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Inflation rates in Europe 2022: how May UK CPI compares to EU countries - including France and Germany

Boris Johnson’s government has repeatedly said the cost of living crisis is a ‘global issue’ - so how do inflation rates compare in other countries?

The UK cost of living crisis has broken yet another record, with inflation hitting a new 40-year high in May 2022 according to Office for National Statistics data.

The ONS Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.1% between April and May, meaning the prices of daily items and services are now 9.1% above where they were last year.

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Boris Johnson’s government has repeatedly insisted the sky-high cost of living is the result of global inflationary pressure - a claim that’s been used by the Conservative Party to defend its economic track record.

So how does the UK’s CPI compare to those in Europe?

The UK CPI rose 0.1% between December and January, meaning goods and services cost 5.5% more than they did a year ago (image: AFP/Getty Images)

NationalWorld has analysed the latest data from our closest neighbours to see if the UK’s inflation rate is on the par the government says it is.

What is the UK’s CPI rate?

The CPI is an internationally comparable method of tracking inflation for a typical basket of everyday goods and services.

The prices of everything from food, to clothing, to cars are included, with the basket weighted towards items that are most important to households.

UK inflation is sitting at near-30 year highs and household budgets aren’t keeping up (image: AFP/Getty Images)

For example, milk and bread has a greater bearing on the overall inflation rate than smartwatches.

Whilst being an important yardstick against which we can determine whether or not to alter our spending habits, the CPI is also used to set state pensions, benefits and statutory sick pay.

As of May 2022 (the most recent month for which we have data), the CPI rate in the UK was 9.1%.

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This means the overall basket of goods cost 9.1% more than it did in May 2021.

To put that into perspective, the CPI inflation rate in May 2021 compared to May 2021 was just 2.1%.

How does the UK compare to Europe?

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When NationalWorld first compared the UK’s inflation rate to those in Europe in January 2022, we found it had seen one of the largest proportional year-on-year increases - with only Spain, Belgium and Ireland experiencing bigger leaps.

In April 2022, the major increase to the Ofgem energy price cap drove the UK CPI up by a whopping 2% month-on-month.

So while other major European economies saw their CPIs decelerate or even decrease, the UK overtook everyone barring the Netherlands in terms of how much its inflation had increased by.

As of May 2022, the UK is now leading the pack when it comes to inflation despite a deceleration in how much it has increased by month-on-month.

Boris Johnson has said his government is still considering cost of living support measures (image: Getty Images)

The biggest driver in this most recent data has been food prices, with bread, pasta and dairy products all seeing significant inflation hikes - largely as a result of the ongiong Russia-Ukraine conflict.

However, although the UK appears to be seeing a more severe cost of living crisis than its closest European neighbours, Belgium (8.97%), the Netherlands (8.8%) and Spain (8.7%) are not far behind.

The context to note with Belgium is that all wages in the country are tied to the CPI; so when inflation goes up, consumers lose no purchasing power.

Here in the UK, wages have not been rising in step with inflation meaning many people are becoming worse off.

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Also, the Netherlands has seen a 0.8% month-on-month decrease in its CPI as a result of its energy prices going down - something which suggests the country is likely to see its CPI decrease yet further in the summer months.

Another caveat to note when comparing the UK to Europe is that its month-on-month CPI increase of 0.1% is much lower than the likes of Italy (+0.8%), Ireland (+0.8%) and Germany (+0.5%).

The themes behind these increases are broadly similar to those in the UK, with the effects of the war between Russia and Ukraine, Covid-19 and supply chain difficulties being felt across energy, transport and food prices in particular.

While the month-on-month picture is kinder to the UK, comparisons over 12 months are less kind to the UK (see table above).

Only Belgium (+7.51%) sits above the UK’s 7% percentage point increase in its CPI over this period.

Is the UK in a better or worse position than Europe?

The problems faced by the UK are similar to those being faced by its closest European neighbours.

However, as of May 2022, the figures show the UK is in a worse position when it comes to inflation - both in terms of its overall CPI rate and the percentage point increase to its CPI over the last 12 months.

The war in Ukraine continues to fuel inflation (image: AFP/Getty Images)

The governments of some of our near-neighbours have launched economic interventions which appear to either be turning the tide on inflation or keeping it at bay.

For example, the 21% fuel duty cut introduced in the Netherlands in April appears to have dampened inflation in the country, while a €25 billion cost of living support package in France appears to have successfully kept inflation low there.

What these interventions demonstrate is that the UK government is not as bound by global tides as it claims to be.

They also suggest Boris Johnson’s administration could increase public spending without causing inflation to rocket - something that’s been repeatedly cited by the government as a reason not to introduce more cost of living support.

While the UK is arguably in the worst position in Western Europe, the big question is how future events could change the picture.

If the UK’s Ofgem energy price cap rises as predicted later in the year, the UK would be likely to see a big further increase in its cost of living.

And should the Kremlin opt to entirely cut Europe off from Russian energy, inflation could reach stratospheric levels on the continent - although the UK would also feel the impact of such a move.

But as things stand, the UK’s cost of living crisis is worse than those seen in the rest of Western Europe.