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.

The group has long been pushing for a full break-up with the EU and has 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” have contradicted most other studies on the issue and have been widely criticised as “doubly misleading”.

EFT has been feeding its narratives into other thinktanks and campaign groups working out of offices at 55 and 57 Tufton Street, alongside nine other free-market organisations that were accused by a whistleblower of colluding in pushing hard-Brexit messages into the media.

EFT is led by Patrick Minford, professor of economics at Cardiff Business School, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher and supporter of the controversial poll tax. Minford also sits on the advisory team of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.  

EFT has a team of 18 members writing reports about free-trade and Brexit, and 13 advisors. Its members include MPs such as chair of the European Research Group Jacob-Rees Mogg, member of the EU scrutiny committee and former minister of state for the department for exiting the EU David Jones, and the climate science denying former environment secretary, North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson.

Influential columnists such as the Sunday Telegraph’s Liam Halligan, founder of ConservativeHome Tim Montgomerie and The Times’ Matt Ridley, a coal baron and prominent climate change denier, are also among the group’s ranks.

EFT convener, Edgar Miller, an American businessman from Texas and a visiting fellow at Cass Business School in London, made his fortune by investing in the US shale gas industry and 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.

David Ord, co-owner of the Bristol Port Company and a member of the exclusive Bristol club the Society of Merchant Venturers is an EFT member. The co-owner of the Bristol Port Company, Terence Mordaunt, was in 2017 announced as a Director of the climate science denial campaign group, the GWPF.

Times columnist and GWPF advisor Matt Ridley also advises the EFT. Ridley has approvingly referenced EFT in his columns, without declaring he is an advisor to the group. Ridley has repeatedly used his columns to spread disinformation about climate change and oppose government-led actions to prevent dangerous warming.

Stance on Climate Change

Several EFT reports on issues regarding Brexit and deregulation include 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 challenges the scientific consensus that wide-ranging government intervention is necessary to combat the effects of climate change. He argues that there is uncertainty about the economics and climate science and that the free market economy will better deal with climate change than government-led regulation.

Key Deeds

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.

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.