The revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump could be about to hit France – Fox News

The revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump could be about to hit France – Fox News

In HBO’s “Westworld” — about a Wild West theme park populated by robots — there is a scene in which a robot character unloads his pistol at a human “guest.” When the approaching human shrugs off the bullets (one of the rules is that no robot can harm a human), the robot gawks in disbelief. Yet instead of trying something new, he merely reloads and keeps impotently shooting.

The scene is an accidental, yet perfect, metaphor for the situation in Western Europe and the USA right now. The approaching human is the quiet revolution sweeping through both continents, while the media, financial and political elites are the gawking robots, unaware that the rules of the game have changed and unable to do anything other than keep reloading the same pistol and firing the same shots.

First Brexit, then Trump, and now it seems like the Western Revolt could sweep through the halls of power in Austria, Italy, France and Germany by this time next year. Yet the elites are still reloading and firing the same pistol, hoping that this bullet this time will stop the approaching threat.

Out of all the political events to keep a track of right now, France’s presidential race should be at the top of your list. On Sunday, former Prime Minister François Fillon — a hardline conservative calling for budget cuts and small government — beat off pollsters’ initial favorite and moderate Alain Juppé to win the Republican Party nomination. This means that in April Fillon will be the favorite against the woman who has the French elites quaking in their loafers — the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen, running on a nationalistic, anti-Islamic, anti-globalization, anti-third world immigration platform, is expected by many experts to win the first round of voting in April when there are multiple candidates on the ballot, but ultimately lose in a second round head-to-head with Fillon — the theory being that left-wingers and centrists will unite behind the more moderate Fillon against the “hard-right” Le Pen.

Yet the assumption that Le Pen slots into the “hard-right” category (and therefore holds no attraction to left-wing and centrist bases of support) is flawed, and is the same logic that led American and British pollsters to undervalue the appeal of similar movements to working class voters in places like Sunderland and Michigan.

Le Pen’s revolution has been building slowly for years since her ascent to the leadership of the National Front in 2011, when she cleaned the party out of its most hateful elements in a “de-toxification” process. A hardliner on immigration and Islamism, she is moderate on gay marriage and abortion, skeptical of free trade deals, in favor of increasing taxes on the rich and opposed to harsh austerity measures. Like Trump, therefore, it is hard to lock her into a typical left/right category.

A brief glance at France in 2016 tells you why her message is so appealing to even moderate voters. After being hit by brutal Islamist terror rampages in Paris and Nice, the country is going through another crisis after the deconstruction of the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais. As a result, third-world migrants have flooded the streets of Paris, setting up new makeshift camps down the Champs-Élysées. Meanwhile, five Islamists were arrested last week after an “imminent” terror plot was uncovered.

The migrant and terror crises, along with a high unemployment rate, have shot socialist President Francois Hollande’s reputation — whose approval rating now stands at just four percent (no that’s not a typo.)

With Hollande’s reputation in tatters, Fillon’s call for austerity and cuts risks missing the mood of voters. While he is pushing a hard on immigration and Islam, calling on those coming into the country to assimilate, he has focused most of his message on deep spending cuts, a privatization of the nation’s beloved socialized health care system, and a raising of the retirement age.

Fillon is a smart man who has a successful career in French politics, so one should be careful before second-guessing him, and predictive polls for April (however unreliable) show him beating Le Pen comfortably. However, to pretend that what Le Pen supporters are yearning for is social security reform, and that left-wing voters unsure of the National Front will line up behind a harsh budget cutter seems a gamble indeed. It is far from certain that those who voted for Francois Hollande’s full-throated socialism just four years ago will now pick a privatizer and a budget slasher just because they are nervous about Le Pen.

Additionally, calling for harsh budget cuts to health care and pensions, while not going along with Le Pen’s call to exit the European Union and slam the border shut to migrants, hands Le Pen the golden ticket of being able to say to voters: “Fillon wants to cut your pensions and health care to pay for Muslim immigrants.” It is hard to think of message more likely to carry Le Pen into the Elysee Palace.

Whether Fillon or Le Pen wins, it will mark a remarkable and seismic rightward shift for the country either way. But should Fillon’s gamble that centre and left-wing voters will line up behind an ideological conservative not pay off, and Le Pen wins, the European Union will be thrown into crisis.

A President Le Pen would almost certainly join the U.K. in pulling the plug on its E.U. membership. While Britain’s likely departure has the unwieldy bloc teetering on the brink, France is one of the two core members (along with Germany) and so its departure would finally send the E.U. over the cliff, ending the post-war consensus of pan-Europeanism over nationalism with it.

Should this happen, the political, media and financial elites should not be allowed to say they could not see this coming. They have been warned multiple times about what would happen if they chose to keep borders open and put (often dangerous) foreigners above the needs of their own people.

And yet, just like the robot cowboy in “Westworld,” they keep firing the same blank bullets from the same gun, hoping that maybe this time, somehow, there will be a different result and they will win. In France, they could again be sourly disappointed.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.

Italy’s Brexit moment? The complex constitutional referendum that could rock Europe. – Washington Post

Italy’s Brexit moment? The complex constitutional referendum that could rock Europe. – Washington Post

On June 23, a referendum in Britain produced a dramatic result: The United Kingdom would become the first European Union member to leave the supranational institution that some credit as the glue that has kept postwar Europe together.

This weekend, another less-heralded referendum could mark another blow to Europe’s status quo. Italians will go vote Sunday on whether to amend the Italian constitution to reform the country’s parliament and the way its governments are created.

While it may sound remarkably technocratic and complicated, the Italian referendum could have a huge effect in both symbolic and practical terms upon all of Europe. Here’s our guide.

Why is Italy having a referendum?

When Prime Minister Matteo Renzi came to power in 2014, he promised to reform Italian politics and get the economy booming. With the support of his center-left Democratic Party, he introduced a parliamentary bill that attempted to alter Italy’s 1947 constitution. The prime minister and his allies argued the constitutional changes would streamline the country’s legislative process, while his critics note that it would take away many powers from Italy’s parliament and put them in the hands of the prime minister.

The highly contested bill finally passed through parliament earlier this year, but it didn’t receive the qualified two-thirds majority of votes needed to change the constitution. So, Renzi had to seek a referendum. After Italy’s Court of Cassation approved the referendum in August, the vote’s date was set for Dec. 4.

It will be Italy’s third constitutional referendum: In 2001 voters approved changes to the constitution, but in 2006, proposals were rejected.

What exactly are Italians voting on?

Unlike the Brexit vote, which was a seemingly simple question about E.U. membership (though maybe not so simple in practical terms), Italians on Sunday will be voting on a complicated package of changes to the way Italy’s democracy functions. It’s actually so complicated that one Italian start-up has been offering classes for how to understand the referendum. They cost around $154 an hour, according to the Telegraph.

Perhaps the most important change is relatively easy to understand. The idea is to move Italy from a perfect bicameral system, where the lower Chamber of Deputies and upper Senate are roughly equal, to one where Chamber of Deputies holds the majority of power and the Senate has vastly reduced powers.

The number of Senators will be dropped from 315 to 100: 95 of whom would be selected by the government from regional councils and include some mayors, with the other five appointed by Italy’s president. Under this system, the Senate would take on a consultative role and the Chamber of Deputies would have the final say on a variety of legislation, including the budget, though the Senate would still have equal powers in some limited areas like constitutional reform.

There are other aspects of the proposal that are also important, however. One major one would attempt to clarify the balance of power between the regions and the central government, largely granting the former more control. Then there’s also the separate, but deeply intertwined, issue of Italicum, Renzi’s new electoral system for the Chamber of Deputies.

Italicum? What’s that?

Renzi was the leading proponent of a new electoral system dubbed “Italicum” which would change the way voting for Chamber of Deputies worked, creating a two-round voting system that could give a bonus number of seats to whichever party wins more than 40 percent of seats. The system effectively means that a party will be able to hold a majority in the Chamber of Deputies without winning a majority of seats. It seems designed to create a true two party system, like that of the United States or Britain.

This voting system was approved last year, but it was not designed to apply to the Senate. If Renzi loses the referendum and the Senate retains its considerable power, it will have to be dramatically reconsidered.

Why does Renzi want to do all this?

The sympathetic answer: Italy’s democracy has long been accused of making slow progress on legislation. In particular, the constitution, drawn up after the fascist rule of Mussolini at a politically contentious time in Italy, makes it necessary for a government to have strong support in both houses of parliament, which effectively have the same power.

Without the support of both houses, Italian governments can be remarkably short-lived. In the 70 years since the constitution was put in place, there have been 65 governments. Only one has served a full five-year term. Meanwhile, legislation can end up lost in limbo indefinitely. The proposed changes would not only make it easier to form a government, but make it simpler for that government to implement legislation. Renzi believes this would make Italy stronger politically, which would in turn boost the country’s uninspiring economic performance.

The unsympathetic answer: Renzi, a headstrong politician already, wants to remove the checks and balances imposed on the prime minister’s office, at a time when smaller anti-establishment parties like Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement are challenging his power.

Wait, who are the Five Star Movement and why do they oppose Renzi?

As The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola once noted Beppe Grillo, the founder of the Five Star Movement, looks “like Jerry Garcia” but “jokes like Jon Stewart.” However, to some watching European politics over the past few years, the comedian-cum-politician’s populist uprising could be compared to that of Donald Trump.

It’s a far from perfect comparison in many ways — the Five Star Movement is usually described as left-leaning, for one thing — but Grillo’s anti-establishment and anti-corruption message certainly has the potential to upend Italian politics in the same way that Donald Trump did during the recent U.S. election or Nigel Farage and others did during Britain’s Brexit vote. Grillo himself welcomed Trump’s election. ““It is those who dare, the obstinate, the barbarians who will take the world forward,” he wrote on his blog. “We are the barbarians!”

Along with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (who actually led an attempt to make constitutional changes in 2006, but lost their own referendum), the Five Star Movement has become one of the main voices speaking out against the referendum, using it as a tool to criticize Renzi’s government. To make matters worse, Renzi has suggested he would resign if he loses the referendum, effectively making it a plebiscite on his leadership at a time when many Italians are not so sure he is doing a good job.

So is this Brexit, Part 2?

Not exactly. There are as many differences as similarities. Most obviously, the referendum isn’t actually directly related to the E.U. at all. And as much as its widely seen as a populist revolt, some members of the Italian political elite, including former prime minister Mario Monti and members of the Democratic Party, have campaigned for the “no” vote.

In particular, it’s worth pointing out that the populist Five Star Movement is actually campaigning against dramatic change here. And remarkably, some view the rise of the Five Star Movement as a reason to keep the system they have already, should Grillo be able to form a government at some point.

But the symbolic value of the vote could be huge for the E.U. To many, it will be yet another populist uprising, after Trump and Brexit and ahead of a French election next year that many suspect the National Front’s Marine Le Pen could win (the vote takes place on the same day that a far-right candidate could win presidential office in Austria). The vote may be seen as a mark of approval for Grillo, who has said he wants a referendum on leaving the euro, though he has stopped short of saying Italy should leave the E.U. itself.

And while Renzi styled himself as a “Demolition Man,” willing to stand up to Brussels and hoping to reform the country, he’s now seen as key defender of European values in the E.U.’s fourth largest economy. Italy’s business groups and investors tend to support the “yes” vote in the referendum, like their counterparts supported the “remain” vote with Brexit.

What will happen on Sunday?

Due to Italian law, the last polls on the referendum were released Nov. 18. They largely showed that the “no” vote had the edge, though many experts caution that this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the outcome is set in stone: A lot can change in two weeks, and there remain a large amount of undecided voters.

If Renzi does win the referendum, it will be a key win for an ambitious politician — and possibly a good sign for his chances in elections due in 2018 (Renzi became prime minister in 2014 without election). However, it remains possible that Italy’s Constitutional Court could reject Renzi’s electoral reform or seek to alter it, which would be a loss for the prime minister though likely one he could survive.

If the “no” vote wins, Renzi has repeatedly said he will resign as prime minister, much like David Cameron, the British prime minister who called Britain’s Brexit referendum. Unlike Cameron, however, he is widely expected to continue working in the front lines of politics. In the chaos that follows, Italy’s banks — already in real trouble — are expected to take a hit. It’s also possible new elections could be called — and some recent polls showed that Grillo and the Five Star Movement may be the most popular party in the country.

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EU negotiators outrank UK ministers in Brexit ‘power list’ – The Guardian

EU negotiators outrank UK ministers in Brexit ‘power list’ – The Guardian

Britain may have voted to leave the European Union, but its short-term fate still lies predominantly in the hands of foreigners, according to a new Brexit “power list” that attempts to measure who wields the most clout in the tricky negotiations to come.

Theresa May and Germany’s Angela Merkel jointly share top spot in the Brexit50 ranking – drawn up by a panel of independent experts – as befits their respective roles as Britain and Europe’s most powerful politicians.

Yet key UK ministers including Boris Johnson and Liam Fox trail far behind lesser-known officials whose influence over the process is deemed likely to be far more influential.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and Didier Seeuws, a Belgian diplomat placed in charge of the European council’s “Brexit taskforce”, are the highest ranked non-politicians, in fourth and 11th places, while the UK foreign secretary and international trade secretary languish in 21st and 19th spots respectively. As Brussels bureaucrats are fond of observing, process is power.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

David Davis, the UK secretary of state for exiting the EU, lies only eighth, behind the chancellor, Philip Hammond (seventh), and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon (third), who are seen as important moderating forces on the process.

While the methodology of the 18-strong panel of international experts who drew up the list for the European media network EurActiv will be open to challenge, the process of voting on which figures to include has underlined how much leverage over the terms of Brexit clearly lies across the channel.

Half of those who made the list are from other EU countries while Brits feature 22 times, and Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and the Bank of England governor – Mark Carney, a Canadian – round out a small group of non-Europeans deemed to have sway.

Brits v non-Brits

It is not just European national leaders who wield significant veto power. Guy Verhofstadt, a leader of the European parliament, reaches 10th place in the list due to the parliament’s power to potentially block any deal.

Among the British figures included in the list are Gina Miller, a campaigner to remain whose legal challenge reaches the UK supreme court next week, and Patience Wheatcroft, a former journalist who is leading opposition in the House of Lords.

“This unprecedented political divorce will be hugely important to the futures of both sides of the split,” said the EurActiv editor, Daniela Vincenti. She said the ranking highlighted the “movers and shakers that will play a key role in this process for months and years ahead”.

Brexit50: the top 10

1= Theresa May, UK prime minister.

1= Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

3 Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish first minister.

4 Michel Barnier, chief Brexit negotiator for European commission.

5 Donald Tusk, European council president.

6 François Hollande, French president.

7 Philip Hammond, British chancellor.

8 David Davis, UK Brexit secretary.

9 Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission.

10 Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and lead rapporteur on Brexit for the European parliament.

Video Analysis: Trump’s Treasury Pick, Other Cabinet Choices, and Financial Regulation – Wall Street Journal

Video Analysis: Trump’s Treasury Pick, Other Cabinet Choices, and Financial Regulation – Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

Video Analysis: Trump’s Treasury Pick, Other Cabinet Choices, and Financial Regulation
Wall Street Journal
What do President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks, including the selection of former Goldman executive Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary, mean for financial regulation and the economy? Watch a discussion with The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob M.
Fannie, Freddie should exit government grip, Mnuchin saysChicago Tribune

all 28 news articles »

Why Online Lending Needs More Regulation – Forbes

Why Online Lending Needs More Regulation – Forbes


Why Online Lending Needs More Regulation
With Donald Trump’s election, Washington’s policy debate on financial services shifted overnight. Recent signs such as the president-elect’s own words and those of GOP leaders point to renewed efforts to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. Missing from the …

and more »

Bob Geldof rails against Brexit as he backs Lib Dems in Richmond Park – The Guardian

Bob Geldof rails against Brexit as he backs Lib Dems in Richmond Park – The Guardian

Bob Geldof’s last intervention in the Brexit debate saw him chased down the river by a flotilla commandeered by Nigel Farage. With the battle of the Thames lost, Geldof is hoping for a better result back on dry land, campaigning with the Lib Dems to oust Brexiter Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park byelection.

Appearing alongside the Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney by Richmond station in south-west London, Geldof said he did not want to see MPs block the referendum result but said pro-EU arguments still had a place in the debate. “We accept the result of the referendum, but it’s our responsibility and duty to debate it, to persuade people,” he said. “This is a bust. We can’t derail the process, but we are voting in some like [Olney] who will stand in parliament and speak for her constituents who voted overwhelming to stay in Europe.

“That’s the job. I want to argue with the guys who want out and our arguments become easier as the days pass. There’s no use being surly about the battle, we lost it but the war hasn’t begun. Even the government are basically saying that.”

The Boomtown Rats singer said he remembered touring Europe with his band and being stopped at every country’s border for customs inspections. “We can’t go back to that. My generation is done now, and young people voted overwhelmingly to remain. We have to keep making the arguments.”

Geldof was earlier reported to have been involved in efforts by Tony Blair and Richard Branson to set up a new organisation to examine both the EU referendum and the general rise of right-wing populism. He denied having any knowledge of such a group. “I didn’t know about that until I read it, I know Richard, I know Tony, we are all old geezers, but I swear I haven’t talked once to them about it.

“I’ve known Richard since 1977 when he was a hippy and I was a punk. But I haven’t spoken to them about this.” He added that he thought the debate had to be “street fighting” and remainers needed to borrow the long-time tactics of Eurosceptics. “Ukip are brilliant at it, it’s bollocks but well done.”

Bob Geldof with the Lib Dem byelection candidate Sarah Olney. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

On his way down the high street, Geldof was confronted by an angry Goldsmith supporter. Alastair Rosenschein, a former airline pilot who said he was deeply concerned about the expansion of Heathrow, said Goldsmith was the only one who could make the arguments in parliament with a deep knowledge of the subject.

“Sarah Olney is a political lightweight,” he said. “I have talked to her about it and all she can say is that she is against it. But you have to garner support in the House of Commons, you have to have a damn good argument and that’s what Zac Goldsmith does.”

However, the Lib Dems are predicting they will narrowly snatch the west London seat from Goldsmith, after a campaigning blitz in which the party claimed activists spoke to more than 30,000 voters.

The party’s internal data, seen by the Guardian, predicts Olney will win 47.2% of the vote on Thursday, edging ahead of the former London mayoral candidate on 45.8%. Labour’s Christian Wolmar will trail on just 6.2%, the party’s modelling claims.

Lib Dem sources said activists knocked on 20,000 doors last weekend alone and estimated they had spoken to 52% of eligible voters during the campaign.

Tthe party’s internal memo also warned of a high number of voters still wavering between the Lib Dems and Labour, and said the focus had to be persuading Labour supporters to vote tactically. The area recorded one of the highest remain votes in the country during the EU referendum, though Goldsmith supported Brexit.

Between stopping for selfies with passersby, Geldof was adamant he was not aligned to any party but urged Labour voters to tactically vote for Olney in the constituency, where Goldsmith triggered the byelection by standing down in protest at the government’s decision to expand Heathrow airport.

“I’m not a supporter of anyone, I’ve voted Labour, I’ve voted Tory and I’ve voted Lib Dem in the local elections,” Geldof said. “I’m not a party man, but I would say to Labour that Brexit is a disaster for the left-behind, food prices up, our debt crashing through the ceiling. I say to Labour the fightback must begin here, convince your constituents that voted leave that this is not good, it’s not good for your poor constituents, and Corbyn must know this. The fightback can begin here.”

To winces from the Lib Dem press officers, Geldof added: “The Lib Dems are tiny, they aren’t a threat to you.”

During the referendum, Geldof acquired a river boat cruiser to rival a Brexit flotilla headed by Farage, in one of the most surreal moments of the campaign. Geldof’s vessel was drenched by Ukip supporters with water hoses and Geldof flicked a V-sign at the then Ukip leader, calling him a “fraud”.

Geldof admitted his support for various political causes had not always had the impact he had hoped for. “I don’t know about being influential,” he said. “I turn people off and I warned Tim Farron this could be a negative here. But for 30 years the vast majority of British people got behind the idea to eliminate poverty, I have done that every day for three decades so maybe there is some trust there.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim community in the constituency is being encouraged to vote for the Lib Dems in protest against Goldsmith’s “divisive” London mayoral campaign.

Kingston mosque trustee Faisal Hanjra praised Olney for taking the time to visit the mosque and engage with Muslims during the byelection campaign, claiming Goldsmith had distanced himself following accusations that his bid for city mayor had relied on “dog-whistle” Islamophobia.

Zac Goldsmith canvassing in Kingston upon Thames on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Hanjra said Goldsmith had to acknowledge the problems with the language he used during his campaign, when his opponent Sadiq Khan was repeatedly linked with extremism, if he wanted to win back the trust of the Muslim community.

“For some reason Zac seems to think that the language he used in the mayoral campaign was acceptable and it wasn’t Islamophobic despite a lot of Muslims telling him to the contrary,” he told the Guardian. “Whether or not Zac himself thought it was Islamophobic, if the perception is that his campaign was Islamophobic then that’s something he needs to take on board.

“Many people in the community knew him well and he had a very strong working relationship with the mosque, but a lot seemed to change around the time of the mayoral campaign.

“We’re still keen to meet with Zac and work out what went wrong,” Hanjra said, adding: “I would be disappointed if his majority wasn’t impacted on in some way to reflect the divisive nature of the [mayoral] campaign that he ran.”

Goldsmith’s campaign team declined to respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

Brexit: The head of the Treasury watchdog says he could be ‘retired’ before the economic impact is known – The Independent

Brexit: The head of the Treasury watchdog says he could be ‘retired’ before the economic impact is known – The Independent

The head of the Treasury’s watchdog says he could be “retired” before anyone knows the economic impact of leaving the EU.

Robert Chote, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), dismissed Conservative claims that its forecasts are too gloomy, because they ignore post-Brexit trade deals.

At a meeting of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, one Tory backbencher, Jacob Rees-Mogg, urged the OBR to recognise the likely economic bounce to come.

But Mr Chote told him: “The thing to be wary about there is that negotiation is a two-way street – and indeed, possibly, a multiple-way street.

“My suspicion is that, if we are in a negotiation in which pretty much nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, I could be retired and you could be in the Lords – and much could have passed – before we know where we are.”

Since last week’s Autumn Statement, the OBR – and its warning of a hefty economic blow from Brexit – has faced a barrage of criticism from pro-Brexit MPs and newspapers.

The OBR’s controversial forecast said Britain will have to borrow an extra £122bn by 2022 – of which almost £58.7bn is a ‘black hole’ opened up because of the uncertainty created by EU withdrawal.

The annual budget deficit is forecast to be £30bn in 2019-20, instead of the £10bn projected in March, a staggering £40 billion swing into the red.

The OBR also downgraded its forecasts for GDP growth from 2.2 per cent to 1.4 per cent for 2017 and from 2.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent for 2018.

And it said Chancellor Philip Hammond will even struggle with his fresh target to wipe out the Budget deficit in the next Parliament – which could mean as late as 2025.

Giving evidence to the committee, Mr Chote confirmed the OBR’s view that Brexit will cost Britain around £12bn a year, or about 0.5 per cent of its annual GDP.

In contrast, the Chancellor’s plans to increase capital investment would add just 0.1 per cent to annual output “at most”.

There was already evidence that businesses are already delaying or cancelling investment decisions because of the vote to leave the EU, he said.

Sir Stephen Nickell, an OBR committee member, said its experience was that even replacing the trade deals the EU currently has will “take an awful long time”.

He told the MPs: “That’s why we have this period of reduced trade which lasts until 2025 and then it gets back to something more like normal.”

Meanwhile, the Chancellor has responded to criticism that he kept the OBR in the dark about promises made to persuade Nissan to carry on making cars in Sunderland.

In a confusing letter to Andrew Tyrie, the committee’s Conservative chairman, Mr Hammond wrote that “no new contingent liabilities have been created” by the so-called ‘sweetheart deal’.

But he also said: “In any case, we expect any commitments incurring costs to be managed within existing overall DEL [Departmental Expenditure Limits] totals.”

Mr Chote added: “I look forward to hearing what the Treasury tells you when you ask them about it.”