Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced to awkwardly defend Brexit this week, as an economist on his show managed to coolly rip our departure from the EU apart in just a couple of sentences.
Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College London, and former chief economist at the cabinet office, appeared on the Tory MP’s ‘Jacob Rees-Mogg State of the Nation’ show.
The pair discussed the 25 percent corporation tax rise announced in the Spring Budget, with Portes sharing his support of the hikes, calmly reminding that there is nothing new about the rise, rather that it was confirmation of what Rishi Sunak announced a couple of years ago. The economist described the Chancellor’s measures on corporation tax as being a “glass half full rather than completely empty.”
But it was when the discussion moved onto Brexit that the interview got really awkward – at least for Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Portes, who was described by the arch Brexiteer as a ‘ particularly distinguished’ economist, said: “The cost of Brexit has had a more damaging impact on investment than the rate of corporation tax. We have pretty clear evidence that Brexit has reduced investments.”
Rees-Mogg chimed in, muttering about the Covid-19 pandemic being the main reason for the economic slump. But Portes rightly informed that other nations had recovered much better than the UK from the pandemic. Desperately searching for something to say, the former Brexit opportunities minister said that not being in the EU meant the UK could roll-out Covid vaccines faster.
Needless to say, the interview quickly gathered reaction online, with many sharing their support for Jonathan Portes while mocking Rees-Mogg.
Lawyer and filmmaker Peter Stefanovic shared his thoughts on the interview:
“Wow. After introducing his guest as “a particularly distinguished professor of economics at Kings College London,” Jacob Rees-Mogg squirms as he’s told same hard truths about the damage of Brexit. Watch in disbelief at what comes next.”
Others wondered why a sitting MP is allowed to conduct a political interview on television.
“Does this not contravene the parliamentary code?” they asked.
“Nice to see JRM be told it to his face, then clutching at thin gruel arguments like ‘open market’ that don’t really explain lower investment. Brexit is a self inflicted catastrophe and it’s got his name all over it – he’s scrabbling to save some face,” someone else wrote.
Others reminded about Rees-Mogg’s famous comment that it “could take 50 years to reap the benefits of Brexit” and that the leading Brexiteer took his business into the EU. In 2018, a City firm Rees-Mogg had co-founded moved to Dublin amid hard Brexit fears. The business was registered in March that year, and detailed Brexit under the “risks” section of its investment prospectus, Private Eye magazine had reported at the time.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.
Image credit: Twitter screengrab
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