My Christmas holiday wasn’t entirely spent eating turkey sandwiches and watching television. A sizeable chunk was devoted, instead, to reading European Union Treaties, typing furiously at my keyboard.
The result is “Clean Brexit” – a paper I’ve written with the highly-regarded City economist Gerard Lyons, copies of which are doing the rounds at Westminster.
UK GDP grew by 0.4pc during the first three months of 2016, we learnt last week, down from 0.6pc the quarter before. “The threat of leaving the European Union is now weighing on our economy,” claimed Chancellor George Osborne.
The Bank of England is worried about “a fall in sterling due to fears of Brexit”, we’re repeatedly told, the latest Threadneedle Street intervention also warning of “a lower path for growth” if British voters have the audacity to leave the EU.
And if only “uncertainty” hadn’t been “heightened by the UK’s referendum on EU membership”, Janet Yellen opined last Wednesday, the mighty Federal Reserve might now be able to raise interest rates, helping the US central bank steer global markets away from dependence on emergency measures and back towards normality.
This week marks the start of the media “silly season”. It’s during the dog days of August, when so many of us are away on holiday, that the economic and political agenda tends to slow and newspapers and broadcasters become desperate for anything of interest to report.
With Parliament in recess, and business leaders at the beach, this is the time of year when grown-up journalism takes a back seat, making way for offbeat, bizarre news stories, the weirder the better, anything that will make a splash.
August 2014 won’t be like that. Its strikes me that this year the silly season is cancelled. We’re in for a singularly un-relaxed high summer on the news-front instead, an August of urgent headlines, political intrigue and financial angst.
For a start, global equity markets are on a knife-edge. Throughout 2014, Western share indices, fuelled by central bank “funny money”, have ratcheted up and up. Stock valuations are now historically high, despite weak corporate earnings and the failure of the large Western economies to stage a convincing recovery.