as the fate of institutional and trade arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union is uncertain.”

Scotland's public finances

“Scotland at the moment is a net beneficiary of the fiscal union between England and Scotland. That hasn’t always been the case, but it is at the moment. However, Scotland would be a net contributor to the EU”

Merryn Somerset Webb, 17 November 2016

The gap between what the Scottish government spends and what it collects in taxes is higher than the rest of the UK, according to its official figures. So at the moment, Scotland’s public finances benefit from fiscal union.

This hasn’t always been the case. The benefit varies from year-to-year. If we include Scotland’s geographical share of oil revenue, which goes to the UK government as a whole, then Scotland’s percentage deficit was smaller than the rest of the UK in 2005/6, and for four years from 2007/8 until 2011/12.

And it’s hard to say what Scotland’s public finances would look like after independence. It’s not clear what responsibility an independent Scotland would take for costs like UK government debt - that would have to be negotiated. And the revenues from North Sea oil and gas are also quite uncertain, since the price of oil and gas is relatively changeable.

Whether or not an independent Scotland would be a net contributor to the EU - and whether it would be able to remain a member in the first place - is a task for another day. Although it makes sense that as a comparatively rich country it would pay in more than it gets out. Analysis from both the Scottish and UK governments seems to back that up.

Disposable incomes have broadly stagnated over the last decade

“There’s an absolute fact out there, which is that ordinary working people have suffered a collapse in their disposable income over the last 15 years.”

Chris Bryant MP, 17 November 2016

It’s not clear what Mr Bryant is referring to here, and we’ve asked him for the source.

Over the last 15 years, disposable incomes have risen across all income groups. Over the last decade, there’s been stagnation, but “collapse” is a stretch if that’s what’s being referred to.

Disposable income is what households bring in after deducting certain taxes, like income tax.

Official figures tell you a lot about the ‘average’ household over time and give some breakdowns, for example splitting everyone into groups from richest to poorest. But there’s no handy definition for ‘ordinary working people’.

In general, disposable incomes in the UK rose from the mid 1990s till the mid-2000s, and have broadly stagnated since.

As the Bank of England’s chief economist put it a few months ago: “Half of all UK households have seen no material recovery in their real disposable incomes since around 2005.”

The Bank’s own calculations show the trend since the recession in the late noughties. Disposable incomes are not far from where they were for the highest and lowest earning households now compared to before the downturn. In fact, the poorest fifth of households fared better than the richest during the downturn, on this measure.

Stagnating incomes arguably mean years of lost earnings for a lot of people, compared to what ‘could have been’ if the trends in the early noughties had held. But if that is the argument, 15 years looks like the wrong timeframe to be using.


How many seats could UKIP have under a different voting system?

“UKIP should have a massive amount of representation in Parliament. If there was proportional representation, they would have 100 seats or so”

BBC Question Time audience member, 17 November 2016

UKIP would have a lot more seats in the House of Commons if the UK had an electoral system that links votes to seats more closely. It realised just one MP from the party’s 3.9 million votes at the 2015 election.

If the system were perfectly proportional, that 12.4% of the vote would give UKIP 12.4% of MPs—around 80 out of 650 in total.

The Electoral Reform Society, which campaigns for a change from the current ‘first past the post’ system, estimates that UKIP would have won 80 seats under a ‘list PR’ system, 54 under a ‘single transferable vote’ regime, and stayed at one using the ‘alternative vote’ that was rejected at a 2011 referendum.

We don’t know exactly how people would have voted if a different system was in place, and the actual votes cast don’t tell you about people’s second preferences.

These proportional systems involve selecting more than one preference, whereas in the general election people could only vote for one party. The different electoral scenarios were put together by conducting a survey of people’s party preferences just after the election.

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