#PMQs: Did the Prime Minister mislead the House over Brexit?

The PM appears to be contradicting her own Chancellor...

New Treasury analysis has revealed that the UK economy will be worse off under the PM’s Brexit deal compared to staying in the EU – a fact conceded by the Chancellor himself. 

Asked if the UK would be poorer under Mrs May’s deal, Chancellor Phillip Hammond told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The economy will be slightly smaller in the prime minister’s preferred version of the future partnership.”

The Treasury analysis shows May’s deal could leave the UK economy up to 3.9% smaller after 15 years, compared to staying in the EU.

The Treasury have admitted it. The Chancellor has admitted it. Yet the PM appeared to deny it in PMQs on Wednesday.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford challenged the PM: 

“Today the Chancellor said the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal will leave the economy slightly smaller, and in pure economic terms there will be a loss. We now know this has been confirmed by the government’s own analysis that real wages will fall. Does the Prime Minister agree that the deal will leave the UK poorer than the status quo?”

The PM appeared unsettled when she answered:

“The analysis shows…no..[heckling]..no…no…the analysis does not show that we will be poorer than the status quo today….no…no it doesn’t.

“What the analysis shows is that this is a strong economy which will continue to grow, and that the model which actually delivers…best on delivering for the British people and for jobs and our economy, is the deal that the government has put forward.”

Blackford hit back:

“I do wonder if the PM has read her own analysis – quite clearly leaving the single market and customs union we will be poorer.

“The PM wants to take us back to the days of Thatcher and a belief that unemployment is a price worth paying. No government should choose to weaken its economy and make its citizens poorer, and that’s what the government is doing.”

The spat has led to questions over whether the PM is misleading the House.

While it is true the economy may continue to grow after Brexit, it will be significantly less than the status quo. Meaning, quite simply, we will be poorer when compared to staying in the EU.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves also called out the absent Chancellor for touring the TV and radio stations this morning – but failing to turn up to an Urgent Question on the Treasury’s economic analysis.

The PM tried unsuccessfully to defend the apparent contradiction between her analysis and the Chancellor’s: “What the Chancellor made clear this morning is that the Brexit deal which delivers best for our economy…this is not a case of the deal making us poorer than today…the economy will continue to grow…that is what is clear from the analysis and what is clear from the chancellor. ”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pointedly asked his question to “The Chancellor” – but Chief Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride replied instead. Hammond’s absence is perhaps understandable given his and the PM’s apparent disagreement…

Commenting on the Treasury figures, John McDonnell said:

“We’re in the ludicrous position of seeing an analysis produced today on the economic implications of Brexit which is in fact an assessment of the Chequers proposals abandoned months ago.

“The government has been unable to assess the vague, half-baked deal the PM is promising, but what we do know is the latest proposals are worse than even the Chequers Deal.

“What the analysis produced by the Treasury today does show us is that the Tories plans will leave the country poorer.”

PMQs saw the PM’s own side take her to task on telling alleged porkies. 

Right-wing Peter Bone asked Mrs May: “The Lords’ EU committee stated that…as a matter of EU law, Article 50 allows the UK to leave the EU without any outstanding legal obligations…Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister told me in PMQs two weeks ago the complete opposite. Who is right?”

The PM insisted it was just a matter of ‘opinion’: “There is a different opinion on this. There are obligations when we leave the EU in terms of financial commitments to the EU, and I believe we are a country which fulfills its obligations.”

Is it just a matter of opinion though – or is the PM misleading the House?

WATCH Ian Blackford take on the PM here

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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