UK firms facing £10bn a year bill to fill pensions black hole after Brexit vote

BRITISH businesses need to stump up an extra £10 billion a year over the next decade to cover the pension deficits built up in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to a report published today.

The shortfall for defined benefit pensions schemes – which guarantee a retirement income linked to final salaries – jumped by £90bn last year to stand at £560bn by the end of 2016 amid a notable drop in UK government bond yields and a cut to interest rates.

“If companies tried to repair the additional deficits which arose during 2016 within 10 years, this would cost an extra £10 billion per year,” a report by PwC, the leading audit and tax consultancy, said.

Read more: Theresa May denies claim of “muddled thinking” on Brexit strategy

It showed that the referendum alone sparked an £80bn shortfall within just 24 hours, with the deficit rising from £510bn to £590bn between June 23 and June 24.

It was made worse following the Bank of England’s post-Brexit stimulus package, which cut the benchmark interest rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent, ramped up its quantitative easing programme – which sees the bank print money to buy government bonds – by £60bn to £435bn, and began a £10bn corporate debt purchasing scheme.

That move in early August decreased yields by making bonds and stocks more expensive, which ultimately bit into financial returns.

A number of companies have seen the size of their pension black holes balloon with BT recently revealing that its pension deficit surged to £9.5bn at the end of September from £6.2bn three months earlier.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have a robust and flexible system for regulating pensions and the vast majority of employers are managing their pension schemes appropriately.”

Read more: Theresa May denies claim of “muddled thinking” on Brexit strategy

Meantime, the Civitas think-tank said the UK Government would need to provide almost £9bn in support for businesses to cope with the impact of failing to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

Yet, it said the cost could be covered by exacting tariffs on imports from the remaining 27 members of the bloc.

The Civitas report suggested that billions could be spent on subsidies and aid within World Trade Organisation rules to help firms as they adapted to the imposition of tariffs on trade with the EU.

Elsewhere, Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government’s Culture Secretary, will say today that protecting membership of the single market is vital to Scotland’s culture and creative industries.

Read more: Theresa May denies claim of “muddled thinking” on Brexit strategy

Joining more than 600 of the UK’s creative industries, arts and education leaders in London to celebrate the Creative Industries Federation’s second anniversary, she is expected to say that Brexit will pose a “significant challenge” to the Scottish Government’s commitment to developing and nurturing the creative sector.

Highlighting the Scottish Government’s desire for Scotland to remain within the single market, she will note: “Access to the ideas, talent, experiences and creative exchanges which the freedom of movement aspect of the single market provides is especially important to the cultural sector.”

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