Saturday 1 October 2016

From Project Fear to Project Reality - the Brexiteers' lies are exposed

Published 28/06/2016 | 02:30

'Turns out that Project Fear – ie, the dire warnings from the Remain side of what an exit would actually entail for the economy, which were sneered at by glib Brexit campaigners as hyperbolic scaremongering – was Project Reality.' Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
'Turns out that Project Fear – ie, the dire warnings from the Remain side of what an exit would actually entail for the economy, which were sneered at by glib Brexit campaigners as hyperbolic scaremongering – was Project Reality.' Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

There is no plan. Let that sink in for a moment. The UK, in opting to leave the European Union, took its most significant political and economic decision in decades and there is no plan, only chaos.

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The lies of the Leave campaign were exposed as soon as the result of the Brexit referendum was announced on Friday.

The NHS will not be getting an additional £350m a week, there will be no massive reduction in immigration levels and the UK will not have access to the single market, unless it pays a heavy price to do so.

Those disadvantaged communities, most reliant on EU subsidies, who were assured they could give the EU the two fingers and get alternative funding from Westminster, have been left twisting in the wind.

Brexit champion and Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said promises that had been made were actually "a series of possibilities". Strangely, he failed to highlight this semantic nuance at any point during the campaign.

Meanwhile, his party colleague Liam Fox said any extra money for public services post-Brexit was "a long way into the future".

Perhaps this reticence to splurge the £8bn that was supposed to be available annually once the UK cut its ties to the EU is related to the market meltdown that greeted the referendum result.

On Friday, $2.08 trillion was wiped off global equity markets - exceeding the record losses that occurred after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

Yesterday morning, after George Osborne reappeared from his hiding place and attempted to stop the turmoil by assuring investors that the fundamentals of the economy were sound, the carnage continued.

Barclays and RBS had to suspend trading after their share prices tanked. RBS, which is 73pc owned by British taxpayers, has seen its value plummet from £35bn on Thursday to just £25bn yesterday.

Ominously, Credit Suisse has warned that economic indicators in the UK are already consistent with a recession and are likely to worsen.

Turns out that Project Fear - ie, the dire warnings from the Remain side of what an exit would actually entail for the economy, which were sneered at by glib Brexit campaigners as hyperbolic scaremongering - was Project Reality.

Not that anyone in the Brexit camp seems to care very much about the fact that the country is currently self-immolating and no one has stepped forward with a fire extinguisher.

The Leave campaign promised voters they could "take back control" of their country if the EU was banished, but once the result was announced its leaders were nowhere to be found.

In a brief speech on Friday, the cheerleader-in-chief Boris Johnson, more court jester than statesman, could only mumble that there was no rush to leave the EU at all.

Of course, that's because he has no idea how it can actually be done.

This dearth of detail should perhaps come as no surprise given the antipathy of the Leave side to that much-reviled species, experts, who have the temerity to use facts and evidence, instead of emotional manipulation of nationalistic fervour, to support their arguments.

Despite some Brexiteers devoting their entire political careers to trying to end the UK's membership of the EU, none of them has the faintest idea of what happens next and no apparent comprehension of how complicated it will be.

More than 40 years of EU law, which can be found in primary and secondary legislation and jurisprudence from the courts, somehow needs to be excised from domestic law.

Scores of trade agreements need to be hammered out with countries all over the world despite the fact that UK officials last conducted a trade deal in 1973.

Sky News reporter Faisal Islam was left dumbstruck when one Tory MP told him it was not the Leave campaign's responsibility to provide a Brexit plan and insisted Number 10 should have had one ready.

The closest the Brexiteers have come to what could charitably be called a plan is a 1,000-word column by Boris Johnson (published in the Irish Independent yesterday).

In it, he again attempted to trot out the Project Fear line, saying the "negative consequences [of Brexit"] are being wildly overdone" and "the pound remains higher than it was in 2013 and 2014."

Actually, the pound has slumped in value to a 31-year low.

Worse, it turns out Johnson's great plan is a fantasy, a dream that has no chance of ever being realised.

Having denigrated the EU as the evil empire throughout an ugly campaign, he now thinks he will be rewarded with access to the free market and free movement of people for British citizens with no reciprocal obligations or costs.

Describing what appears to be European Economic Area (EEA) membership, which provides for the free movement of goods, services, people and capital within the single market for non-EU members, Johnson claimed the UK would at last be free to "extricate itself from the EU's extraordinary and opaque system of legislation".

In reality, EEA members are subject to EU law, which is incorporated into domestic legislation, and via a special court. Further, EEA members have to stump up huge fees for the privilege of their membership but have no voice at the top table when decisions are being made.

Crucially, the UK would have no veto if the admission of Turkey to the EU were ever under genuine consideration, but would have to allow the free movement of Turkish citizens through its borders if membership was granted.

So, the Brexiteers' big plan for life after the EU is actually the status quo position - but with no control or influence over the EU's agenda.

After dragging the UK through a divisive and xenophobic campaign, which has emboldened bigots and led to an upsurge in racist attacks, this is the pyrrhic victory that Johnson and his cronies have won.

Once their deception of the British people becomes fully apparent to those who trusted them with their votes, in my view, Brexiteers will rightly be recognised as national saboteurs, not saviours.

Irish Independent

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