When BuzzFeed News got hold of a leaked extract from the Brexit forecast produced for the Department for Exiting the EU last week, the excuse and spin machine went into overdrive. The information was incomplete, it hadn’t been seen by everyone, it had to be agreed by ministers, and then came the tedious procession of Tory flat earthers to tell the world that these Civil Servants always get it wrong anyway.
But now the figures have been released properly, and the reason the Government might not want them to get out became all too clear. The predicted effect of leaving the EU has no beneficial outcome. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nil. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all.
Steve Baker - a smile, a song, and a lousy excuse
Worse, the predicted effect of Brexit is more or less inverse to the support given to the idea in the referendum, so the North East and West Midlands, which voted to Leave, would suffer the most. London, which voted overwhelmingly to Remain, would suffer the least.
The BBC, whose political editor Laura Kuenssberg was one of the first with the numbers, told “The forecasts suggest the North-East of England would be worst-hit by Brexit, with growth 3% lower if the UK stayed in the single market, 11% under a trade deal and 16% with no trade deal compared with staying in the EU … The research suggests London would fare the best, with reductions of 1%, 2% and 2.5% in each of the three scenarios … Scotland’s estimated hit would be 2.5%, 6% and 9%. Wales would see reductions of 1.5%, 5.5% and 9.5%”. Less economic activity. Fewer jobs. Less money for services.
Marginal small and middling towns, already seeing their centres filled with pound shops, charity outlets and betting shops, would be badly hit. The Beeb tried to inject some of that Brexit optimism by reminding us “The government has said the analysis is preliminary and crucially does not measure the impact of the UK's preferred option of a bespoke and comprehensive trade agreement, covering goods and financial services”, but outside the Single Market and Customs Union, there isn’t going to be any advantageous deal.
Could it get yet worse? It certainly could: Sky News’ political editor Faisal Islam reminded everyone that there are not just tariffs outside the Single Market, but potential non-tariff barriers to trade, such as Customs delays and inspections, currency restrictions, quotas, different product standards, product licensing, Single Market internal subsidies, and a host of other potential devices guaranteed to make our EU exports less competitive.
He estimated that non-tariff barriers might see the cost of our motor vehicle exports to the EU rise by between 5% and 13%. Shades of what happened when Mr Churchill made his mistake in 1925 and put Sterling back on the Gold Standard, effectively increasing the cost of British exports by around 10%. Unemployment rose; wages declined.
Small wonder that BuzzFeed’s head of news Stuart Millar mused “Now that bits of the Brexit impact analysis are leaking to other news organisations, I can't wait for Brexit minister @SteveBakerHW to tell us what @BuzzFeedNews misreported last week”.
Anyone would think that the Government’s defensiveness was something to do with the news being bad enough to put the electorate off Brexit if they were asked the question right now. Another case of “You might wish to suggest that - I couldn’t possibly comment”.