Was Brexit a “Michael Fish moment” for economists?
That’s the debate in UK papers this week. “Bank of England admits ‘Michael Fish’ moment with dire Brexit predictions,” reads The Telegraph. “Crash was economists’ ‘Michael Fish’ moment, says Andy Haldane,” reads BBC News. “Brexit wasn’t a ‘Michael Fish moment’: but economics does need to change,” opined The Guardian.
If you’re outside of the British Isles, or under the age of 35, this probably makes no sense. Who is Michael Fish, and why is his name apparently synonymous with being wrong?
The reference was invoked by Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, during a talk about shortcomings in the economics profession. Economists failed to predict the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 that touched off the global financial crisis. “Turns out, that was a massive oversight,” Haldane said.
Economists now appear to be suffering a second embarrassment: Dire predictions about a Brexit downturn have not come to pass. Instead, the economy quickly rebounded and finished with a strong year of GDP growth and consumer buying. “We’d foreseen a sharper downturn in the economy than has happened,” Haldane said.
There is still time for the UK’s economy to tank: Inflation is up, the pound is down, and a new study says the real hit won’t come until 2020. But in the meantime, pro-Brexiters are gloating and calling Haldane a Michael Fish.
Fish is a British weather forecaster famous for making one bad prediction. On Oct. 15, 1987, Fish assured viewers that there was no storm coming: “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!” A few hours later, the Great Storm of 1987 hit. Winds reached speeds of 115 mph, and at least 18 people died.