There is some confusion over the size of these savings. The Graun says £24bn, The Telegraph £40bn, and Change Britain, um, £10bn, the press reporting of what is, in actual fact, a press release, has been appalling. Papers and news sites, which ever way they lean politically, have blandly trotted out the figures as if they were gospel. Does no one know how to critically scrutinise numbers any more?
Needless to say, Change Britain's figures describe what they describe, but nothing else. As with a great many things, it's what they don't say that counts. I've had a look at their workings so you don't have to, and what's there is little more than wish fulfillment and, in a few cases, some worrying positions.
First off, they make the easy claim that Britain will save paying membership subs, which works out as a saving of £10.4bn. Presently, countries outside of the EU but are members of the European Economic Area, like Norway post a contribution, but at a significantly lower level than the subs the UK presently pays. Change Britain's clean Brexit, however, has us lying outside the EEA completely. We would have to pay no more into the EU pot than Canada is set to do through their trade treaty. i.e. Nothing at all. Sounds attractive, but there is a problem. In October, exports to the EU were worth £26.8bn and imports £39.6bn. There are significant interests both sides of the channel for trade to continue uninterrupted, but that doesn't necessarily mean cool heads will prevail. There is every danger a deal cannot be negotiated in two years, hence the open talk of a bridging arrangement that would extend the negotiations into the never-never (a move entirely in the Prime Minister's character). However, Change Britain want none of that - they want tariff-free access, but without the rigmarole of the complex negotiations that will get us there. In short, if they want to hop out of the EEA, Britain will face tariffs, no ifs, no buts. The wrexit crew might say that will harm the EU more than that harms the UK, but in the real world that would be small comfort to the millions of jobs placed at risk and the damage done to the economy. So yes, we might save £10bn in subs, but how much disappears as the economy takes a hit? How many people have to have their livelihoods ruined until a inferior Canada-style treaty comes along?
Change Britain's second moment of dishonesty regards the freedom Britain will have to negotiate trade deals elsewhere. One of Leave's strongest suits during the campaign was playing up Britain's strength. The economy has serious, long-term problems the Tories don't seem at all fussed about, but yes, Britain is one of the richest economies in the world and, of course, people from all over will want to do business here. Pulling out a list of countries that have already expressed an interest in trade deals, or are likely to, they estimate an increase of between £8.5bn and £19.9bn worth of exports once we enter into arrangements with them. How Change Britain arrived at these figures are mathematically reasonable (though their link for 2016 trade balances leads to 2013's), they are economically suspect. Suspect because a trade deal doesn't generate exports, economic activity does. The tearing down of tariff barriers does not create jobs or boost productivity, it relieves costs borne by exporters and importers. It can improve profitability, but as we've seen in almost a decade's worth of a capital strike here in Britain, boosting profit rates doesn't necessarily equal more investment and greater productivity. Secondly, tariff-free access can harm economies, or does Change Britain need to read about the consequences of cheap Chinese steel again - that is until the hated EU put a hefty tariff on it? And thirdly, these trade deals aren't going to get struck overnight. Working out something with Mercosur - the Brazil-led economic bloc of Latin American countries - is not going to be a simple head-to-head between governments. And as for the deal with the USA, well, there might be a problem. Until we get those deals, there will be no economic benefit whatsoever. For years.
Lastly, let's look at the bonfire of red tape. Apparently, British business is getting choked by Brussels bureaucracy. A strangulation to the tune of £1.2bn, which is very small beer in the context of a £1.8tn (or thereabouts) economy. But still, let's play Change Britain's game. Going through the 100 most burdensome EU regulations as identified by Open Europe, Change Britain are at least honest enough to acknowledge that only a small proportion of EU regulations would be repealed because of international treaties and continued policy commitments. Nevertheless, they've earmarked some pretty interesting regulations for the chop. These include the Data Protection Act, genetically modified food regulations, non-road gaseous and particulate pollutant regulations, registration and restriction of chemicals rules, waste batteries and accumulators regs, and farmed animal welfare rules. In short, irony of ironies, their Clean Brexit would result in more airborne pollution - a filthy Brexit, if you will. As well as a free for all in hazardous materials, and an abandonment of farmed animal standards. And greater freedoms for those who hold personal data to abuse it. I guess it hadn't occurred that their repeal might create unforeseen externalities, like monies lost through fraud, added costs to health care, the cost of cleaning up environmental damage, it goes on.
In all, Change Britain's bean counter's approach to a Clean Brexit amounts to politics of the dirtiest kind. This is not an exercise in cost/benefit analysis. It's a balance sheet of dishonest thinking and convenient forgetting, and deserves branding as such.