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15 Tories Who Say The Treasury's Coming Up With "Absurd" Stats About Brexit

At least 15 elected Conservative figures publicly criticised chancellor George Osborne on Monday. One even produced a fake Treasury report on the back of an envelope.

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As chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne is no stranger to having his economic pronouncements torn apart by the opposition. But on Monday, as he launched the Treasury's Brexit analysis, Osborne found his record being shredded by his Conservative colleagues.

In a clear sign of how the EU referendum is dividing the Tory party, pro-Brexit Conservatives lined up to castigate the chancellor for the suggestion that households would be £4,300 worse off outside the EU. Just a month after some of those same MPs lauded Osborne for his 2016 Budget, they highlighted his repeated failure to hit his own targets and the Treasury's poor record of economic forecasting.

Here are the Conservatives who hit the chancellor with unfriendly fire:

1. Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborough, mocked the chancellor by producing a fake report written on the back of an envelope.

That George Osborne detailed Treasury analysis in full.....#Brexit

Only last month, Jackson was full of praise for the chancellor for producing a Budget that "puts the next generation first".

"Britain's economy is strong, growing and resilient because of the steps we have taken over the past six years," he said, following the publication of the Budget.

"This Budget chooses to put forward long term solutions to long-term problems. It puts the next generation first and redoubles our efforts to make Britain and Peterborough fit for the future." (It's worth noting that despite his overall praise, Jackson did argue that Osborne was wrong to ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, or OBR, to talk about the EU.)

But on Monday Jackson, who is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, mocked the chancellor with a fake Treasury report. It went as far as including items such as a "pasty tax" – the much-mocked and ultimately ditched proposal from Osborne's "omnishambles" Budget of 2012.

He also hinted at speculation that Osborne hopes to take over as prime minister after David Cameron steps down: "Yay! That'll scare them! And I get promoted!"

2. Energy minister Andrea Leadsom was the most high-profile government figure to criticise the report.

Leadsom stands besides Osborne as he presents his final Budget before the 2015 general election.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Leadsom stands besides Osborne as he presents his final Budget before the 2015 general election.

She told The Guardian on Monday morning that the Treasury report was "unfair and biased" and said the public should have both sides of the story for the EU referendum to be a "genuine choice for the people".

3. Mayor of London Boris Johnson also challenged the Treasury's record when it comes to forecasting.

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

"The Treasury has not been totally successful in all its economic forecasts, let's be honest," he said.

4. Conservative MP John Redwood listed a number of examples of how the Treasury had failed to accurately forecast the state of the economy.

John Redwood @vote_leave says Treasury 2030 EU exit forecast “completely worthless”. Listen:

Redwood said the Treasury's claim that households would be far worse off if the UK voted to left the EU was "absurd" and said he was "very sorry that they've degenerated to these levels".

"This is a Treasury which had to make huge changes to its forecast for the next two years just between November and March because it decided its November forecast was completely wrong," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"This is a Treasury which failed to forecast the huge damage membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism [ERM] inflicted on us and they were always very keen to join and it gave us a huge recession. They failed to forecast the damage to the UK from the eurozone crisis of 2011."

While Redwood largely praised the Budget last month, he did criticise the OBR: "All economic forecasters experience difficulties in getting their forecasts right, but some of us are more humble about our expectations than these official forecasters."

5. Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said GDP forecasts for 2030 are "absurd" because they change annually.

Project Fear Treasury forecasts of what GDP will be in 15 years is absurd. GDP forecasts change on an annual basis.

6. Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, said the Treasury "regularly changes growth forecasts" and was unimpressed with its predictions for 2030.

HM Treasury regularly changes growth forecasts, yet can somehow predict state of economy in 2030?! #TakeControl UK #VoteLeave the EU.

7. Steve Baker, one of the most vocal anti-EU Conservative MPs, simply quoted 20th-century economist J.K. Galbraith.

As @George_Osborne must know, "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."

8. Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex, was another senior Tory pointing to the chancellor's poor record of hitting his own targets.

View this video on YouTube

Jenkin told the BBC – and tweeted – that Osborne had promised to balance the Budget by 2015, a target he has missed.

Same Chancellor who promised to balance budget by 2015? Same Treasury which supported UK membership of ERM? @politicshome @vote_leave

"I remember the chancellor saying that we would balance the Budget by 2015," Jenkin said. "Well, here we are in 2016 – we are going to be borrowing money in this country until the end of the decade. He can't forecast anything."

9. Andrew Percy MP focused his ire on the Treasury's history of EU policy positions.

The Treasury previously produced a document outlining the value to our economy of joining the Euro! How'd that little experiment turn out?

It's worth noting here, however, that although a number of anti-EU campaigners have repeatedly claimed that the Treasury backed euro membership, the Treasury's own analysis in 2003 opposed membership of the euro.

As such ignore today's puff piece from the Treasury I'd perhaps trust their predictions for 2030 if they got this year's predictions right.

Percy also gave the In campaign, often dubbed "Project Fear" by Brexit campaigners, a new title.

Fair to say Project Fear turned into Project Utter Crap today

10. Former chancellor Lord Lawson also came out against the Treasury report, accusing Osborne of carrying out a "political propaganda exercise".


"It is a piece of propaganda and scaremongering," he told The Guardian.

"It is the job of the Treasury to support the chancellor of the exchequer and I was very lucky when I was chancellor in the support I had from the Treasury. But this is basically a political propaganda exercise orchestrated by George Osborne."

11. Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP for South West Wiltshire, claimed the Treasury analysis amounted to "claiming [the] sky'll fall in post Brexit".

Treasury claiming sky'll fall in post Brexit same Treasury that caused 1992 ERM debacle ruining thousands of small businesses #VoteLeave

Murrison also challenged the Treasury's record, citing so-called Black Wednesday in 1992, when the UK spent billions of pounds and increased the interest rate in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Britain in the ERM, which linked the pound and other currencies to the Deutschmark.

12. Former defence secretary Liam Fox, another vocal anti-EU MP, dismissed the Treasury analysis as "nonsense".

If the Govt believe this nonsense the whole renegotiation was a sham @hmtreasury #EUref #Brexit #TakeControl

Fox also said David Cameron's EU renegotiation should be considered a "sham" if the government agreed with the Treasury's analysis.

13. Meanwhile Tory MP Michael Fabricant said the Treasury's analysis should not be considered to be based on "facts" but should just be seen as wrong.

No. Not only are the 'facts' wrong, the figure is not a deduction from household incomes even according to Treasury!

14. Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said the Treasury report was simply "propaganda" and pointed to a long, complicated formula used by the Treasury to calculate its figures.

Just received copy @hmtreasury propaganda-fest for Remain and this is the formula they base their assertions on(1/2)

15. Finally, Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative MP for Spelthorne, also challenged the Treasury's record.

"I think these figures are absurd, frankly," he told the BBC's Daily Politics. "The Treasury were the same people who said at the beginning of the last parliament that we would have eliminated the deficit by 2015. The deficit has not been eliminated."

"The Treasury did not predict the 2008 credit crunch, neither did they predict the Greek blowout and so, for a bunch of officials and economists to say they can describe within a pound what the state of the British economy and people's economic wellbeing will be in 2030, 14 years' time, is simply absurd.

"None of the predictions made in 2002, 14 years ago, about 2016 have stood the test of time, none of them – so to project that far forward is actually, I think, intellectually dishonest."

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at

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