Brexit minister Steve Baker was called to appear in front of the House of Commons on Tuesday following BuzzFeed News' publication of a leaked government analysis that said Brexit would lead to lower economic growth in the long term.
Baker strongly defended the Brexit process, argued that publishing the economic projections was not in the national interest, and insisted that the leak was partly the work of irate Remain supporters.
He also repeatedly criticised the track record of civil service economic predictions, citing Treasury warnings about the impact of Brexit during the 2016 referendum campaign.
Here are all the times during his responses to MPs' questions that Baker criticised – directly or implicitly – the work of the civil service economists who put together the leaked forecasts.
- "The scenarios in this analysis continue to suffer from the flaws we have seen in previous analyses of this type. Such analyses have been proved to be wrong in the wake of the referendum, not least because there is huge uncertainty around any forecast, especially in the long run and especially in the context of a major strategic choice."
- "The public deserve to see the national interest protected in these negotiations and to have a House of Commons of representatives who exhibit a healthy scepticism about economic forecasting."
- "The intention of our current analysis is to improve on what has gone before and, as I set out in my initial response, we recognise that there were flaws in the previous approach."
- "We have always said that our economic analysis was continually evolving across a wide range of activities."
- "Past economic predictions have been very poor, and poor for good reasons on which I would love to elaborate on another occasion."
- "I am not able to name an accurate forecast. They are always wrong, and wrong for good reasons. ... My long-standing views on the flaws in the epistemology of the social sciences and the consequences for econometrics are well set out in various forums, and I encourage members to go and have a look at them. I am happy to recommend a reading list."
- "It is time for economists to reexamine their methods, for the reasons I indicated earlier."
"The hon. Gentleman’s question reminds me of the great economist Galbraith who said, if I recall correctly, that the only purpose of economic forecasting was to make astrology look respectable. There is a great deal of truth in that."
"I would agitate for a healthy scepticism about the use of mathematical economics, and we should go forward in that spirit."
"First, as far as I recall, I have never been disparaging about civil servants with whom I have worked; it is quite the reverse. What I have been disparaging about is method in the economic sciences. That is quite different."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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