Britain could be in line for a £135 billion windfall in the five years after it withdraws from the EU, a leading Brexit champion claimed yesterday.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a senior Tory backbencher, unveiled a blueprint that involved slashing red tape, reducing taxes and eliminating trade barriers with the rest of the world in order to achieve the significant dividend.
The “budget for Brexit” he endorsed was produced by Economists for Free Trade (EFT), an organisation headed by the pro-Leave academic Patrick Minford from Cardiff Business School.
The forecasts differed sharply from the official outlook from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and the views of many other leading economists. Mr Rees-Mogg said that the OBR’s work was based on “false assumptions given to it by the treasury.
Chuka Umunna, a Labour MP and leading supporter of Open Britain, the pro-EU pressure group, attacked the EFT report as “hard Brexit voodoo economics”. He called for an investigation after the department for international trade tweeted a link to the story, which it later deleted. Mr Umunna claimed the endorsement of the story breached the civil service code on objectivity. “The government claims that rights which protect working people will be unaffected by Brexit. But now Liam Fox’s department is supporting a report which calls for employment rights to be slashed,” he said.
At the launch of the report in central London, Mr Rees-Mogg said that a classic free trade approach, combined with continued restraint in public spending, could see the UK achieve “post-Brexit fiscal freedom” of £135 billion between 2020 and 2025 and a further £40 billion each year from 2025.
Mr Rees-Mogg called for the government to honour a controversial pledge made by the Leave campaign before the EU referendum that an additional £350 million a week could be spent on the NHS after Brexit. “Although I did not want the £350 million figure used, it was used and the electors believe a promise was made. Politicians cannot hide behind the small print like some disreputable businesses do,” he said.
His intervention came as MPs on the Commons public accounts committee warned that a failure to complete the introduction of a customs system by Brexit in 2019 would be “catastrophic”.