'Hard Brexit is my fear' Europhile chief’s plea to remain in single market
James McGrory, of Open Britain, lashed out against the Autumn Statement, saying Philip Hammond would be hard pressed to balance the books.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Mr McGrory breathed new life into ‘Project fear’ as he claimed leaving the EU would hit government spending on public services and infrastructure.
Mr McGrory, who played a leading role in the official Remain campaign, also suggested the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecast that Brexit would cost Britain £58.7bn in just five years should stand as a warning against leaving the single market.
The pro-EU campaigner said: “Well, our economy is smaller, it’s going to be; that’s what the forecasts said it would have been when they were comparing it in March.
“And Philip Hammond has got a huge job on his hands, there’s £122bn worth of extra borrowing required over the five years.
“I thought it was interesting that the OBR actually identified the ‘Brexit effect’, how much of that borrowing is down to the decision to leave the European Union, and they calculate that it’s £58.7bn over the five-year period, that’s about £226m a week of extra borrowing.
“By definition, that gives government less money to spend on the things that people generally want them to spend money on; public services, infrastructure and alike.”
Continuing his plea for the government to not abandon the single market, Nick Clegg’s former spin doctor added: “Growth has been revised down, inflation has been said to be much higher than it was previously going to be.
“Generally, there wasn’t a huge amount of good news, and I think that is because of the uncertainty.”
However, the Open Britain chief, which was set up to replace the official Remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, added he believed the Cabinet had not revealed the plan because it did not have one yet.
Mr McGrory said: “I think what my great fear is that the government has yet to set out their plan for what they’re attempting to get in these negotiations that are coming up with the European Union.
“I think they don’t have a plan as yet. I think they’ll have to have one by March, by the time they trigger Article 50.
“My great fear is if they decide to abandon the single market and indeed the customs union, and pursue what people are calling a hard Brexit, possibly even saying they will default onto World Trade Organisations rules for trading, which would add both tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade with our biggest partner in Europe, that a whole load of our economic figures would get worse, our growth figures, our inflation figures would lead the way.
“And the inflation figures, I think, are particularly worrying because, as the IFD and the Resolution Foundation pointed out, when the average earnings growth is also being downgraded at the same time, people are going to start feeling the pinch.”
The ‘hard’ Brexit warning comes after the Chancellor last week unveiled a £23billion package in his Autumn Statement to prime the UK for a prosperous future outside the EU.