Michael Gove suggests Philip Hammond is wrong about post-Brexit economic damage

'The projections are one way of informing the debate but they are not definitive, they are not a prediction, they are not an oracle, they are simply a set of data'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 02 December 2018 17:34
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Michael Gove: 'This is a rare occasion when there is a scintilla of difference between myself and Philip Hammond'

Michael Gove has suggested his Cabinet colleague Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is wrong about the economic damage Brexit will inflict on the UK.

The environment secretary’s remarks follow an alarming Treasury analysis published on Wednesday, suggesting Britain will be poorer economically under any form of Brexit.

Official government figures detailed how the economy could be 3.9 per cent smaller after 15 years outside the European Union with a Chequers-style deal, or 9.3 per cent under a no-deal scenario – compared with staying in the bloc.

Addressing the benchmark analysis last week, Mr Hammond claimed that “from an economic point of view” there would “be a cost to leaving the European Union, because there will be impediments to our trade”.

But when presented with the findings on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Gove replied: “Even on the figures on that paper it’s not an instant hit – that’s over a period of time. But it is a projection… It is simply one scenario, and one model.

“The government in every scenario and in every model can take steps in order to improve economic growth. The projections are one way of informing the debate but they are not definitive, they are not a prediction, they are not an oracle, they are simply a set of data.

He continued: “This is a rare occasion when there is a scintilla of difference between myself and Philip [Hammond] in that I think that we can do better outside the European Union.”

Mr Gove did, however, acknowledge that there would “undoubtedly” be a “period of economic turbulence” should the UK crash out of the bloc without a deal.

The cabinet minister also used his appearance to urge wavering Conservative MPs to back Theresa May’s deal in a crucial Commons vote in nine days’ time.

While he admitted it would a “challenge” to secure the passage of the UK-EU agreement, Mr Gove insisted the prime minister can still persuade colleagues and win the vote.

Shortly before Mr Gove’s comments, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, had told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme that if the prime minister’s deal is voted down, Labour would seek to table a motion of no confidence in the government.

"If the prime minister has lost a vote of that sort of significance then there has to be a question of confidence in the Government," he said.

"I think it's inevitable that we will seek to move that - obviously it will depend on what actually happens in nine days, it will depend on what the response is - but if she's lost a vote of this significance after two years of negotiation, then it is right that there should be a general election."

With a two-thirds majority required for an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis made clear ministers would resist any attempt to make them go to the country early.

"I don't think anybody watching this programme, having had two general elections and a referendum in the last three years, is looking for a general election or will thank the Government for that," Mr Lewis told the same programme.

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