The Sunday Express: There’s a better way, Chancellor

The Prime Minister may have decreed that austerity is at an end, but the message does not seem to have reached Philip Hammond, her gloomy neighbour at No11 Downing Street.

Judging from the press speculation of the last few weeks, tomorrow’s Budget is likely to be painful, especially for hard-working families who believe in standing on their own two feet.

Part of the reason for all the talk of higher taxes lies in another decree from Mrs May. She has promised that spending on the NHS will rise by £20billion a year by the end of 2022.

Spreadsheet Phil has to find this money – and that is only for starters.

Defence, welfare, police and prisons are all beating the drum for more money after a near decade of Treasury parsimony.

The Chancellor’s mood is not helped by Brexit, either. With only five months to go until Britain exits the EU, the Treasury remains convinced we are making a mistake.

The country shrugged off the spine-chilling forecasts of Project Fear in the referendum campaign of 2016 and has since been vindicated in its rejection of the so-called experts as the economy has grown, inflation stayed low and unemployment has tumbled to levels not seen since the 1970s.

This is lucky for Mr Hammond, inset, as the Office for Budget Responsibility has found more money than it previously forecast.

But the Treasury – “the heart of Remain”, as Boris Johnson put it – continues to labour under the delusion that bad times lie ahead.

But it does not have to be like this. My group, Economists for Free Trade, have also been looking at the long-term outlook for the UK post-Brexit – and our conclusions are very different.

This is mainly because, unlike the Treasury, we have factored in the benefits that will flow from free trade deals around the world once we are released from the suffocating embrace of the EU.

We predicted the steady economic growth we are enjoying and foresee a genuine Brexit dividend in the years to come.

This, we estimate, means we can spend an extra £25billion a year by 2020 and another £40billion a year on top of that by 2025.

The Chancellor should lighten up and focus on how to make Brexit work. Abandoning Chequers in favour of a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU would be a start.

If he drives ahead with this agenda and drops the doom and gloom, he will have plenty of money for the NHS and enough left over to get back on the tax-cutting agenda that served us all so well under Margaret Thatcher.

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