Liam Fox slaps down Philip Hammond over no-deal Brexit warning
A fresh Cabinet split has emerged over a ‘no deal’ Brexit, as frontbencher Liam Fox rubbished Philip Hammond’s dire warnings about the economic effects of leaving the EU without a deal.
The Chancellor caused outrage among hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party last week when he warned that leaving the EU without securing a deal could saddle the public finances with an extra £80bn of borrowing by 2033/34.
But, speaking on a trade trip to Singapore, Mr Fox said the warning was “hard to swallow”, and cast doubt on the Treasury’s ability to make accurate forecasts.
The International Trade Secretary told the BBC: “Some of us remember the supposed economic shock we were going to get if Britain voted to leave the European Union and the result of the referendum itself was going to cost us half a million jobs, it was going to see investors desert the UK and our economy plunge into recession.
“What has in fact happened? We’ve added 600,000 jobs to the economy, we saw a record number of inward investment projects land in the UK last year and our economy has continued to grow.”
He added: “That was over a two-year time horizon, so projections over a 15-year time horizon are rather hard to swallow.”
Mr Fox is the latest Tory colleague of Mr Hammond’s to pour cold water on the no-deal warning.
Theresa May last night played down the Treasury estimate, saying it was based on a forecast from January of this year and insisting a no-deal Brexit would not be “the end of the world”.
“They were a work in progress at that particular time,” the Prime Minister said.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has meanwhile said he is sceptical about longer-term economic forecasts.
While not mentioning the Chancellor directly, the Cabinet minister told the Sunday Times: “I’m always chary of any forecast because most of them have been proved to be wrong."
Mr Raab added: “We need to treat some of the forecasts with a measure of caution.”
The intervention from Mr Fox came as Downing Street refused to confirm whether MPs will be told of the full consequences of a no-deal Brexit before they get a chance to vote on one in Parliament.
A spokesperson for Theresa May would only say an “appropriate analysis” will be produced before MPs get to have their say on her final Brexit deal.
The admission prompted fury from anti-Brexit campaigners, with Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake saying such a move would undermine a central claim of the campaign to leave the European Union.
“Refusing to show MPs the full damage a no-deal Brexit would inflict on our country makes a mockery of the discredited mantra 'Taking Back Control',” he said.
“The Government must stop these murky games and pledge to release this analysis.
“There's no denying a no-deal would be a disaster, but the Chequers proposal would be equally bad. People must have the chance to reject this Brexit mess with a final say on the deal.”