Boost for Remain as 90% of economists say Brexit would harm UK growth
Nearly 90% of economists say leaving the EU and the single market would damage the UK’s growth prospects over the next five years, a new poll has suggested.
A survey commissioned for the Observer, said to be the largest of its type ever conducted, found that economists working in academia, the city, industry, small businesses and the public sector thought Brexit would harm the British economy.
Some 82% of more than 600 respondents said there would be a detrimental effect on household incomes from leaving the bloc over the next five years, with 61% taking the view that unemployment would rise.
Prime Minister David Cameron seized on the figures, saying: "This poll confirms the overwhelming view of economists - leaving the EU would damage our economy, costing jobs and increasing prices.
"We are stronger, safer and better off in the EU."
Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Paul Johnson said the survey, which saw 88% of economists saying that Brexit would hinder Britain’s growth prospects, revealed a rare near consensus within the profession.
“For a profession known to agree about little, it is pretty remarkable to see this degree of consensus about anything,” he said.
“It no doubt reflects the level of agreement among many economists about the benefits of free trade and the costs of uncertainty for economic growth.”
A majority of participants (57%) also said that Brexit could cut GDP by more than 3% over the next five years. Only 5% of economists thought there would be a positive impact from leaving the EU.
More than 70% said leaving the EU would have a negative impact on growth for up to two decades.
Members of the Royal Economic Society and the Society of Business Economists took part in the poll.
“Loss of access to the single market” (67%) and “increased uncertainty leading to reduced investment” (66%) were cited as the main reasons for why the UK would be damaged by a vote to leave by economists.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, former prime minister Sir John Major attacked Leave campaigners over claims they have made during the referendum campaign.
Vote Leave, the official Brexit group, has claimed that the UK contributes £350m per week to Brussels’ coiffeurs, which could be spent on other priorities if Britain was out of the EU.
The assertion was this week branded “bogus” by the influential Treasury Select Committee, which also rebuked the Remain campaign for saying three million jobs depended on trade with other member states.
The former Tory leader wrote: “I hope Vote Leave will end their shameless distortion of the truth and admit, publicly and clearly, that the figures they use – on every piece of literature and every lick of paint on their battle bus – are wholly false. Their refusal to do so is simply breathtaking.”
Meanwhile Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg, who is in favour of Brexit, called for calm in the party’s ranks and ruled out demanding a second referendum, writing in the Mail on Sunday: “Whatever the outcome, the verdict has to be respected. There must be no rerun just because one side does not like the outcome.”
He also criticised Remain campaigners for a lack of passion, saying: “Those who want to vote Leave have a passion for freedom, while the Remainers merely say, 'Always keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse.'”