Written by Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East and a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign
This week the Chancellor laid bare the first official estimate of the cost of Brexit – and it made for eye-watering reading.
The Government’s independent number crunchers – the Office for Budget Responsibility – estimated that as a direct consequence of the referendum result, we would be borrowing an extra £58.7bn over the next few years.
That is not the total sum of extra borrowing, which is an even higher £122bn. The £58.7bn is the specific bill for Brexit – a whopping £226 million a week, every week, lost from lack of business confidence, lower growth and increased inflation.
I know many Mirror readers may have been frustrated with aspects of the EU over the years, but at no point in the referendum campaign were we told that leaving could cost us an extra £58bn.
Predictably, leading Tory Brextremists have attacked the forecasters for doing their job. But shooting the messenger won’t change the economic impact of the cause they championed.
They talked during the campaign about taking back control. But now they need to be held accountable for the economic damage revealed in the Autumn Statement.
Just think what nearly £60 billion could buy if it was channelled into public services, rather than paying for Brexit. The Open Britain campaign calculate that it could pay the wages of over two million nurses or allow us to build 10,000 primary schools. It could fund the HS2 rail project in its entirety, with enough left over to build a high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds as well. 18 aircraft carriers AND 26 Eurofighter Typhoons; 2,000 miles of new motorway; three nuclear power stations – the list goes on.
There are thousands of ways to spend that cash better than on filling a Brexit black hole – easing pressure on the NHS, improving our children’s education, or investing in our communities. Instead, we are throwing this money away and with it, the opportunities it could have otherwise provided for people up and down the country.
Leavers told us that Brexit would mean more money for public services – most notably a fictitious extra £350 million a week for the NHS. The opposite is true. And they should now take responsibility for this huge Brexit bill. But we need more than that. The Government must now rule out a hard, destructive Brexit, which will only make these already grim figures worse.