Liam Fox’s Whitehall department has come under fire after tweeting a link to a report by pro-Brexit economists that attacked Philip Hammond’s Treasury and the UK’s budget watchdog.
The Department for International Trade promoted claims by the Economists for Free Trade group that Britain could look forward to a £135bn windfall after it quits the EU.
But the story included claims by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg that official growth forecasts were based on “false assumptions” of the Treasury and that the outlook for the public finances is “much better” than the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted.
The EFT – headed by Professor Patrick Minford – urged the Government to bring down trade barriers with the rest of the world while reducing the burden of regulation and taxation on firms and individuals.
The DiT deleted its tweet after a backlash that included claims from Labour’s Chuka Umunna that Dr Fox’s department was undermining the Treasury and the independent OBR.
Umunna, the former shadow Business Secretary, had attacked the EFT as a ‘discredited’ group of economists and demanded to know why the usual civil service rules on impartiality had been breached.
The tweet - screengrabbed by HuffPost UK and others - was deleted by the DiT but the press office refused to return calls on how and why the link had been posted.
When asked about the tweet, the PM’s official spokesman told HuffPost UK: “I’m sure they will explain why they deleted it.”
Umunna stepped up his attack, declaring it was “deeply concerning” that a Government department “should be endorsing the kind of hard Brexit voodoo economics contained in this Economists for Free Trade report”
“Especially when its author, Patrick Minford, has cheerfully admitted that his plans would lead to the elimination of British manufacturing,” he added.
“This is surely a breach of the Civil Service Code, which requires officials to practice ‘objectivity’ in everything they do. It would be completely unacceptable for Liam Fox to politicise the Civil Service in order to advance his own right-wing Brextremist ideology.”
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, now a member of pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: “Liam Fox is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks that Britain can expect a £135 billion windfall post-Brexit.