Brexit and The Economist’s Lack of Intelligence Unit

It is now pretty much established consensus that humbled pollsters are having great difficulty calling votes. The pundits – particularly those at the FT and The Economist – are still ever so keen to sound authoritative on Brexit when it is their house editorial line, rather than the objective study of all factors, that is so clearly what determines their analyses. The Economist has a research and analysis division which claims to be a world leader in global business intelligence – the grandly named Economist Intelligence Unit or the “EIU”. As well as offering subscribers research updates it also does consultancy for corporations who want to know what is going on in the world. The EIU says “our knowledge of economics, politics and socio-demographics is second to none. If you need to see into the future, we can help.” Using “bespoke modelling and scenario analysis” the EIU “can provide country, industry or market scenarios based on expert judgement, modelling” so, “if you need to understand how a country or industry will respond to an event… we can model that too.”  Corporations pay good money for the research and expect it to be reality-based rather than just journalists’ wishful thinking…

Guido has got hold of the EIU report for Britain dated June 28, 2016, five days after the referendum result. On politics it forecast:

  • Our baseline forecast is that Boris Johnson—the former mayor of London and one of the leaders of the “leave” campaign—will succeed David Cameron as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister… Theresa May won.
  • This process will commence with the triggering of Article 50 of the EU treaties to begin the exit process; we expect this to happen by the end of 2016. It was triggered in March 2017.
  • The Labour Party is mired in an acrimonious leadership crisis. We expect that the party’s hard-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will be ousted, and/or that there will be a formal split. Jezza’s not going anywhere. Labour isn’t splitting.
  • They also predict a second referendum will lead to a “jump in support for UKIP.” That remains to be seen.

On the economy EIU forecast:

  • They expected a contraction of 1% in 2017 (compared with 1.8% growth previously) as a slump in domestic demand pulls the economy into recession. UK GDP is on course to grow 1.9% in 2017. No contraction. No recession.
  • They forecast the number of those in work to fall by hundreds of thousands. More people are in work than ever…
  • They gloomily forecast a rapid deterioration in the fiscal position, falling tax revenues, increasing unemployment. None of which happened…
  • They predicted the US Federal Reserve would have to hold interest rates. The Fed raised rates.
  • The EIU predicted anxiety-driven declines in world stock markets, “When an event promises to strip 6% of GDP from the fifth-biggest economy in the world, it is harder for the rest of the global economy to grow as quickly.” Brexit “will ensure that the global economy continues to underperform its potential for at least another two years”World stock markets have rallied strongly post-Brexit.

The EIU predicted that by next year unemployment will rise by 380,000 and GDP will fall by 6% compared to the pre-June 23 baseline. The authors of these EIU reports are what the brilliant Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “IYIs”, “Intellectual Yet Idiot” academic no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalist-insiders. That class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy League, Oxford-Cambridge education who enjoy telling us what to do. Academico-bureaucrats who are self-described members of the “intelligentsia” who can’t find a coconut on Coconut Island. A year after the Brexit vote the Economist Intelligence Unit has proven that it doesn’t know the right end of a stick.




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