Michael Gove’s infamous line that the public have ‘had enough of experts’ was ridiculed by the world’s economic watchdog as it declared its warnings about Brexit had been vindicated.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hit back at Gove as she said the vote to quit the EU had already “squeezed” real incomes in Britain, thanks to a plunging pound and rising inflation.
Lagarde was withering in her verdict on the arch Brexiteer as she unveiled a new report showing how the IMF’s pre-referendum forecasts had largely proved correct.
When he spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign last year, Gove attacked economists predicting lower growth for the UK and claimed on SkyNews that “people in this country have had enough of experts”.
But speaking in London on Wednesday, the IMF chief said the warnings have been proved right.
“Regrettably, the numbers that we are seeing the economy deliver today are actually proving the point we made a year and a half ago, when people said you are too gloomy and you are one of those ‘experts’.”
“Unfortunately we were not too gloomy – we were on pretty much on the mark.
“Our forecast actually turned out to be the reality of the economy, which is one where sterling has depreciated, inflation has depreciated, wages have been squeezed as a result and investment has been slowed down and is certainly lower than we would expect it to be.”
In a report published shortly before the EU referendum, the IMF forecasted that even in a “smooth” Brexit, British GDP growth would fall in 2017 from 2.2 per cent to 1.4 per cent and from 2.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent in 2018.
In its latest forecasts published on Wednesday the IMF has pencilled in 1.6 per cent growth in 2017 and 1.5 per cent for 2018.
Lagarde had infuriated Vote Leave campaigners last year by warning that Brexit would have “pretty bad to very, very bad” consequences for Britain.
On Wednesday, speaking alongside Chancellor Philip Hammond, she stressed how her organisation had been vindicated.
“The UK economy is already losing out as a result of this decision. That narrative we identified as a potential risk in May 2016 is actually being rolled out as we speak. It’s not experts talking – it is the economy demonstrating that.”
Brexiteers argue that the UK economy did hold up better than expected in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, and that a separate IMF report last October forecast just 1% growth. Its worst-case scenario even forecast a recession.
But Lagarde contrasted Britain’s low business investment performance this year with the way the rest of the global economy was picking up speed.
“With the global economy as it is, and the space the UK has in it, it should be rolling at 6 per cent, [but] it’s at 2.1 per cent.”
Since his infamous remark, made three weeks before the EU referendum, Gove has blamed the incident on the “high intensity” of live TV interviews.
He has stressed that he still believes in scientific advice but was pointing out public disillusionment with ‘Project Fear’ forecasts run by the Remain campaign.