A Monday afternoon Budget in late October, immediately after half-term, does not augur well for much of an occasion. Given the backdrop of the Brexit negotiations, a Budget right now is an unhelpful distraction, so my expectations have been that nothing of substance will be announced – but, you never know.
My low expectations have been lowered further by news stories on Saturday that the Chancellor will use his Budget to announce that “Don’t Tell the Bride” style weddings will be legalised. Whatever the priority should be for the Chancellor at this precise time, I’m struggling to see that it is outdoor weddings.
Brexit does have the feel of a divorce, so highlighting marriage is interesting. Marriage and tax are still inter-related – although less so for income tax than when I got married in the days of joint taxation. However, mentioning joint taxation is rather like mentioning The Sweeney – it just shows one’s age.
Perhaps marriage is to be mentioned in the Budget to conjure up a more positive image of new trade deals. Maybe the idea is that the UK is the groom arranging a wedding on the White Cliffs of Dover with a new trading partner bride with grid-locked lorry drivers looking on as witnesses. We will have to wait and see.
The other Budget taster from Saturday is the idea that Philip Hammond will ride to the rescue of the British high street. So far the measures to be announced for the traditional retail sector are already sounding over-cooked but we will have a better idea by Monday afternoon. Maybe we could yet become a nation of shopkeepers once again – although that was a derogatory description of us by a Frenchman. C’est la vie.
That was Saturday, Sunday brought another angle. I returned home from Church and dog walking to read quotes on Sky News that Philip Hammond told Sophy Ridge that Monday’s Budget is predicated on a Brexit deal. It seems that if there is no deal, Philip Hammond says that “we would need to look at a different strategy and frankly we’d need to have a new budget that set out a different strategy for the future”.
I’m glad that we have some very clever people in the PKF Francis Clark Budget commentary team today because this won’t be an easy one to make sense of. You can see our coverage here.