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University of Warwick study to explore the politics of economic forecasting and its impact on Brexit and British capitalism

green shoots 2A major University of Warwick study analysing how official UK growth assessments are constructed, and their impact on economic policy and public finances, is to be supported by funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

Growth forecasts have a significant influence over policy decisions, such as the adoption of austerity measures, through their assessment of what tax revenues are likely to be available to the Government and their assumptions about the impact of disruptive events like Brexit.

This project will explore whether these highly significant economic forecasts are grounded in firm evidence and unquestioned scientific methodologies, or if they are in fact political constructions, based on contested methods, bedevilled by uncertainties, and subject to substantial retrospective revisions. It will also explore broader political economic questions about Brexit and the future trajectory of the British model of capitalism.

Professor Ben Clift, who will carry out the research, said,

“Within the public economic debate, UK growth forecasts are asked to carry more weight than economic forecasting as a predictive science can bear – especially in the context of Brexit and the pervasive uncertainty it generates.

“My research will explore how the economic concepts used to frame and pilot economic policy, even when advanced by expert bodies like the Office for Budget Responsibility, are political constructions, always founded upon contestable and contested assumptions.”

The research involves comparative analysis of linkages between Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) growth projection assumptions and the conduct of UK economic policy before and after Brexit.

By analysing the research, speeches and other intellectual outputs of the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Treasury, the Bank of England and other official bodies, as well as interviewing experts, technocrats, and policy advisors, Professor Clift will explore how growth forecasts are made, and how they have major impacts on UK economic policy conduct, and the public finances.

The project, entitled ‘The OBR and the Politics of UK Growth amidst Brexit, Uncertainty and Austerity’, is funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship awarded to Professor Clift. The research will be conducted in the Department of Politics and International Studies from October 2018 to September 2021.

13 December 2017


The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80m a year. For more information about the Trust, please visit


Sheila Kiggins

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