Senior Tories, economists and businesspeople have united to demand the Chancellor release the evidence behind his dire Project Fear forecasts.
This major intervention, organised by the Economists for Free Trade and European Research Group Deputy Chair and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP, comes as the Prime Minister is under increasing pressure from Brexiteers over fears she plans to keep Britain in the customs union and Northern Ireland in the single market.
It also coincides with the Chancellor’s preparations for the first Budget taking effect after Britain leaves the EU in March next year.
A letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, signed by more than sixty Tory MPs – including former Party Leader Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and former Cabinet Ministers Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP and Rt Hon David Jones MP warns that the public are “battered and bewildered by conflicting predictions of the future path of the economy following Brexit, fuelling a growing suspicion that Whitehall is engaging in what is apparently known internally as ‘policy-based evidence-making’.”
The letter – also signed by Tory donors including David Ord, senior businessmen Sir Rocco Forte and Daniel Hodson and leading economists Professor Patrick Minford and Douglas MacWilliams – states that it is “unacceptable that the Government leaks the results of its modelling when it suits but simultaneously hides what lies behind these forecasts from the public.”
It goes on to say:
“The Cross-Whitehall Brexit Analysis leaked to the news website Buzzfeed early this year and subsequently ‘published’ in the form of 24 PowerPoint slides, forecasts a 7.7 per cent hit to GDP under a World Trade Deal under WTO rules and a 4.8 per cent contraction under Canada Plus.
Differences with independent private sector assessments “have huge consequences for Brexit strategy and the long-term trajectory of future public expenditure, taxation, and borrowing.”
“Your recent evidence to the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee confirms that the key points of difference are now the benefits accruing from free trade agreements and the impact of any possible new non-tariff barriers. With regard to the latter, you appear to believe that the EU will behave illegally and in defiance of WTO rules that are backed by the international legal order.”
The letter concludes by demanding that the Chancellor release the Whitehall Brexit analysis so that “experts from all sides can study its methodology, assumptions and conclusions.”
Commenting, Steve Baker MP said:
“After several rounds of Project Fear, the reputation of government economic analysis is rock bottom. It’s therefore time to reveal Government’s full working out for close scrutiny in the public interest.”
To read the letter, click here.