It’s time Philip Hammond came clean about the financial damage he knows Brexit will do

Here’s what the Chancellor should say when delivering his Spring Statement today.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

With the Spring Statement coming up on Tuesday, it seems like now would be a good time for the Chancellor and the government he represents to finally be honest with us all about the costs of the hard Brexit path they are pursuing.

Here’s my suggestion for what he should say:

“Mr Speaker, I report today on an economy that we are actively choosing to sabotage. Indeed, we may be the first British government in history to be pursuing a path we know will make everyone in this country worse-off.

“The publication of our secret Brexit impact analysis demonstrates this basic fact beyond any reasonable doubt: we are sure that leaving the single market and customs union will create new barriers to trade, will damage businesses across the country and will cost an untold number of jobs.

“But we are going to do it anyway, because we’re terrified of the fanatical anti-European members of our own party. It’s true that leaving the single market and customs union were not necessary consequences of the EU referendum result: we know that the Vote Leave campaign actively attempted to muddy the waters about whether a vote to leave the EU would also mean leaving the single market. And we know there are examples of countries outside the EU who are in the single market, such as Norway, or who are in a customs union with the EU, like Turkey.

“And it’s not just in the future that Brexit will hurt the economy: it is already doing huge damage right now. The Governor of the Bank of England has calculated it is costing us £200m a week in lost growth. Inflation is well above the 2 per cent target, meaning real wages are falling. Our economy has gone from the fastest growing in the G7 to last place, lagging in the global slow lane.

“In order to keep backbenchers like Jacob Rees-Mogg happy, this government is pursuing an act of economic self-harm that should be electoral suicide. But we think we’ll get away with it, because the leadership of the opposition aren’t actually opposing us leaving the single market.

“Odd, considering the overwhelming majority of Labour party supporters and members think that’s a bad idea. But we thank our lucky stars because we'd never get the policy through if they changed their minds.

“So onward we’ll trudge, towards the cliff-edge, firmly insisting that the ‘will of the people’ means we can’t turn back. Even though we know that many of the areas that voted to leave the EU will be the hardest hit by the consequences of this government’s decisions. Even though we know that young people, who’ll have to live with those consequences the longest, overwhelmingly voted against Brexit.

“But that’s why I think it’s important to be honest with people about the costs of Brexit. Everyone has the right to know what crashing out of the single market and customs union will mean for their local area, for their job, for their children’s future. Remember: everyone has the right to change their mind on Brexit, if they want to. And with that, I commend this statement to the House.”

Wes Streeting is Labour MP for Ilford North, member of the Treasury Select Committee and a leading supporter of Open Britain

Free trial CSS