As published in The Sun:
WHEN the world suffered enormous financial crisis in 2008, the Queen asked simply: “Why did no one see it coming?”
Of course, she was right to ask.
Not a single public authority predicted the biggest crash in modern history — not the Bank of England, not the Treasury, and certainly not the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Then in 2016 they did it again. Project Fear forecast dramatic downturns in the economy if the people were so unwise as to vote for Brexit. Wrong again.
Since then, we have had record levels of employment, huge investments from the likes of Google, Microsoft, SoftBank and a long list of other companies.
They demonstrated their confidence in the future of this great country in the best way possible — with their money.
This time round the wise insight came from Andy Haldane, the best economist at the Bank of England.
Ruefully he said “economic forecasting is having a Michael Fish moment”.
Michael Fish was the weather forecaster who completely mispredicted the huge 1987 storm that struck Britain.
If only economic forecasters were even as good as weather forecasters, we would be a lot better off. But they are not, and they are at it again.
This week Chancellor Philip Hammond predicted the Treasury would need to raise an extra £80billion in 15 years’ time in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
This from the Treasury that has trouble forecasting deficits even 12 months ahead.
And yet the Chancellor insists on trotting out yet another bogus forecast, on the very day that my successor as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, is presenting the first set of preparation for no deal.
Coincidence? I do not think so.
The great departments of state are very careful about what they put in the public domain, and exactly when.
For nobody is this more true than the Treasury, which has to judge the public perception of everything it does, if only because of its effect on the markets. So this was either spectacularly incompetent, or deliberate. I know what I think.
It was an attempt to frighten the population into imagining the most terrible consequences of leaving the European Union without a deal.
And even more disgraceful, by doing so it will undermine the Government’s hand in striking a deal with the EU.
If they do not think we dare walk away, then they will give us the worst deal they can think of. Bear in mind that the Chequers deal already concedes enormous amounts to the EU.
It would not be long before our world-leading position in life sciences, gene technology, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and a whole range of other modern industries would be being actively undermined by the Europeans.
As for being out of reach of the European Court, pull the other one.
But now the Treasury is beginning to fear that even these spectacular concessions the Government has made in the Chequers deal will not deliver agreement from the European Commission — or if it does, the Commons will turn it down.
In that event you can expect attempts by the Remainers in Parliament to try to scupper our departure by delaying it beyond the General Election, or offer some other enormous raft of concessions to give back control of the EU.
This is why we are seeing Project Fear Mark 3, 4 or 5 — I have lost count — trying to terrorise the public into believing they will be denied food, medicines and even their pensions.
Hence the ridiculous suggestion that the Army would be used to move food around the country.
Why? What conceivable aspect of European policy would handicap British hauliers moving British products from Kent to Cumbria?
None of course, but it was just the bogus nonsense some of our Remainer media is only too happy to carry completely uncritically. Similarly, we have heard suggestions of all sorts of shortages, based it seems mostly on the idea that the French might impede the flow of goods between Calais and Dover.
It would not be the first time we had dealt with such issues. We had about 30 days of such delays in 2015. I remember queues of lorries, but I do not remember shortages of food or medicines.
And on other issues, are the Europeans really going to pick a fight on data with the biggest IT power on the continent, on banking are they going to refuse to cooperate with the greatest financial centre in the world?
Are the Greeks, Italians and Spaniards going to disadvantage the UK residents on whom many of their local economies depend? Or stop tourism? I think not.
I suspect we are quite likely to have the odd hiccup when we leave the EU, but we will be able to cope, which is what Dominic Raab was demonstrating this week. And any problems we have will be over in months not years.
So in 15 years’ time, far from worrying about Mr Hammond’s £80billion bill, the country will have trouble remembering what all the fuss was about.
The biggest question will be whether we have made the most of the opportunities created by Brexit.
And that is what we should worry about today, creating the circumstances where this great country can take its proper place in the world. We will only be able to do that if we allow ourselves the freedoms a clean Brexit will deliver.
So my advice to all my old colleagues in Cabinet is simple: Ignore the misery merchants of the Treasury, stop fearing things that will never happen, and start planning for the real opportunities that this great country can grasp when it sets its mind to it.