Next time it comes to redesigning the PPE course at Oxford, I suggest a module beginning with a quotation from George Osborne. It’s something he said to the Treasury Select Committee in May, back when he was still Chancellor: ‘If you look at the sheer weight of opinion, it is overwhelmingly the case that people who look at the case for leaving the EU come to the conclusion it would make the country poorer, and it would make the individuals in the country poorer, too.’ There might be advantages to Brexit, he said, ‘but let’s not pretend we’d be economically better off’.
In other words: it wasn’t just George Osborne’s opinion that Britain would be worse off if we left the EU; it was objective fact. It wasn’t just that he thought he was winning the argument; there was no argument to be had, because the experts agreed beyond all reasonable doubt. Osborne was so sure that he published a draft of the emergency budget which would be needed in the post-Brexit meltdown, and made some startlingly exact predictions. Households, he said, would be £4,300 worse off by 2030 — after the inevitable surge in mortgage rates, property crash, and half a million job losses.
Ross Clark, Torsten Bell and Isabel Hardman discuss the Brexit bounce back:
It has become a familiar trick in politics: try to claim ownership of the truth. Whether it be David Miliband as environment secretary in 2006 telling us that the science of climate change was ‘settled’, or a committee of MPs trying to claim, on the back of a few low-grade academic papers, that drugs policy had failed beyond all question, we are continually told that it is not possible to disagree with a consensus of experts.