The Treasury's forecasts that UK households will be £4,300 worse off a year by 2030 if we leave the European Union were slammed by eurosceptics yesterday, with MPs calling the chancellor’s report “pathetic” and “desperate”.
The split between pro- and anti-EU members of the Tory party widened into a chasm after the Treasury’s analysis claimed that a Brexit would lower GDP by 6.2 per cent by 2030 due to higher trade barriers and reduced investment from the region.
Today, Michael Gove, the justice secretary backing the official Vote Leave campaign, will return fire on the chancellor by arguing that a Remain vote is “the real danger” and would result in “the EU’s bosses and bureaucrats [taking] that as carte blanche to continue taking more power and money away from Britain”.
He will warn that Britain will be “paying the bills for the euro’s failure”.
“If we vote Remain, British taxpayers will be paying ever higher bills for years to come as the EU uses its growing power,” he will say.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is another high-profile Tory to refute the government’s statistics. “Her Majesty’s Treasury of course were the people who said we should stay in the exchange rate mechanism, and that turned out to be a disaster. They said there would be economic benefits of joining the euro, and that turned out to be a complete disaster,” he said.
“The Treasury has not been totally successful in all its economic forecasts, let’s be honest. The reality is that this country is giving £20bn every year to the EU, £350m a week, which we would get back... I think on the contrary our economy, our business, our country would be liberated – it would be independence day on 24 June.”
Osborne unveiled the controversial Treasury document flanked by supportive ministers, including pensions secretary Stephen Crabb, energy secretary Andrea Leadsom and environment secretary Liz Truss, who told City A.M. she was “very supportive” of the report.
Mark Field, the City’s MP, called the analysis “reasonably balanced” but conceded that “forecasting is an art, not a science”, which could not guarantee accuracy.
But other Tory MPs spent much of yesterday lining up to slam the report, which they claim is partisan and misleading.
“Given that the government has to adjust its projections twice a year, it’s incredible to think that 2030 forecasts could be in any way accurate,” said Steve Baker, prominent Leave campaigner and MP for Wycombe.
“Osborne is saying that the economy will grow a little less by 2030 if we leave. If that is the hammer blow to remain in the EU, with all its disadvantages, then he’s got a pathetic case. The spin he’s put on it is outrageous.”
“Anyone who thinks an economic prediction of 14 years’ time will be accurate needs their head examined,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne.
“It’s such a childish debate. Our prosperity would be dependent on the decisions the British government made in the time between us leaving and 2030. The idea of our prosperity being linked to the EU is wrong.”
Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, commented that “the report lacks any credibility”.