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Expectations were high for Philip Hammond’s Budget. The City of London was looking for reassurance over Brexit. Downing Street was nervously watching to see if it was going to blow up politically. Eurosceptic Conservatives were sharpening their knives to seize on any mis-steps by a chancellor they are desperate to oust. Remain-supporting Conservatives were urging their cheerleader in the Cabinet not to mess it up. And Mr Hammond was just hoping that, unlike his first big fiscal event last year, the whole thing would not backfire.

At first glance, it seems as if Mr Hammond has played a bad hand well. His decision to slash stamp duty for first-time home buyers will help to win support from younger voters. But the dire state of the public finances — and the growth forecasts in particular — provide little fiscal headroom for a government already under pressure to open the spending taps. Mr Hammond resisted these temptations in a dry, very conservative budget, fiscal event that has kept most parties happy. And that is no simple task.

In today’s FT, we have a special paper with a range of opinion pieces:

  • Janan Ganesh says Hammond did enough to guarantee his survival at the Treasury, at least for now. His deft delivery will silence many of his critics.
  • Martin Wolf looks at the macroeconomic picture and reckons he played a bad hand as well as could be expected. Nevertheless the long-term outlook is grim.
  • Sarah Gordon argues that businesses need to be much more proactive and effective in steering the Brexit agenda after this Budget.
  • Economist Ruth Lea says the dodgy state of public finances has still not been addressed and something must be done about high levels of public debt.
  • I argue that the chancellor needs to do much more if he is serious about winning over millennial voters.
  • Julian Glover looks at the housing proposals and says they will not unlock the market for younger buyers.
  • Clive Cookson recalls that the research and development ambitions are reminiscent of the Gordon Brown era.
  • Our FT View welcomes the chancellor’s safety-first approach towards the economy as Brexit uncertainties grow.
  • Listen to economists Rupert Harrison and Torsten Bell discuss the key budget announcements in an FT Politics podcast special.

Best of the rest

Forget the prudent chancellor Fiscal Phil, this was Feelgood Phil — Philip Aldrick in The Times

Ms. Merkel Struggles to Hold Germany Together — The New York Times editorial board

Philip Hammond’s budget cannot erase the stain on the soul of his party — Rafael Behr in The Guardian

The government has got its groove back — but Scottish voters fear their SNP future — Ruth Davidson in The Telegraph

The Republicans’ Debt Amnesia — William A. Galston in the Wall Street Journal

What you’ve been saying

The way to make big ideas work is by starting small — letter from Geoff Mulgan in London

“Sir, Janan Ganesh is both exactly right and exactly wrong (‘Hammond’s critics lack the experience to know better’). He is right to criticise lazy bigmouth radicals who offer cheap soundbites instead of rigour. But he is wholly wrong to conclude that because new ideas have been not implemented they are therefore impossible, a classic error of logic. The correct bridge between big ideas and everyday practicality is experiment.”

Comment from HFexponent on Courtney Weaver’s article, “Where next for the #MeToo movement?

“Sadly this will get worse before it gets better. The rightly feared amalgamation of all acts under one criminal umbrella will lead to one of two outcomes: Either society will end up governed by affirmative consent, ‘yes means yes’ laws where even attempting to hold hands in a (potentially?!) reciprocally felt romantic moment will be a crime, leading to both a metaphorically and somewhat literal sterile environment. Alternatively we may end up with histrionics and kangaroo courts which may win out in the court of popular opinion but catastrophically fail in an actual court: What happens when an individual commits suicide or similar and then evidence demonstrates their innocence? I am thinking more about the negative impact on the ground won in recent weeks and months although this scenario is horrendous on all sides.”

Don’t ask Americans to consume less — letter from Daniel Mauro in Chicago

“A country’s net investment (investment plus or minus the balance of trade) is a function of the savings rate of a nation. Powerful exporters such as Germany and China have high savings rates relative to the US’s consumer-centric economy. In order to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic investment, Americans would have to decrease consumption, which is not something anybody is interested in, as maximising consumption is the lodestar of American society. The upshot is that trade deficits and subdued investment will be with the US regardless of administration trade policies. If anything, a deficit-increasing tax cut will further decrease the US’s savings rate and increase the trade deficit and reduce net investment. It’s surprising that a hugely successful businessman such as President Donald Trump would not understand this.”

Today’s opinion

FT View: Flying near blind towards Brexit, Hammond’s Budget puts safety first
The chancellor’s task was to equip Britain for a future outside the EU — and to survive

Budget science boost will need business to deliver
Britain’s plan for investment in research is reminiscent of the pre-crash era

Budget 2017: Hammond passes up a chance to be radical
The British chancellor played it safe but could still prove to be his party’s saviour

Budget background reveals wobbly public finances
We are still not living within our means and long-term debt levels remain unsustainable

Business needs to steer the post-Budget Brexit agenda
UK trade groups lack unity and struggle to represent employers’ views to government

Budget 2017: ‘Box Office’ Phil does enough to survive — for now
The chancellor’s enemies will probably lay off him for the rest of the year

FT View: Kenya dances near the brink of dissolution
The inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta will not resolve the impasse

Budget: Hammond is hemmed in by narrow Tory horizons
Cutting stamp duty for first-time buyers will not unlock the housing market

FT View: The costs of the opioid epidemic, and the price of ending it
The US can control abuse of the drug, if it will spend the money required

FT Alphaville: Taking the block out of blockchain . . .

Instant Insight: Budget 2017 shows a reactive government throwing cash at crises
Philip Hammond is trying to clear up a mess but his efforts are likely to be in vain

Instant Insight: Philip Hammond will need to do more to win over millennial Britain
The chancellor delivers some welcome measures in his Budget, writes Sebastian Payne

The Art of Persuasion: Budget 2017: Hammond’s speech packs a surprisingly funny punch
The chancellor offers a jocular gloss on economic gloom and keeps it ‘relatable’ for all

Mexican affection for US endures despite Trump
From the NFL to Starbucks to Thanksgiving, American brands and traditions are ‘cool’

Instant Insight: The conviction of Ratko Mladic is a significant achievement
The dysfunctional state of Bosnia still has a long way to go towards reconciliation

Smart cities might not be such a bright idea
It is a fallacy to think that more data, by itself, can make life better

Donald Trump’s unwitting surrender to China
The big US tech companies remain world leaders but their rivals are catching up fast

Free Lunch: Prepare for a disappointing UK Budget
Policy will not seriously address Britain’s challenges

Opinion today: Who benefits from Trump’s tax plan?
The severely regressive effects of the proposed reforms will have serious political consequences

FT Series: What the EU must learn from Donald Trump
Brussels can use social media to ensure its message is heard across Europe, writes Julian Lang

The Big Read: Modi’s India: the high cost of protecting holy cows
Laws backed by the ruling Hindu nationalists are wreaking havoc for farmers in the meat, milk and leather markets

FT View

FT View: Flying near blind towards Brexit, Hammond’s Budget puts safety first
The chancellor’s task was to equip Britain for a future outside the EU — and to survive

FT View: Kenya dances near the brink of dissolution
The inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta will not resolve the impasse

FT View: The costs of the opioid epidemic, and the price of ending it
The US can control abuse of the drug, if it will spend the money required

The Big Read

The Big Read: Modi’s India: the high cost of protecting holy cows
Laws backed by the ruling Hindu nationalists are wreaking havoc for farmers in the meat, milk and leather markets

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