Fitch Downgrades United Kingdom To ‘aa+’; Outlook Stable

U.S. Relations With United Kingdom

– Higher than previously projected budget deficits and debt primarily reflects the weak growth performance of the UK economy in recent years, partly due to headwinds of private and public sector deleveraging and the eurozone crisis. Fitch has revised down its forecast economic growth in 2013 and 2014 to 0.8% and 1.8%, respectively, from 1.5% and 2.0% at the time of the last review of the UK’s sovereign ratings in September 2012. The UK economy is not expected to reach its 2007 level of real GDP until 2014, underscoring the weakness of the economic recovery. – Despite significant progress in reducing public sector net borrowing (PSNB from a peak of 11.2% of GDP (GBP159bn) in 2009-10, the budget deficit remains 7.4% of GDP (excluding the effect of the transfer of Royal Mail pensions) and is not expected to fall below 6% of GDP and GBP100bn until the end of the current parliament term. The slower pace of deficit reduction means that the next government will be required to implement substantial spending reductions (and/or tax increases) if public debt is to be stabilised and reduced over the medium term. The Stable Outlook on the UK’s sovereign ratings reflects the following factors. – Under Fitch’s baseline economic and fiscal scenario, which assumes a continued policy commitment to reducing the underlying budget deficit and medium-term annual growth potential of 2%-2.25%, government debt gradually falls as a share of national income in the latter half of the decade. – The long average maturity of public debt (15 years) – the longest of any high-grade sovereign -exclusively denominated in local currency and low interest service burden implies a higher level of debt tolerance than many high-grade peers. – The international reserve currency status of sterling and the ability and willingness of the Bank of England to intervene in the UK government debt market largely eliminates the risk of a self-fulfilling fiscal financing crisis. – The gradual improvement in the UK banking sector’s capital and liquidity position has further reduced contingent liabilities arising from this sector. The UK’s ‘AA+’ rating is underpinned by its high-income, diversified and flexible economy as well as a high degree of political and social stability. The monetary policy framework as well as sterling’s international reserve currency status afford the UK a high degree of financial and economic policy flexibility. Strong civil and policy institutions and a high degree of transparency enhance the predictability of the business and economic policy environment that compares favourably with peers in the ‘AA’ category. Weak economic performance and growth prospects, relatively high levels of private and foreign as well as public debt, along with sizeable twin fiscal and current account deficits, are weaknesses relative to rating peers.

The United Kingdom and the United States continually consult on foreign policy issues and global problems and share major foreign and security policy objectives. Regarding Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, “Nationalist” and “Republican” groups seek a united Ireland that includes Northern Ireland, while “Unionists” and “Loyalists” want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. U.S. priorities continue to be supporting the peace process and devolved political institutions in Northern Ireland and encouraging the implementation of the U.S.-brokered 1998 Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, and the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement. U.S. Assistance to the United Kingdom The International Fund for Ireland (IFI), created in 1986, provides funding for projects to generate cross-community engagement and economic opportunity in Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom) and the border counties of Ireland. Since the IFI’s establishment, the U.S. Government has contributed over $500 million, roughly half of total IFI funding. The other major donor to IFI is the European Union. Bilateral Economic Relations The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union and a major international trading power. The United Kingdom is one of the largest markets for U.S.