Jeremy Hunt has dismissed his own economic watchdog’s forecasts, saying he doesn’t accept that Brexit “will make us poorer”.
In a shaky interview, the Chancellor was confronted with his watchdog’s analysis that leaving the EU would cost £100bn in production and £40bn in revenue by the end of the decade.
But Mr Hunt, asked about the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) analysis of a 4 per cent GDP slump, replied: “I don’t accept the 4 per cent.”
When pointed out that he accepts other OBR predictions, he said, “I don’t have to accept all of them,” adding, “I accept all that I agree with.”
The Chancellor acknowledged that the “transition” to new trade relations was causing “difficulties for some companies” but argued that “the opportunities of Brexit” could overcome them.
“I do not accept the long-term implications of this decision [leaving the EU] will make us poorer,” he said Sky news.
Mr Hunt insisted that “Brexit is not the problem” as Britain enters a recession lasting up to two years that will bring living standards back to 2013 levels.
Negotiating closer trade ties with Brussels – like the “Swiss-style deal” rejected by Rishi Sunak this week – would prevent the UK from “becoming the world’s next Silicon Valley, which is my long-term plan,” he said.
The comments come after Michael Gove was criticized for failing to name a single change from Brexit that has “made the deal easier” as criticism of the economic damage from the trade deal mounts.
The leading Leave activist instead referred to Common Agricultural Policy reform and gene editing and the freedom to “make our air cleaner, our soil more resilient.”
Mr Hunt has claimed that the “vast majority” of punitive cross-channel trade barriers can be removed in the years to come, but without explaining how.
The OBR has consistently forecast that a projected 15 per cent drop in trade will eat away at 4 per cent of GDP over the medium term – double the economic damage from the Covid pandemic.
But the chancellor said so Sky news The loss is “what the OBR is projecting if we don’t do other things to take advantage of Brexit opportunities.”
He pointed to efforts to “invest in the skills of our own people to ease migratory pressures” as harm-reduction measures – even though net migration has risen to record levels.
“We will forge another economy outside the European Union, with high skills, high wages, the world’s next Silicon Valley and with our own regulations,” Hunt said.