"The long-term economic plan is working" is one of George Osborne's best known soundbites. Is that the same Chancellor who has been predicting economic doomsday if Britain leaves the European Union (EU) with the same conviction as a sword-wielding harbinger of the Apocalypse? Britain would be "permanently poorer", Osborne cried, with each household £4,300 worse off. House prices could fall by nearly 20 percent (but mortgage costs would rise). A year of "DIY recession" would ensue.
You cannot help wondering just what happened to the Chancellor's long-term plan. That plan was a cornerstone of the Conservative 2015 election campaign and his constant refrain ever since. Just weeks ago, delivering his 2016 Budget, he spoke of "an economy set to grow faster than any other major advanced economy in the world".
Only now is he telling us that this success is entirely contingent on EU membership. Osborne seems to have got rather carried away in his bid to stop a Brexit. In all the excitement of announcing headline-grabbing numbers he seems to forget the odd fact. As a consequence, he is starting to look more like the would-be knight errant Don Quixote than the bearer of the scroll of seven seals he would have us believe.
Osborne's rhetoric romances that Britain is completely dependent on the EU, economically as well as politically. Yet, the underlying numbers the Chancellor uses to back up his points are plain wrong – the EU economy is arguably dependent on Britain. Analysing his claims on the costs of Brexit, one commentator spoke of a "simply breath-taking" dishonesty. The Treasury Select Committee chaired by Andrew Tyrie has highlighted real concerns about Osborne's use of figures, describing the £4,300-worse-off statistic as a "mistaken assertion".