The OBR is as anti-Brexit as the Treasury and its forecasts are equally unreliable

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readJul 22, 2022


Yesterday former Cabinet Minister the Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP revealed the shocking inaccuracies in the forecasts of the OBR, on which Chancellors base their tax and spend decisions. Rishi Sunak is basing his current insistence on tax rises on the advice of this organisation: the ‘Office for Budget Responsibility.

The differences in the actual figures compared to the OBR’s forecasts are breathtaking.

The OBR’s forecasts versus the reality

1. Government borrowing

  • OBR borrowing forecast July 2022: £131.2bn LESS than forecast in Mar 2021
  • It’s even £48.3bn LESS than they forecast only in October last year
  • May 2022: £3,312,568 — a 24.7% increase since the EU Referendum

2. Tax revenues and Government spending

  • Tax revenues are £77bn MORE than the OBR forecast
  • In addition, the OBR overstated Government spending by £48.7bn

[Sources: Sir John Redwood MP | OBR 21 July 2022.]

3. Relevance to Brexit and to the cost of living crisis — see below.

Here is the relevance to Brexit

The mandarins leading the OBR and responsible for its forecasts are generally taken from the Treasury and the Bank of England.

On the OBR’s website they say:-

“The new trading relationship between the UK and EU, as set out in the ‘Trade and Cooperation Agreement’ (TCA) that came into effect on 1 January 2021, will reduce long-run productivity by 4 per cent relative to remaining in the EU.”

- OBR website, accessed 22 July 2022

Looking back at their musings on their 2016 predictions, they use phrases such as “has held up better than expected” for a variety of economic indicators.

It must be remembered that in 2016 the Treasury produced a forecast predicting job losses of 500,000–820,000 if the British people voted to leave the EU. In fact, the absolute opposite was the case: employment rose by more than this.

And here is the relevance to the cost of living crisis and Rishi’s tax rises

Some funny numbers from the Treasury and OBR
By the Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP, with permission

“The OBR has had to explain why it was so far out in its forecasts of the deficit and borrowings last year. They have written:

‘Our latest forecast for ( Central government borrowing) 2021–2 is £48.3bn below the October forecast and £131.2bn below our March 2021 forecast (the Budget).’ They accept they underestimate tax revenues by a massive £77bn and overstated state spending by £48.7bn. It should be easier to forecast what you spend when you are running the spending controls.

“We can all make mistakes. Forecasting is difficult. What is more difficult to forgive is that this was not the first time they have underestimated the revenues and overstated the deficit. Worse still is they used their precise forecasts of revenue and deficit to tell the Chancellor he needed to raise more taxes to reduce the gap between spending and taxing. It turns out they need not have asked him to do that as the numbers were so much better than the numbers they tried to create with tax rises. So when I am asked how do we pay for the tax cuts, the first answer is we are so far ahead of plan there is no problem. The second answer is if you cut the right tax rates to a sensible amount you can end up with more growth and more revenue, not less.

“The Treasury also needs to come clean about the debt interest. They have been using their current high figure of £83bn which includes index costs on the repayment of inflation linked debt which does not entail making any cash payments before redemption. They use this figure to scare politicians into accepting more austerity to control the debt interest. What they omit to point out is on their definition of debt interest they forecast a collapse in the cost of it to £46.7bn by 2024–5. That is a fall of £36.3bn or 44% in debt interest.

“The Treasury has a tradition of overstating deficits when there is good growth and understating them in recession. There is also a danger their policy advice based on very wrong forecasts could drive us unnecessarily into recession.”

- The Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP, 21 July 2022

Just who/what exactly is the ‘Office for Budget Responsibility?

The ‘Office for Budget Responsibility’ (OBR) is the ‘independent’ organisation set up by pro-EU Chancellor George Osborne in 2010. It is led by three people who have executive responsibility for the core functions of the OBR, including the judgements reached in its forecasts.

They are

  • Richard Hughes, Chair. Chosen by Sunik
  • Prof. David Miles CBE.
  • Andy King.

These individuals are typically plucked from the Treasury and Bank of England. Here are the opening remarks of the OBR’s first Chairman in 2010.

“It is quite remarkable that the Chancellor has given us authority to produce independent forecasts for the budget and the pre-budget report and to provide a public assessment of the action needed to achieve his fiscal mandate.”.

“We are not claiming that we shall get the fiscal forecasts right. Above all, we shall be emphasising the risks and uncertainties; but every judgment will be ours and we guarantee the independence and integrity of our work…. We hope that the result will be greater credibility and an improvement in the quality of the fiscal decisions that will have to be made.”

- — Sir Alan Budd, first Chairman of OBR, former chief economic adviser at the Treasury and one of the first members of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, 2010

Who will shake this rotten tree?

One of the triumvirates of the OBR’s forecasters and leaders is a part-time professor and a member of the Commission of the Central Bank of Ireland — an EU member country.

If ever there were a classic example of the endemic rot at the heart of the Civil Service, surely this is right up there. How is it conceivable that a man responsible for advising the UK Government on its budget can also be working for Ireland’s Central Bank?

Tax rises based on flawed economic predictions

Over the years I have pointed out many times the nature of forecasts from ‘experts’ regarding the performance of the UK’s economy post-Brexit. These have not only proved to be wrong but often disastrously so.

Now the eminent MP Sir John Redwood is obliged to point out that the OBR’s forecasts — on which the Chancellor’s tax and spending decisions are based — have been deeply flawed. This affects our taxes, the services the Government provides, investment in our future, and a host of other key policy decisions.

I believe both my long-dead cats from beyond their graves — would have had a better chance at forecasting Brexit Britain’s economic future than some of the mandarins in Whitehall.

This is yet more proof that Sunak is working with Remain to get the UK back into the EU.

If you all want more proof that this is a plot to get us back into the EU. Why is a North Staffordshire MP backing and voting for Sunak after first backing and voting for Tom Tugendhat who is a devout Remainer and Rejoiner? The whole of Stoke on Trent is overwhelmingly a Leave area. As is the Town next to it Newcastle under Lyme. Where Arron Bell also wanted Tom Tugendhat as the next PM. He has declined to say who he wants the next PM.

[ Sources: OBR | Treasury | Sir John Redwood ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.