Leave campaign hits back with its own economists

Economists for Brexit report says output would be higher, the City would thrive, trade deficit smaller and unemployment lower

Vote Leave mugs

Mugs games. The report’s eight economists accuse the remain campaign of scaremongering and ‘economic illiteracy’.
Photograph: Andrew Parsons/i-Images

The campaign for Britain to leave the EU has hit back at studies claiming an exit would be bad for growth and living standards with a report from eight economists that argues the UK would thrive as an independent country.

The Economists for Brexit report says output would be higher, the City of London would thrive, unemployment would fall and the trade deficit would narrow in the event of a no vote in the in/out referendum on 23 June.

“To date, debate on the economic merits of whether the UK should remain in the EU has become overwhelmed by the government’s ‘project fear’ campaign,” the group said as it launched its report in London. The authors added that they had become exasperated by the “scaremongering and often economic illiteracy” of the remain campaign.

The report represents an attempt by the leave side to counter a series of reports from the Treasury, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which all warn of the economic risks of severing Britain’s 43-year relationship with the EU.

Prof Patrick Minford, one of the eight members of Economists for Brexit, said: “The Treasury report on the financial impact of an EU exit on the UK is nothing short of a totally misleading piece of propaganda, based on almost no proper economic thought and does not stand up to any kind of scrutiny.”

Minford said the Treasury’s analysis of the trade options available to Britain after leaving the EU was “deeply flawed”. He added that the government’s rejection of the World Trade Organisation model under which the UK would have the same rights to export to the bloc as the US took no account of lower consumer prices and rising export competitiveness, assumed high trade barriers and made no recognition of removing all EU regulations. “It simply churns out pessimistic GDP forecasts without any real justification,” he said.

Using his own model of the economy, Minford said output would be 2% higher by the end of the decade, Britain would be 5% more competitive on global markets and real wages would be 1.5% higher than if the UK remained in the EU.

Roger Bootle, another member of the group, said: “Over the last 20 years, the EU’s economic record has been very poor indeed when compared with other developed countries, not just as a result of the euro but by a series of bad decisions which have reduced efficiency. Regulatory burden, misuse of EU funds and the continual absorption of political attention on EU reform matters have all contributed to poor economic performance. Some argue that poor EU decisions are more than made up for by the benefits of the single market, as if it was a door which could be opened or closed depending on EU membership status.

“The reality is that many countries sell into the Single Market without membership [the US being the largest exporter to the EU]. Only 12% of the UK’s GDP is accounted for by exports to the EU but all of the UK economy remains subject its regulations. This, combined with the fact that the benefits of the single market continue to dwindle in a global market, means the EU is a club of which the UK should not want to be a member.”

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, said: “Prof Minford is on record calling for the car industry to be ‘run down’. And he’s called for private companies to replace our NHS. He’s no friend to UK manufacturing and the workers whose jobs depend on it, and no friend to families who rely on public services.

“With every major global economic body agreeing on the threat of Brexit to the UK economy, it is hard to take his views seriously.”

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