by Peter Franklin
Monday, 19
April 2021
Debate
11:33

When will the ‘experts’ apologise for their Brexit predictions?

The years of dire forecasts were not borne out by reality
by Peter Franklin
Who misses who now? Credit: Getty

According to Wolfgang Münchau of the Eurointelligence website, Brexit is a “macroeconomic non-event.”

He refers to IMF projections that have the UK economy growing a bit faster than the Eurozone economy for the next couple of years and then converging to much-of-a-muchness. 

There was flurry of excitement at the beginning of the year when data showed an apparent collapse in UK exports to the EU. The lorries stuck at Channel ports may have been held-up by Covid controls as opposed to anything else, but the long-anticipated images were seized upon: the great Brexit disaster had arrived at last! But, as Münchau notes, the UK exports have “fully recovered”. 

Of course it would be foolish to assume that it’s plain sailing ahead — or that British businesses aren’t experiencing difficulties already as a result of Brexit. However, Münchau’s focus is on the overall impacts of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and why the dire predictions made by genuine experts (as well as the obvious propagandists) have not come to pass.

Münchau identifies three causes of this example of expert failure: firstly, “political capture” (the political establishment needed to win the referendum and official forecasters responded to that need); secondly, Brexit “drove some people to insanity” (and economists aren’t immune to political passions); and, thirdly, technical weaknesses in economic modelling.

But whatever the cause, isn’t there a case for holding the experts to account for the errors? After all, doesn’t talking down an economy have consequences? Five years of relentless, if largely baseless, negativity can’t do much for business confidence. 

However, I doubt we’ll see many economists fessing up to their errors. It took the profession years to contend with its failure to predict the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 — and, arguably, the soul searching over that fiasco has been far from adequate. 

Furthermore, as regards Brexit, there’ll be plenty of excuses. 

Foremost among these will be Covid. The immediate and long-term economic impact of the pandemic is on such a scale as to overshadow any other factor — even Brexit. Furthermore, the fact that Britain has raced ahead of the EU on vaccination wasn’t something that any economic model could have factored in five years ago.

Except that the vaccine issue does illustrate the general benefit of a country being able to do things differently. This is something that was, and still is, greatly under-appreciated by the expert class — perhaps because, by their very nature, they’re talkers not doers.

Join the discussion


  • These people will never apologise because they have even less shame than expertise. As the writer observes, they are ‘talkers not doers’ who have never done a day’s trading or producing or selling (other than opinions) in their life. The politicians are particularly disgusting in this regard.
    As I said countless time during the referendum campaign and its aftermath, if you have offer a product or service that people want to buy, they will find a way to buy it.

  • The vaccine issue does illustrate the general benefit of a country being able to do things differently. But the UK was able to do that differently while bound by the EU rules, so it does not in itself illustrate the benefit of Brexit.
    Unfortunately as yet there are few good examples of things we have been able to do differently as a result of Brexit, and none where the economic effects are clear. Reforming the CAP will be a good test case. It may succeed brilliantly, economically and environmentally – or it may fail through bad design, insufficient funding, or because it is configured in the interests of Tory voters or donors.
    But we’re committed to Brexit now. We need to make what we can of it. It occurs to me that openness, good data, and scrutiny of government actions, will all be important in ensuring that we can tell how we’re doing – and in ensuring we’re actually doing the right things.

  • We all pay for the supposedly cheap labour, any citizen of the EU could have come to the UK, millions did and still claim benefits, the wives and girlfriends of this cheap labour all sent there child support back home, just to make a bunch of criminals and property developers in London richer in return for donations to the pols and plenty of anti native bigotry.

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