Brexit papers' leak exposes Government's dishonesty over economic cost

It isn't a surprise that official papers reportedly show that Brexit will cost Britain dear, but the fact that ministers won't be honest with the British people about what they say is shameful 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Tuesday 30 January 2018 11:38
Kier Starmer vows to force to Government to publish secret Brexit reports laying bare economic damage

Of course any Brexit deal will damage the economy.

The leak of Government papers that say it is going to make every single one of us poorer whatever deal is finally struck is dominating the news today.

The publication of their contents by BuzzFeed News could hardly have been better timed: It came as the Eurozone posted its strongest GDP growth in a decade. Across the channel France, for example, is flying.

The papers basically reflect what just about every respectable economist and organisation have already said (and including what the Government said before the referendum).

Brexit is an act of economic self harm. By some estimates it has already cost Britain more than the £350m a week Boris Johnson falsely claimed leaving would make available to the NHS through economic uncertainty and lost investment. It bears repeating every time this issue is discussed: Before the poll Britain was the fastest growing economy in the G7. Now it is the slowest. Inflation has leapt and eaten into household budgets as a result of the weakness in the pound. Wages have not risen to match it. People are getting poorer, household debt is rising at an alarming rate.

That isn't all down to the aftermath of the vote. But the latter has been a big contributor to it and this is just the start. Brexit will go on costing every single one of us. The only debate to be had is about how much.

According to the reports, the papers explain that over the next 15 years growth will be up to 8 per cent lower if the UK leaves with no deal (billions and billions of pounds in real money), reverting instead to World Trade Organisation rules as the fundamentalists on the Tory benches want. It will be 2 per cent lower if, on the other hand, it cosies up to its neighbours and keeps the rules broadly aligned. The so called Philip Hammond option.

But we can magic up lots of lovely trade deals, is the Brexiteers' cry.

Unfortunately that relies on the amateurism of the Department of International Trade at which the Secretary of State is Stumbledore Liam Fox, who displays about as much sparkle as Grimsby on a wet Wednesday.

It’s worth pointing out that the estimates also rely on securing a trade deal with the USA’s America First administration of Donald Trump. Feel free to say “oh dear” at this point. You’ll hardly be alone. And get set for some American made chlorinated chicken next time you fancy a takeaway.

What is perhaps most important about the publication is it that it exposes the ugly dishonesty at the centre of a Government in which the national interest is suborned to the interests of somehow keeping its two wings not on the same page but at least in the same library.

The Government’s response to the papers publication is that they don’t cover the “bespoke” deal that it says it wants. But even if Europe will play ball and agree to Theresa May’s “deep and special” partnership, she and her ministers still have to agree on how they want it to work and what compromises they will be willing to accept as regards EU rules.

Deep into the process there is scant sign of that. In the meantime the dither and drift is only adding more unnecessary cost. It's a disturbing fact that the wreckers among the Brexiteer jihadis might ultimately end up getting their way by default.

What's that, you see an iceberg on the horizon? Yes, I see it too. Best order in some warm clothes.

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