Michael Gove has renewed his attack on “expert” economists, declaring that fresh warnings about the cost of Brexit will be proved wrong.
The former Education Secretary, who also defended UKIP leader Nigel Farage, said the economics profession was “in crisis” following ‘Project Fear’ forecasts about the immediate impact of the UK quitting the EU.
Gove suggested that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections of an £58bn Brexit hit to the public finances - and think tank warnings about a decade-long earnings squeeze - should be taken “with a pinch of salt”.
Gove had famously said during the EU referendum campaign that people have “had enough of experts”, but he claimed on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that he was “unfairly” quoted.
The former minister said that he had been referring only to a “sub-class” of economists and pollsters.
“In the now notorious comment that I made..the point I made is not that all experts are wrong, that’s manifestly nonsense – expert engineers, expert doctors, expert physicists.
“But there is a sub-class of experts, particularly economists, pollsters, social scientists, who really do need to reflect on some of the mistakes that they’ve made in the same way as a politician I’ve reflected on some of the mistakes that I’ve made.”
Gove went on: “Economists overall have to recognise that their profession is in crisis, that the economic profession failed to predict the 2008 financial crash.
“Economists in the past argued almost to a man and woman that we should enter the single currency. They were proven wrong. And then professionally they were proven wrong about the impact of Britain voting to leave the European Union.”
Following the OBR’s updated growth and borrowing forecasts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said last week that the UK was set for “dreadful” earnings growth in the next five years.
But Gove said he was“radically sceptical” of projections that the UK would see a 2.4% drop in growth and other warnings.
“For me it felt like déjà vu all over again. I remember during the referendum campaign that we had a litany of warnings – the sky was going to go dark, there would be a plague of frogs on the street if we voted to leave the European Union,” he said.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston was quick to seize on Gove’s remarks about ‘expert’ forecasts.
Referring to his ‘experts’ comment in a SkyNews grilling during the referendum campaign, he claimed “the subsequent quotation was unfair”, but conceded “I wasn’t particularly adroit in that interview”.
When asked by Marr to name one of his own mistakes in Government, Gove referred to his axeing of Labour’s Building Schools for Future programme.
“It was done in a crass, insensitive way, it taught me a lesson,” he said.
“David Davis came up to me at the end of what turned out to be a very bruising experience for me in the House of Commons and he said said, ‘well, you...’ and he used an Anglo Saxon phrase. ‘You -’ed up’.
“’But you will be a better minister for this, because you learn from your mistakes.’”
The former Vote Leave campaigner also objected to the phrase “Hard Brexit”, saying he preferred “clean Brexit”.
“People talk about ‘Hard Brexit’. What they’re really trying to do is to make a liberation sound like a punishment.”
But Gove said he couldn’t see how the UK could remain in the EU customs union, a position often described by critics as “Hard Brexit”.
It emerged on Sunday that Bank of England governor Mark Carney is floating a ‘Brexit buffer’ or interim deal to keep the UK in the EU single market until 2021.
Theresa May suggested this week that she did not want a ‘cliff-edge’ effect for business.
Gove was more sceptical: “I’m open to a transitional agreement but I’m not convinced we need one.”
He also leaped to the defence of Nigel Farage, the interim UKIP leader.
Although he insisted that the UK’s ambassador in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, should remain in post, Gove said that Farage’s popular support in the 2015 general election entitled him to respect.
”Four million people voted for hm at last election. He is someone who should be respected and not abused.”