EU referendum: Treasury committee chairman backs Remain

Andrew Tyrie

Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the Treasury select committee, is to announce he will back the Remain campaign in the EU referendum.

The former Treasury adviser will say leaving the EU would almost certainly lead to a “short-term economic shock”.

He will say there are reasonable arguments on both sides but Remain has the strongest economic case.

A Vote Leave source said Mr Tyrie’s “pro-EU views are well known” adding: “We wish him well.”

In a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies in Westminster Mr Tyrie, the MP for Chichester, is expected to say: “On the economic impact, most experts – among them Brexit supporters – have concluded that a short-term economic shock would almost certainly accompany leaving the EU.

“This would reduce the growth of GDP below the level it would otherwise achieve, probably bringing lower living standards.

“Most experts have concluded that there will also be a long run cost, although this is much less certain. There are economic risks to staying and leaving; but the risks are greater to leaving.”

Mr Tyrie, who in the 1980s worked as a special adviser to former chancellor Nigel Lawson, who is now Lord Lawson of Blaby and a Brexit supporter, before his election to parliament in 1997, has declined to endorse either campaign until now.

His committee, which includes MPs from both sides of the referendum campaign, recently published a report which raised concerns about two core claims by opponents and supporters of EU membership.

‘Corrosive claims’

The committee said the Vote Leave campaign had been guilty of making a “highly misleading” claim that the UK contributes £350m per week to the EU.

But the committee also criticised the Treasury for creating uncertainty among voters by failing to explain fully the calculations behind its claim that Brexit would cost households £4,300 a year by 2030 if the UK left the EU.

In his speech Mr Tyrie will make clear that both sides have made “misleading” claims though he will reserve his strongest criticism for Vote Leave which is standing by its £350m figure.

“This is nonsense politics,” he will say. “It is a form of electoral bribery. It is of an order of magnitude worse than usually encountered in general elections – £350m a week or £50m a day, is a false prospectus.

“It has the some of the corrosive characteristics of Tony Blair’s claims on Iraq. I very much regret that the electorate has been expected to wade through this mountain of nonsense to find grains of truth.”

Mr Tyrie’s decision is likely to be welcomed by the Remain side which hopes to focus in the final two weeks of campaigning on what it regards as the economic dangers of an exit.

The Treasury select committee chairman, who studied at the College of Europe in Bruges, is regarded as something of a free thinker who has been overlooked by David Cameron for ministerial office.

In his speech Mr Tyrie is expected to say that Vote Leave’s plans to leave the single market would damage economic growth.

“Over the longer term, it is reasonable to conclude that Brexit would lead to a loss of GDP because leaving the EU would result in less access to the single market. Behind the cacophony of claim and counter-claim lies this irreducible point.”

He will add: “In this referendum, the Leavers have the simplest points. But the Remainers have the better of the argument.”

A Vote Leave source said: “Andrew Tyrie’s pro-EU views since the days of the ERM [Exchange Rate Mechanism] are well known. This was reflected in the disproportionate time Leave figures spent at his committee and the line of questioning. We wish him well.”

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