When you hear commentators in the mainstream media discuss the ‘Brexit lies’, they are invariably referring to the (in)famous claim that we send £350million a week to Brussels, and that post-Brexit, some of this money could be spent on the NHS. Despite the £350million figure being a gross total that until recently was included in official statistics (and has since risen to over £375million) it was misleading as, thanks to Margaret Thatcher, Britain receives an annual rebate of just under £5billion. In 2015 this equated to £94million a week.
But this little porky was piffling in comparison to the giant whoppers being peddled by George Osborne and HM Treasury. Just to remind ourselves, Osborne claimed that the act of voting to leave the EU alone would be enough to force the government to implement an emergency Budget with a tax hike of £4,000 for every family, cause an immediate recession, a stock market crash, a collapse of house prices, force banks to flee the city, put 500,000 out of work, rack up more government debt, and even lead to a break-up of the United Kingdom.
Of course, all this was complete nonsense. What we’ve actually seen since the referendum is economic growth, manufacturing output up 18 per cent in the last year, the FTSE at the highest levels ever, the lowest unemployment rate since the 1970s (despite annual net immigration running at around a quarter of a million), the City poised for a hiring spree, government borrowing at the lowest level for ten years and, perhaps most cheering of all, the SNP given a bloody nose north of the border.
Moreover, despite the media’s overwhelmingly anti-Brexit bias, people are not blind to this reality. In polling conducted over the summer, only around 21 per cent of the public said they wished to overturn the referendum. Despite wailing from Remainers of impending economic doom, an ORB poll released this month found 46 per cent think Britain will be economically better off post-Brexit compared with 37 per cent who think we’ll be worse off.
The problem is that a significant proportion of this pessimistic, pro-EU minority hold senior and influential positions in the public sphere. As a consequence, Brexit provides a rare example of history being written by the losers.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, gloominess is contagious. The success of a nation’s economy is largely determined by confidence. Lamentably, the government spends far more time discussing its mitigation measures for Brexit than talking up the opportunities provided by regaining control over vast swathes of policy. Worse still, if the BBC, Bank of England and remoaning MPs continue to be allowed space to talk the economy down, there is a real danger of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Secondly, perhaps an even more disturbing consequence of Mystic George’s Brexit predictions and establishment negativity is that people no longer trust a single word anyone in authority has to say about anything. Particularly in relation to economics. They heard the Treasury’s predictions, but experienced a very different reality. ‘Those idiots don’t know what they’re on about.’
This creates a problem. What happens when before the next election the Treasury, Bank of England and every economist who knows their elbow from their derrière starts to warn about socialism and the untold devastation a Corbyn-McDonnell government would do?
Think about it. When Brother Number One and Brother Number Two tour the nation, as they have over the past few weeks, telling people that they can nationalise half the country and spend unlimited amounts of money on anything and everything (except of course defending the realm – that would be imperialist) without economic consequences, why should anyone believe otherwise?
Economists and politicians can point out that, for example, Labour’s spending plans would add an extra £350billion to the national debt, costing an additional £5billion a year in interest. But do you really think the public will listen? ‘Yeah, whatever, that’s what you said about Brexit.’
As well as failing to frighten enough people into voting Remain, George Osborne and his ilk may also have unwittingly helped pave the way for socialism. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.