Economists for Free Trade


Background

Economists for Free Trade (EFT), formerly known as Economists for Brexit, is a coalition of economists with strong ties to Brexiteer Conservative MPs, right-leaning mainstream media and some well-known climate science deniers. [1]

Numerous EFT members and advisors have links to libertarian, pro-Brexit thinktanks based in and around 55 Tufton Street and to the UK’s principal climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

The group has advocated a complete political separation from the EU, claiming that a no deal exit from the EU could add £135bn to the British economy per year and that the UK’s poorest families will be “the biggest winners.” [2], [3]

The EFT accused the Treasury and civil servants of misleading the public on the costs of Brexit and staying in the customs union. The group’s findings that “no deal would be better than a bad deal” contradicted all other studies on the issue according to the Independent and were criticised as “doubly misleading”. [4], [5], [6]

As of August 2020, the group’s website was still active but its activities appeared to have wound down, with its last report published in November 2019. [7]

Numerous individuals associated with the EFT now have positions within the pro-hard Brexit thinktank, the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) and Foundation for Independence, both established by John Longworth. Longworth, Executive Director of the CBP, and Owen Paterson, Chair of the CBP, are both Advisors to the EFT, and Edgar Miller, a Convenor and a Founding Member of the EFT is a Senior Advisor to the CBP[8], [9]

Stance on Climate Change

An EFT report on issues regarding Brexit and deregulation included references to Colin Robinson’s book Climate Change Policy: Challenging the Activists, which was published by the Institute for Economic Affairs in 2008.

In the book, Robinson argues that there is uncertainty both about climate science and the policy measures required in response, and argued that the free market economy would deliver a better response to climate change than government-led regulation. [10], [11]

Funding

Although Patrick Minford and Edgar Miller both have entries on Companies House, an entry for EFT did not appear to be available. [12], [13]

Annual Reports

N/a

Key People

EFT Chair Patrick Minford is a Professor of Applied Economics at Cardiff Business School. Minford is a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher and was a key architect of the controversial poll tax. Minford sits on the advisory team of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), is a Fellow at the Centre for Brexit Policy and is a Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs. [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]

EFT Convenor Edgar Miller is an American businessman and a visiting fellow at Cass Business School in London who made his fortune by investing in the US shale gas industry. Miller has been named as an early donor, fundraiser and founder of the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), led by former chancellor Nigel Lawson. He is a Senior Advisor at the Centre for Brexit Policy. [19], [8]

EFT Members

EFT Member Kevin Dowd, Professor of Finance and Economics at Durham University, is registered as an Adjunct Scholar for the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank based in Washington DC that has received funding from fossil fuel interests, including the Koch family. [20], [21]

  • Michael Burrage
  • Roger Bootle
  • Tim Congdon
  • John Greenwood
  • Vudayagi Balasubramanyam
  • Andrea Hosso
  • Martin Howe QC
  • Warwick Lightfoot
  • Graeme Leach
  • Neil MacKinnon
  • Kent Matthews
  • David Paton
  • John Whittaker [22]

Former members of the EFT include The Sunday Telegraph’s Liam Halligan and founder of ConservativeHome Tim Montgomerie. [23], [24]

EFT Advisors

EFT Advisor Sir David Ord is co-owner of the Bristol Port Company along with Terence Mordaunt, Chairman of the climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. [25]

EFT Advisor and former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was a founding member of the official Vote Leave campaign and gave the GWPF’s 2014 annual lecture, which was later revealed to be partly written by GWPF Advisor (and Paterson’s brother-in-law) Viscount Matt Ridley. Paterson also has close ties with US free-market groups that have denied mainstream climate science and lobbied against climate action, including the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. [26], [27], [28], [29]

EFT Advisor Viscount Matt Ridley, is a GWPF Advisor, Conservative hereditary peer and formerly the brother-in-law of CBP Chair Owen Paterson. Ridley’s family estate includes a coal mine operated by the company Banks Group. Ridley was chairman of Northern Rock when the bank collapsed in 2007 and has frequently downplayed the seriousness of man-made climate change and criticised mainstream climate science. [30], [31], [32]

EFT Advisor Jacob Rees-Mogg is a Conservative MP and the Leader of the House of Commons. He was also a long-time chair of the hardline Brexiteer grouping of MPs, the European Research Group. Rees Mogg has claimed “climate alarmism” is responsible for high energy prices, and that it is unrealistic for scientists to project future climate changes as meteorologists struggle to correctly predict the weather. In 2014, he was referred to the parliamentary standards watchdog for failing to disclose interests in a company with millions of pounds invested in energy companies when speaking in relevant debates. [33], [34], [35], [36]

EFT Advisor John Longworth is a former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, who was  suspended from the role in 2016 after making comments supportive of Brexit, breaching neutrality rules. Longworth went on to co-found the Leave Means Leave pro-Brexit pressure group with Richard Tice, who later became chairman of the Brexit Party, which has fielded many climate science denying political candidates. Longworth is Executive Director of the pro-hard-Brexit thinktank, the Centre for Brexit Policy, and Chair of the business lobby group, the Foundation for Independence. [37], [38], [39], [40], [41]

  • Sir John Craven
  • Alexander Downer
  • Sir James Dyson
  • Lord Flight
  • Sir Rocco Forte
  • Daniel Hodson
  • David Jones MP
  • John Longworth
  • Sir David Ord
  • Barnabas Reynolds [22]

Key Deeds

September 2018

EFT Advisor and then Chair of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg, spoke at the launch of the the EFT’s “World Trade Deal” report where he promoted the EFT’s claim that a “no-deal” Brexit would boost the UK economy by £135bn a year. The event was attended by senior Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs including Boris Johnson, Steve Baker and Liam Fox. The claim came under criticism from economics and trade experts, with a professor at King’s College London describing it as “fundamentally dishonest.” [42], [43]

August 2018

EFT advisor and climate science denier Matt Ridley quoted figures from another EFT member, Michael Burrage, in his Times column to support his argument that a no-deal Brexit may benefit the UK, without declaring his own affiliation to the group. [44]

June 2018

EFT published a report that claims a cliff edge Brexit and adoption of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would be “the very best” option for the UK. [45]

September 2014

EFT Convenor Edgar Miller revealed to a reporter that he was an early donor to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. When contacted by DeSmog about the claims, Miller said that he was “proud” to have donated to the group, and “would be pleased” for this to be made public. [19]

Related Organisations

Social Media

Contact & Address

The EFT does not provide an address on its website. [49]

Resources

  1. Chloe Farand. “Economists for Free Trade: Meet the ‘Independent Experts’ with Ties to Climate Science Denial Pushing a No Deal Brexit,” DeSmog, August 13, 2018.

  2. Lynsey Barber. “This group of pro-Brexit economists says leaving the EU will add £135bn to economy,” City A.M., August 20, 2017. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/HMNdu

  3. Britain’s poorest families will be the biggest winners from Brexit,” EFT. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/rYCMm

  4. Civil servants “totally misleading” public on cost of leaving customs union,” EFT. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/aO4gb

  5. Ben Chu. “Only economic study showing benefits of Brexit debunked as ‘doubly misleading,” The Independent, April 22, 2017. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/7d6S1

  6. Most economists say Brexit will hurt the economy - but one disagrees,” The Economist, August 24, 2017. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/hwfck

  7. Publications,” EFT. Archived August 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/u1Kat

  8. Our Leadership,” The Centre for Brexit Policy. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/M2e9m

  9. Key People,” The Foundation for Independence. Archived August 6, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/wF9SC

  10. The Economy after Brexit,” Economists for Brexit. Archived August 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  11. Colin Robinson - Climate Change Policy,” IEA, September 24, 2008. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/Ub6eK

  12. Anthony Patrick Leslie MINFORD,” Companies House. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/ozLmu

  13. Edgar Allen MILLER,” Companies House. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/isg5X

  14. People,” Cardiff Business School. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/2vzvb

  15. Macer Hall, “Former Advisor to Margaret Thatcher played key role in cutting ties with Brussels,” The Express, Aug 5, 2020. Archived June 30, 2020.

  16. Advisory Council,” TaxPayer’s Alliance. Archived June 30. 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/fjMkj

  17. Fellows,” The Centre for Brexit Policy. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/BkQgX 

  18. Institute of Economic Affairs - People,” Companies House. Archived August 31, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/1U3YX

  19. Brendan Montague, “Lawson’s Climate Denial Donor Boasts of Shale Gas InvestmentDeSmog, June 29, 2020.

  20. Professor Kevin Dowd,” Durham University. Archived August 31, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/uumGz

  21. Kevin Dowd - Adjunct Scholar,” Cato Institute. Archived August 31, 2020, Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/tAbtv

  22. Who we are,” EFT. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/irNAK

  23. Who we are,” EFT. Archived August 23, 2017. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/qvhWj

  24. Who we are,’ EFT. Archived January 14, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/dnTFh

  25. Richard Collett-White. “Major Tory donor and Johnson backer to lead UK Climate Science Denial Group,” DeSmog, December 18, 2019.

  26. Owen Paterson’s speech on abandoning the 2050 climate change targets – full text,” The Spectator, October 15, 2014. Google Cache as of December 19, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/uMIeT

  27. Brendan Montague. “Sacked Paterson Turns to Broken Banker Ridley for Climate Speech Briefings,” DeSmog, October 16, 2014.

  28. Brexit at the Crossroads: Why U.S. Support for a Far-Reaching Agreement is Vital,” The Heritage Foundation, September 19, 2018. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  29. Former U.K. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson Outlines the Environmental Benefits of Brexit,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, October 13, 2017. Archived December 28, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/Lfwc4

  30. Academic Advisory Council,” Global Warming Policy Foundation. Archived June 30, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/BleyE

  31. Julia Werdigier, “Northern Rock chairman quits after criticism from lawmakers,” International Herald Tribune, October 19, 2007. Archived October 21, 2007. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/8YO9g

  32. My life as a climate change lukewarmer,” The Times, January 19, 2015. Republished at Rationaloptimist.com. Archived September 19, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ECB8l

  33. Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP - MPs and LordsUK Parliament. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/hSeSu

  34. Rowena Mason. “Jacob Rees-Mogg to lead influential group of Tory Eurosceptic MPs,” The Guardian, January 16, 2018. Archived December 19, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/auwYQ

  35. Jacob Rees-Mogg. “Climate change alarmism caused our high energy prices,” The Telegraph, October 23, 2013. Archived December 19, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/kWUyS

  36. Jane Merrick. “Leading Tory backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg 'failed to declare interests',” The Independent, December 14, 2014. Archived December 19, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/e79mH

  37. Samuel Osborne, EU Referendum: BCC boss John Longworth ‘suspended over Brexit comments,’ The Independent, March 5, 2016. Archived June 29, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/FxsDz

  38. Asa Bennett, “Nigel Farage embroiled in defection row with Brexit Party stalwart John Longworth,” The Telegraph, November 5, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  39. Albert Evans, “Brexit Party launch: Nigel Farage unveils new party, with 2018 European election candidates including Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister,” The Independent, April 12, 2019.  Archived July 1, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/QIlyI

  40. Richard Collett-White. “Election 2019: Here Are All the Brexit Party’s Climate Science Deniers,” DeSmog, May 1, 2019.

  41. Jill Treanor. “John Longworth’s Brexit Lobby PushThe Sunday Times, March 8, 2020. Archived pdf on file at DeSmog.

  42. The Telegraph: Jacob Rees Mogg: No-Deal Brexit will boost UK economy by £1.1 trillion over 15 years,” EFT. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/BFoaq

  43. Alanna Petroff. “Don’t bank on the ‘£1.1tn Brexit boost promise’ backed by Jacob-Rees Mogg,” Yahoo Finance UKSeptember 11, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/nWxKG. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  44. Matt Ridley. “We’ve nothing to fear from a world-trade Brexit,” The Times, August 6, 2018. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/7GRwP

  45. What if we can’t agree? Why a world free trade deal exit from the EU will be best for the UK,” EFT. Archived August 30, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/4naFF

  46. Political Advisory Board,” The Foundation for Independence. Archived August 6, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/wQo9l

  47. Board of Trustees,” Global Warming Policy Foundation. Archived August 31, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/cgnGB

  48. Clients,Media Intelligence Partners. Archived July 20, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/0UDfA 

  49. Contact,” EFT. Archived August 26, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/JRAcf