THE degree of denial of Brexit’s effects from the architects of the folly has been spectacular but the brass neck of Michael Gove at the weekend surely took things to another level.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had just listened to Richard Hughes, who chairs the Office for Budget Responsibility, detail the major effects of Brexit on the UK economy.

The OBR was set up by the Conservatives themselves - when George Osborne was chancellor - to provide independent forecasts.

Mr Hughes, interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, said of the OBR: “We have lower forecast errors and also less biased forecasts than the Treasury used to produce.”

This, you might think, would make the OBR a valuable resource when it comes to reflecting on the real-world effects of major policy decisions.

Not so for Mr Gove, apparently, regarding reflections which do not suit the ideology that he and the administration of which he is part have been pushing in recent years.

Of course, Mr Gove has indicated in the past he is not always that bothered about what experts have to say.

Back in June 2016, in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, he famously declared: “People in this country have had enough of experts.”

The outcome of the vote indicated, perhaps, that he was in some ways right, with many people seemingly not interested in listening to those who knew and instead choosing to believe those who told them what they wanted to hear.

It seemed plain on Sunday that Mr Gove did not want to hear very crucial parts of what Mr Hughes had to say.

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Mr Gove seemed to take on the chin the fact that people in the UK were facing a huge squeeze on living standards. Rather it was the causes of this or more specifically one major factor in the woe that the Tory arch-Brexiter, one of those banging the drum for leaving the European Union most loudly back in 2016, appeared to simply not want to hear.

Reflecting on the UK economic situation, Mr Hughes said: “I think we are seeing clearly the biggest squeeze on living standards we have faced in this country on record.”

He flagged forecasts showing “people’s real spending power doesn’t get back to the level it was before the pandemic even after five years, even by the time we get to the late-2020s".

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Mr Hughes added: “It’s partly because UK growth has been held back by a range of supply constraints on some of the key drivers of growth. We have lost around 500,000 people from the labour force, we have seen stagnant investment since 2016 and also our productivity has slowed dramatically since the financial crisis and not really recovered.”

Things must surely have got more uncomfortable for Mr Gove, who was in the studio and interviewed after the OBR chairman’s comments, when Ms Kuenssberg asked Mr Hughes: “How much stronger would the economy be if we had stayed in the EU?”

The reply was perfectly simple.

Mr Hughes did not beat about the bush, declaring: “We think that in the long run it reduces our overall output by around 4% compared with had we remained in the EU.”

He added: “It’s a shock to the UK economy of the order of magnitude of those sorts of other shocks that we’ve seen from the pandemic, from the energy crisis.”

When it was put to Mr Gove that he had just heard from the official number cruncher that it might be five or six years before people felt better off again, and he was asked if he thought that was correct, he did not seem to take particular issue with this viewpoint.

He did note difficulties in forecasting.

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Then Mr Gove declared: “I’m not going to criticise forecasters…But I do know that as Richard quite rightly pointed out we are dealing with the aftershocks of two…significant events, so both the war in Ukraine, the first time we have had war on this scale in the continent of Europe since the Second World War and the Covid pandemic, the biggest global health pandemic since the end of the First World War. They have had a huge effect on our economy and on others’ economies.”

There was, of course, one glaring omission in this response.

It was flagged by Ms Kuenssberg as follows: “But every country has had that and this country has also had, as you heard Richard say there, a shock to the economy from the disruption of Brexit, which you backed, and what the impact of that is for people right now, not forecasting into the future, is a very serious squeeze on living standards.”

Asked about the Conservatives’ track record since 2010, in the context of whether they had failed given people were going through the biggest drop in living standards on record, Mr Gove ducked and dived.

He characterised what are surely draconian efforts to force people back into work by threatening to take away welfare benefits as “steps to help people”.

Mr Gove talked about the windfall tax on energy companies. He flagged the Conservatives’ support for households on energy bills, which it must be noted remain at sky-high levels, with the likes of the French Government’s efforts on this front far more convincing.

Asked if he accepted the UK was a “poorer country” than it was “going to be”, Mr Gove replied: “If we hadn’t had the war, the impact that it has had…on fossil fuel prices and other supplies as well, including food, if we hadn’t had the Covid pandemic, then we would have been in a position where our growth rate was significantly higher.”

And there it was again: a second denial of the effects of Brexit that Mr Gove had heard laid out by the OBR a few minutes earlier.

It was quite the performance. It would be good to say Mr Gove is fooling no one on this front. Sadly, however, even though opinion polling indicates many people have woken up to Brexit realities, large numbers are still being hoodwinked.