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.
Long-standing international sanctions against Iran could be dropped. That’s pretty astonishing given that, in the eyes of many Westerners, the country remains a pariah. The Lausanne framework agreement, which emerged after fraught negotiations in early April, means Iran – easily the world’s most significant isolated nation – could be returning to the global stage.
Even under sanctions, Iran’s $450bn economy is already among the top 25 largest on earth. Home to 81m people, it could soon get a lot bigger still. Since Hassan Rouhani became President in mid-2013, there’s been talk not only of Western rapprochement, but of Iran as an investment destination. The image Rouhani conveys – a moderate cleric, with a doctorate in law from a British university – contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a firebrand religious hardliner.