Jacob Rees-Mogg's Economists for Free Trade event had only one economist, and that was the least ridiculous thing about it

There is no one in the the Treasury, the Bank of England or on the economics desk at any major bank or investment firm who would consider Jacob Rees-Mogg's analysis to be anything other than deranged

Conservative politician Steve Baker says that he doesn't foresee any change in the Brexit strategy

Perhaps the best way to understand the overall quality of the analysis in A World Trade Deal: The Complete Guide by the Economists for Free Trade is through the fact that, of the two late-middle-aged men who had come to Westminster to launch it, one of them used his very first words to say, “I am not an economist”, instantly reducing number of economists on the panel at the Economists for Free Trade event to one.

Still, other types of human were there in plural, in this stiflingly hot room in the bowels of Westminster. Boris Johnson shuffled in shortly before the start, and then refused to take any questions apart from the ones he wanted to answer. Steve Baker, David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Bill Cash, Iain Duncan Smith and every other person you would want nowhere near government was already there. The collective noun for said people is not economists. According to the latest Independent style guide, the correct term is made up of at least 25 per cent asterisks.

Some background: for most of the past two years, whenever Rees-Mogg or Liam Fox or Davis or any such person has been asked to comment on there being, for example, no forecasts by the government or by any major bank that indicates Brexit will not leave Britain substantially poorer, they reply by saying economic forecasts are “pointless”. “There is no point trying to predict where the economy will be in 15 years” is a phrase uttered in slightly different words by both Fox and Rees-Mogg in the past few weeks.

And yet, here was Rees-Mogg, on hand to explain that a no-deal Brexit – that event commonly considered by any even vaguely involved to be a total catastrophe – would in fact be worth £1.1 trillion to the UK economy over the next 15 years.

There is not a single figure in the government, the Treasury or the economics analysis department of any major bank or investment firm who considers this to be anything less than deranged.

Patrick Minford, the sole economist of the Economists for Free Trade, had begun by explaining how the UK saying no to Chequers and just walking out of the EU unilaterally would lower prices, boost growth by 7 per cent and bring about various other eventualities that in fact stand precisely zero chance of happening.

Rees-Mogg had had enough of the experts from the Bank of England, and the Treasury, who had “warned of recession and unemployment”, when neither had happened. But he hadn’t had enough of his experts, who were there to tell him everything would be fine.

The leaflet is such bizarre gibberish it is difficult to know where to begin. Will prices go up? Not in the long term, it claims. Would there have to be tariffs with other countries? Not on a long-term basis. Will there be gains for UK GDP? Yes there would be, but it would be a “long-term gain of about 7 per cent”.

There was even a handy short guide to their World Trade Deal manifesto, featuring such stress-alleviating guarantees to questions like, “Won’t we be the economic losers if we leave the EU?” with the one-word answer: “No.”

In the short term, however, things appeared less fine. All they could be sure they had was a very weird meeting, with a very large number of very strange people at it, going through a very small paper of economic analysis, which has already been described as “shameful”.

These are the people who are still determined to force Theresa May to abandon the agreement her cabinet recently reached after an emergency cabinet meeting at Chequers, even though the reaching of that agreement caused most of them to leave the government with instant effect. Now, according to Rees-Mogg, the prime minister’s Chequers plan is, “to be snivelling and fearful, to kowtow, to go down on bended knee. To serve homage.”

Mainly, it’s to have some say in the governing of your continent.

This was, even within the dire context of the present day, a truly low point of post-shame politics. Absolutely nobody thinks this stuff is true, which goes some way to explaining why Mr Rees-Mogg stared into the middle distance throughout, then launched a sixth-form style attack on “Project Fear”, and how things have not turned out as badly as was foreseen two-and-a-half years ago, chiefly because of a great international economic boom on which Britain missed out.

At one point, Baker pronounced that Brexit would be fine because “economists are bloody useless”. You’d think this would be tough to get away with at an economists’ panel event, but at least there was only one of them there. According to Baker, because economists “hadn’t seen the financial crash coming”, the UK walking out of the EU without a deal would be fine, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is useless.

Still, this is how things work now. Arguments are won by talking enough utter rubbish at just the right time to shift public debate, which for the most part is unquestioning, in the direction you require.

If anyone is convinced by this nonsense, well, that’s up to them. But May certainly wasn’t, which is why all the politicians concerned with it are now outside government seeking to do their worst, when they had a chance on the inside and were found to be hopelessly wanting.

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