‘Doom-mongering’ or ‘a nightmare scenario for our region’ – North-East politicians have reacted to the estimates by government officials of Brexit’s impact on the economy across the country.
The forecasts – which predict how much more slowly the economy would grow, not how much it would shrink – model the 15-year impact of the UK staying in the single market, doing a trade deal with the EU or leaving without a deal.
In each scenario, growth would be lower, by two per cent, five per cent and eight per cent respectively, than currently forecast over that 15 years.
And the figures, which the Government has described as ‘preliminary analysis’, shows that the North East would be the worst-hit region. The impact of staying in the single market would be down three per cent, with a trade deal with the EU it would be lower by 11 per cent and a hard no-deal Brexit would lead to 16 per cent lower growth.
But unsurprisingly, politicians have reacted very differently to the release of these impact assessment figures.
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a Brexiteer, said: “I am afraid that all these doom-mongering, Treasury-written reports have lost all value for my money, because they have so far been shown to be nothing more than part of Project Fear.
“No economic forecasting looking out over 15 years which doesn’t factor in all the freedoms and changes we will have at our disposal after Brexit are considered. I’m afraid I have about as much faith in these latest forecasts as I do in astrology.”
But the North East’s Labour MEPs are far more concerned.
Paul Brannen said: “This is the type of news we always feared Brexit would bring. As the poorest English region, the North East was inevitably going to be more vulnerable to the economic upheaval of leaving the EU. To see this figure in black and white, however, is a real shock.
“A 16 per cent reduction in the GDP of the North East translates into thousands of job losses. This is frankly a nightmare scenario for our region and for the Government to be aware of this and still be willing to consider a no-deal Brexit is absolute madness. At the very least, the UK needs to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union.”
Jude Kirton-Darling added: “As disquieting as this may be, it is unfortunately only the beginning of a string of awful news to come out of the leaked impact assessment papers and the direct result of the Tories being incapable of negotiating a Brexit deal that won’t drain all money and economic prospects out of the North East.
“Our region is not prepared to take this hit, especially in the context of ceasing to be the beneficiary of vital EU funding that has helped the North-East economy for many years. My constituents did not vote for a future outside of the EU that will see them unbelievably worse off.”
Their views are not shared by the region’s third MEP though. Jonathan Arnott, an Independent who formerly represented Ukip, said: “Actual recent empirical evidence suggests that we shouldn’t believe a word of it. Let’s look at the facts from recent Treasury predictions.
“The Treasury projected that the UK would fall into recession and lose between three per cent and six per cent of GDP in the last 18 months. Real data shows the economy has grown in every single quarter. They projected the loss of between half-a-million and 800,000 jobs over the last 18 months. The reality is that jobs have been created.
“Now they’re projecting not over 18 months but over 15 years. If they’re so wildly wrong in 18 months, why does anyone suppose they’ll be right over 15 years? For pity’s sake, even Government Ministers are saying these figures should come with a health warning.
“The reason these figures are always out is that they consider the downside rather than the upside. Nobody ever factors in the benefits of Brexit; the ability to negotiate trade deals with third countries, the ability to get rid of unnecessary EU regulations or run a more competitive economic policy.
“Here in the North East, the figures have the worst projections in the UK – and why? Because for a region that trades more than any other with non-EU countries, the failure to consider the benefits of Brexit will mean the figures are more wrong than anywhere else in the UK.
“Now there’s all kinds of misinformation and propaganda being spread about this; continuity Remainers are trying to make it sound like these figures predict the economy contracting. In fact, they predict it growing at a slower rate.
“The 16 per cent prediction is a worst-case scenario, spread over 15 years, and is based upon about as much proven track record as using a crystal ball to predict this week’s lottery results.”