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You can see why people are sceptical about ‘experts’

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Tuesday was somewhat of a special day in the UK parliament. Lots of votes on lots of amendments to the government’s motion.

I won’t talk about the vote results (too many have already done so in detail) or what they might or might not mean in the long run (because I haven’t got a clue). I just want to comment about some of the reactions from those sitting outside looking in.

The representatives of the business community came out with the expected set of comments. All along the lines of ‘this does not get rid the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and that’s bad for business’. True, of course. But then what, exactly, did they expect?

The House is made up of 650 MPs who, in the case of Brexit, seem to have at least 650 different opinions at any one time. And unlike in the relatively easy matter of running a business where the boss says jump and employees, by and large, limit their response to asking ‘how high?’ else they might be fired, trying to get any kind of consensus around the most momentous process in British politics for a generation is not quite as easy as that.

The process is, quite rightly, characterised by the furious debate that should accompany such a process in any functioning democracy. Party loyalty has given way to MPs’ own personal perspectives on the issue and the whole process is running on sands that shift by the minute.

Did anyone really expect that something definitive would emerge on Tuesday? That suddenly parliament would be able to magic up the certainty that business craves? And that such certainty could be offered by the UK parliament alone without involvement of the EU?

But I was struck by something else. That some economists cannot seem to help pretending that they know more than they can possibly know.

One economist who shall remain nameless was reported as stating that, as a result of the events of Tuesday evening, the likelihood of Mrs May’s deal getting through had risen from 5 to 15 per cent, the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit increased from 25 to 30 per cent and that there is now a 55 per cent chance of a ‘fudge and delay scenario’.

It did make me wonder how on earth anyone could possible express such seemingly precise probabilities with any confidence in a political environment where nobody has any clue what will happen from one minute to the next. If any reader can enlighten me, I would be very grateful.

Of course, the beauty of expressing things as probabilities in this way is that it is simply impossible to be proven wrong. Whatever the eventual outcome, it is always covered by any probability that’s above zero percent.

Some people have no shame. And then we wonder why people are losing confidence in ‘experts’.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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