Friday 2 February 2018

The Brexit Bonus - an alternative fact.

Boris Johnson hit the headlines twice last month, and each time appeared to get egg on his face.  First he claimed that the famous £350m per week on the side of a bus  which Brexit  would release for the NHS was in fact an underestimate: the true figure was nearer £438.

This claim was rapidly ridiculed by almost every knowledgeable authority.

Next Johnson let it be known that he would appeal to the  Cabinet to allocate an extra £100m for the NHS right away.  This time he was shot down by the Prime Minister and  almost all his cabinet colleagues: he was the Foreign Secretary, not the Health Minister; such a proposal was not up to him; and when the time came the cabinet would decide on how the Brexit Bonus was divided between health, education and other priorities.

On the face of it, not a good month for Mr Johnson.  However, he is no fool and I suspect that he is secretly pleased with the outcome. What he has achieved is to  further entrench in the public's mind that membership  of the EU costs us money, and that once we've left we shall be able to decide for ourselves how to use this Brexit bonus.


Because in the view of most informed opinion, there will be no Brexit bonus: rather the reverse.

An article by two economists, Levell and Stoye of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, also published in January, points out that, although the UK will no longer have to pay our net contribution of £8bn per year to the EU (which works out at £153m per week, not £350m - try it on your calculator) the loss of government revenue from the reduction in trade which will result from our leaving the single market will involve a "hit to the public fineness [of] about £15bn per year - that is, double any gain from leaving.

Of course, they could be wrong, they are only "experts" after all, and Britain has "had enough of experts."  (a view on which you might like to ponder next time you go the the dentist.)

Since Levell and Stowe published their paper BuzzFeed has leaked the findings of three scenarios ordered by the government (sic, ordered by the government!) all of which forecast  a reduction in the UK's growth and therefore taxable revenues after Brexit.  Of course they might have got it wrong as well.

Or you might like to read the views of the House of Lords, especially the Cross Bench peers (those not pushing a party line).

Only in the fantasies of the  the Brexiteers and their trade deals with soar-away global Britain, of which we have as yet no details, is there any possibility of a bonus.

The odds are on a Brexit deficit,  a country economically poorer, with diminished services and international reputation as a beacon of mature democracy and civilised society in tatters


  1. It seems to be a cunning plan devised by the department responsible for Brexit. Commission reports on the post-Brexit situation, and then take advantage of the popular mood by rubbishing the findings as we all know that experts and the civil service are always wrong.

    1. Whether they planned it or not I don't know, but, sadly, we've reached a stage in which each side accepts only the "evidence" that supports its case. The fact that the Brexiteers have no "evidence", only enthusiastic speculation, doesn't seem to affect the case.

  2. each side accepts only the "evidence" that supports its case. The fact that the Brexiteers have no "evidence",

    Not often you can actually see the moment that self-awareness slips away, but there it was.

    1. Well, you seem to have proved your own point: you only accept the evidence that supports your own case, and reject all evidence that doesn't.

    2. I'm trying to distinguish between evidence and wishful thinking.

    3. So, according to you, only the evidence that supports your side's case is real; any and all evidence that seems to support the other side's case is just wishful thinking?

      Then there you go, proving your point again: 'each side accepts only the "evidence" that supports its case'.

    4. I'm simply trying to be honest. We all tend to favour the "evidence" that supports our case, and be sceptical of "evidence" to the contrary. It's human nature: I do it, you do it, so, I suspect, do even the most stringent academics, and not just in the social sciences.

      In the Brexit arguments we are all talking about the future, and not even the best informed can be certain of what is going to happen, whatever "deal" the government achieves, or, in my preferred resolution, we decide not to leave the EU after all (an piton influential Europeans are, so far, anxious to keep open.)

      It seems fairly plain to me that the case for Remaining, at least in the customs union and single market, is based on the examination of data from the past, and a sensible appreciation of the facts we know about the future (eg the physical distance between the US and the UK.) The case for Brexit is based more on enthusiastic speculation about possible deals, and, I believe, a rose-tinted nostalgia for the past.

    5. So, right, you accept the evidence for your side while dismissing the evidence for the other side as 'enthusiastic speculation'?

      Yep, you're proving yourself right again: 'each side accepts only the "evidence" that supports its case'

    6. Got it. The pro EU side has evidence based on serious analysis to support its case: the Brexit arguments are based on distortions and enthusiastic optimism.