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British Leader Prepares Country for Tough Year Ahead

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is warning of a bleak, economically tough 2009. Unemployment, home foreclosures and business bankruptcies are all expected to rise dramatically in Britain over the next 12 months.

If 2008 was financially difficult in Britain, 2009 may be even tougher. The economic challenges will be enormous with jobs ebbing away and businesses fighting to survive.

In his New Year message to a country already rocked by the credit crunch, Prime Minister Gordon Brown candidly admitted Thursday there will be trouble ahead.

"This coming year will not be easy but I am determined that this government will be the rock of stability and fairness upon which the British people can depend," he said.

In 2008, Brown's government was forced to nationalize two banks and take stakes in several others. A number of notable retail names have disappeared from the main streets here and others will follow in the New Year.

While the British economy is contracting at its sharpest level since the early 1990s, Brown remains determined to fight back with more government spending. He predicts when the global economy does eventually recover, the underlying financial landscape will be very different.

"And when the history books come to be written, 2008 will largely be remembered for the scale of the great economic and financial crisis. A year in which an old era of unbridled free market dogma was finally ushered out. And I want 2009 to be when the dawn of a new progressive era breaks across the world, purposeful and energetic governments giving real help to families and businesses when they need it the most," he said.

But Brown is a man not without his critics. The main opposition Conservative party said the prime minister's spending plans are unsustainable and they will leave future generations with a mountain of debt.

While his message was somber, Brown did stress that the country will be well placed to move forward once the downturn is over with jobs for the digital age and new and improved transportation and communications infrastructure.

He also said Britons have always risen to challenges in the past, and this economic crisis will prove to be no different.