Ross Clark

The IPPR is simply trying to create anti-Brexit noise, and it has succeeded

The IPPR is simply trying to create anti-Brexit noise, and it has succeeded
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How much more desperate can the Remain lobby’s propaganda become?    Having had its predictions of instant economic doom comprehensively disproved by events, it is dreaming up ever more devious ways of trying the hector the country into thinking that it made a huge mistake on 24 June.

Today, the Institute of Public Policy Research, a think tank closely associated with the Blair-era Labour party, publishes a report trying to predict what life in Britain will be like in the 2020s. It was eagerly lapped up by the BBC and the Guardian, who seem to favour this sort of stuff over reporting genuine, good, economic news. Needless to say, neither picked up on the IPPR’s rather obvious economic illiteracy.   

One of the IPPR’s conclusions is predictable enough: 'The economic implications of Brexit are likely to put the country on a lower growth, lower investment trajectory, worsening the public finances, with important consequences for the UK’s economy and living standards.'      

This was one of the standard claims by the Remain lobby before the referendum and it is still trying to make the same point, even if UK growth has remained buoyant and the latest ONS release – only lightly reported last week – shows that business investment in the third quarter of 2016, in the immediate aftermath of the vote, was actually higher than in the second quarter.   

But it is what the IPPR goes on to say next that really takes the biscuit.    Brexit, it claims, ‘is the firing gun on a decade of disruption’, which will involve an ageing population and a fragile world order which will see American hegemony fade and economic power drift away from the West to the ‘Global South’. Brexit will also help fire the starting gun on ‘exponential improvements in new technologies – computing power, machine learning, artificial intelligence systems, automation, autonomous vehicles, health and resource technologies, and the Internet of Things, among others – are expected to radically transform social and economic life’.

Wow, that is quite a list to lay at the door of Brexit. It is possible to argue that if Brexit leads to more constrained migration -- and that is an 'if' -- it could contribute to an ageing population in the UK, although our average age will continue to rise in or out of the EU. But how on Earth can a predicted (and probably wrong, as it has been many times before) decline of American hegemony be blamed on Britain leaving the EU?

More bizarrely still, what on Earth has Brexit has got to do with artificial intelligence? That is a revolution which is happening and which will continue to happen whether or not we are part of the European Union. But even if Brexit were to ‘fire the gun’ on the use of AI, surely that would be a rather good thing? It is hardly consistent with the IPPR’s prediction of declining productivity and wealth in a post-Brexit UK. On the contrary, AI is a wealth-creating technology just like steam power and computing power before it. If Brexit were really to help stimulate AI, then surely the IPPR should be saying: 'bring on Brexit'.

I don’t suppose that the IPPR really intended its report to be coherent. What it hoped was to generate lines like this, as reported on the BBC website this morning: "Labour and the Liberal Democrats both saw the report as an indictment of what they called the government's 'hard Brexit strategy', which is taken to mean forfeiting single market access in order to gain control over immigration". The IPPR is just trying to create anti-Brexit noise, and thanks to some pliant reporters it has succeeded.