One of Theresa May’s key Brexit ministers has claimed that civil servants have never produced a correct economic forecast, and said he looks forward to continuing to prove the “horror story predictions” of economists wrong.
Steve Baker made the comments to MPs after being summoned to explain a leaked analysis, drawn up by government officials, which suggests Britain would be worse off after Brexit under a wide range of potential scenarios.
Responding to an urgent question from the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who demanded the assessment be published, the MP said ministers had only just seen the research and insisted that “significant further work” was required.
In fact, Baker questioned the worth of such research, slamming the use of Treasury forecasts during the referendum as “Project Fear” and saying the public deserved a House of Commons that displayed a “healthy scepticism about economic forecasting”.
Asked by the Tory MP and leave campaigner William Wragg if he could name a single civil service forecast “leaked or otherwise” that had been proved accurate, the minister responded: “No, I’m not able to name an accurate forecast, and I think they are always wrong and wrong for good reasons. My longstanding views on the flaws in the epistemology of the social sciences and consequences for econometrics are long set out.”
Baker also responded to another Brexiter colleague, Peter Bone, who said people had still voted to leave the EU despite dire warnings.
“I look forward to the day when we continue to prove economists wrong when they make horror story predictions,” he said.
The minister argued that the most recent leaked papers, obtained by Buzzfeed, were a preliminary attempt by government to improve on the flawed analysis produced during the referendum, to test ideas, and design a viable framework for future predictions.