Brexit: Negotiations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:11 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Stern of Brentford Lord Stern of Brentford Crossbench 7:11 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, the Prime Minister has told us that we have three options: no deal, this deal or no Brexit. I want to speak on the economics of these options. I am a professor of economics at the London School of Economics but of course I do not speak on behalf of that institution.

Let us examine the medium-term effects rather than the very short run, which many have spoken about this evening. These medium-term effects operate through trade and investment. Trade creates opportunities and increases incomes; barriers to trade reduce incomes, and similarly with investment. Thus, economic analysis of the medium term compares the losses from increased barriers with the EU arising from Brexit with any potential gains from possibly reduced barriers elsewhere. In thinking about no deal, the comparisons are clear. In the medium term, it involves major net losses, which, drawing on work by the OECD, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE and others, are estimated to be between 5% and 8% of GDP per annum. That means a loss of £100 billion to £150 billion per annum, which is very large compared with the net payments to the EU of around £10 billion per annum.

Although the basic intuition behind these numbers is clear and commonsensical, models make assumptions, so what do the markets say? Sterling has been 10% to 15% below the pre-referendum levels. What does business say? The CBI has described no deal as a wrecking ball. Common sense, the models, the markets and business all point the same way: no deal is a terrible option. Let us take it off the table.

So what about the deal on the table? It is too early for detailed analysis, external to government, of the kind I have described but, unsurprisingly, previous analyses of halfway houses give net losses relative to staying in the EU of roughly half those of a no-deal Brexit. The economic ranking is clear: no deal is by far the worst; this deal is less bad; but both are much worse than no Brexit.

There are two crucial examples that go beyond economics. First, I have witnessed at first hand in climate negotiations, including in Paris in 2015, how effective the UK’s leadership can be when working with and within the EU. Secondly, I work in a truly international university, where the best from Europe and the world come to us and we are the best because they do, and our students and young people across the country are in deep anguish about what we are doing to them. Let us take great care. I am deeply worried that we will do major collateral damage in areas that are at the heart of our well-being and our leadership in the world.

In conclusion, we now have a much clearer understanding of the options that we face than we did in June 2016. Surely it is right to lay the options and the evidence before the people of the UK and ask them to make a choice they have not made before: to choose between this deal and no Brexit. No deal cannot be regarded as a serious option.