Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Brexit Minister Says Civil Servant Forecasts Are ‘Always Wrong’

The war against experts waged by Brexit campaigners during the referendum campaign was rekindled as Brexit Minister Steve Baker trashed the forecasting work of the country’s civil servants.

“I am not able to name an accurate forecast, and I think that they are always wrong,” Baker told Parliament on Tuesday, answering a question on civil service predictions.

His comments were reminiscent of those made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove on the Brexit campaign trail in 2016, when he was justice secretary, that “the people of this country have had enough of experts and organizations with acronyms saying they know better.”

As Britain negotiates its divorce from the European Union, the country remains deeply divided, with both sides rehashing the arguments of the campaign almost two years ago.

Baker was responding to questions about a leaked economic study that showed that the U.K. economy would suffer in all three of the Brexit scenarios it modeled. For Brexit backers, it was a return to "Project Fear," the dire economic forecasts made by Remain campaigners in 2016.

Baker said the work isn’t yet complete and didn’t include an assessment of the outcome the government seeks, which Prime Minister Theresa May describes as a “deep and special partnership,” and a bespoke trade deal.

Before dismissing civil service forecasts, Baker pledged to “continue to carry out a wide-ranging and developing program of economic analysis, which will help inform our negotiating position and our decisions.”

The study leaked to Buzzfeed showed that the hardest Brexit would leave the economy 8 percent smaller than otherwise in 15 years time, and the softest would still slow growth by 2 percent. The new numbers are a little better than Treasury forecasts published before the referendum, partly because they include the possibility of a trade deal with the U.S.

Former Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Brexit backer, urged people to ignore the new forecasts, telling the BBC that the document had been “deliberately leaked because it gives a bad view.”

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