JUST for fun, here is a compendium of some of the wilder recent Remainer claims about the impact of Brexit from generally respected newspaper columnists. ‘Brexit has broken everything’, wrote one, and this rather sums up the childish mindset of such people.
We always knew that a hardcore of Remainers would never give up. As Jacobites were still attempting to reverse the Glorious Revolution more than half a century after the event, we can expect Remainers to try to reverse Brexit for at least a few decades. Even so, the increasingly desperate attempts to pin any and all negative events on Brexit are becoming tedious.
The errors and exaggerations may not be all that important as the Labour Party strenuously denies any intention to rejoin the EU, but the strident Remainers clearly hope to change the climate of opinion. Indeed, Peter Foster of the Financial Times believes that has already been achieved.
At Briefings for Britain we continue to try to examine, and where necessary correct, the most influential accounts of a large putative negative effect of Brexit, but it is hard to keep up with what often feels like a deluge. In this article we make no attempt to estimate the actual impact of Brexit but instead report on some of the most egregious recent claims that everything is the fault of Brexit. Previous BfB articles have examined the economic impact at length and in detail, and interested readers can access these here, here, here and here. The cumulative conclusion of these analyses is that any economic impact of Brexit has been small.
Although the Times has reasonably balanced reporting of Brexit, the Sunday Times is more likely to publish over-the-top accounts. It recently gave its writer Martin ‘The Voice of Sport’ Samuel three pages in its magazine to vent his hatred of Brexit. ‘Give it a few years and we will be living off turnips’ was his opening sentence – you get the idea. The Sunday Times returned to the ranting this week with an article from columnist Matthew Syed titled ‘Johnson’s Brexit chicanery has led us into Doublethink Britain’.
Syed credits Johnson with ‘conjuring up the most remarkable juxtaposition: the worst decision in the postwar era gaining the largest democratic mandate . . . what does this say about us that the decision of one man (who did not himself believe in Brexit), a proven liar with a poor grasp of details was able to sway so many of us on that fateful day?’ Syed fails to acknowledge, of course, that polling evidence showed that 49 per cent of decided respondents supported leaving the EU before Johnson joined the campaign in February 2016, and this level of support was much the same as on the eve of the Referendum.
Syed employs the usual technique of claiming overheated and exaggerated versions of what Leave voters were promised. He claims that ‘we were sold a vision freed from the Teutonic chains of the EU, sunlit uplands discovered by our creativity and drive, a nation exercising sovereignty rather than a hidebound vassal of monolithic European institutions’. For those of us who merely wished for a return of national sovereignty in face of a gradual drift towards a centralised EU state, this is caricature, not analysis. With Germany and France currently pressing for the removal of national vetoes on EU foreign and defence policies, who can say we were wrong?
Seven years on from the Referendum, says Syed, ‘we are facing the worst cost of living crisis in history. Our economy has spluttered, trade in goods has fallen and life expectancy for the poorest may be falling too. The lives of real people, up and down the country are diminished . . . The much-vaunted money for the NHS? Patients face the longest waiting lists in history’.
If we assume that this is not a man facing some sort of mental breakdown, how can we explain this muddled rant? Perhaps Syed believes that Leave voters actually thought that Brexit would solve all political problems even in face of the worst pandemic in a century or the most serious European war since 1945. If so, he takes us for fools, but this is pretty well what Professor Matt Goodwin describes as the highly educated elite’s view of the mass of the population.
The rest of the article dwells on Johnson’s failures to deliver key Brexit policies such as low net migration. It develops a thesis of ‘doublethink Britain’ in which ‘every claim of the Brexiteers has collided with reality and crumbled . . . doublethink Britain is trapped in the mental gymnastics of realising we made a terrible mistake while our leading politicians cannot bring themselves to admit it’.
This is what passes for analysis in the outer reaches of the Remainer world. While some of us on both sides of the Brexit divide are meticulously examining the economic data to assess its impact, commentators like Syed indiscriminately throw mud in all directions. He is far from the only one. Fintan O’Toole, columnist for the Irish Times and the Guardian, is a clear victim of Brexit derangement syndrome who rarely misses a chance to put the boot in. Last week, he wrote that ‘Both the Brexit campaign of 2016 and the Trump bid for the Presidency in the same year worked because they mobilised self-pity on a mass scale. Britain was a mess [Leavers claimed] because it was brutally oppressed by the EU which Johnson compared to Hitler and some of his fellow Brexiteers to Stalin. The US was steeped in ‘carnage’ [Trump claimed] because white-skinned people were being oppressed by dark-skinned people.’
Nor is this Remainer fight-back confined to national media. It occurs below the national radar in the local media as well. No one will be surprised that an extreme example of Brexit derangement syndrome occurs regularly in the Cambridge local press. The Cambridge Independent, local paper of the year for the last six years running, published a full-page article by its regular commentator Paul Kirkley. He began by apologising for breaking his promise to stop ‘banging on about Brexit’ and then launched into full flow, noting that ‘it is seven years since Britain took the hammer to the mirror of common sense, followed by seven years of bad consequences’.
‘While the [unspecified] economic damage was predictable,’ he wrote, ‘not even our most Remoaner-catastrophising could have foreseen just how far the rot would spread into all corners of public life. It is no exaggeration to say the Brexit broke everything . . . the relationship between politics and the truth, with straight lies peddled on newspaper front pages and the Commons dispatch box. It brought Eastern Europe-style corruption to the world’s oldest parliament with cash for contacts and blatant cronyism in plain sight. It removed the concept of accountability from public life. It divided the country into warring tribes and supercharged the increasingly febrile culture wars. Worst of all it ushered a generation of deeply unserious people [bizarrely including Lord David Frost] into public life.’
The result, he asserts, is ‘a Britain where everything is broken. A Britain of soaring energy and food prices, of falling trade and investment . . . labour shortages and the slowest growth in the G7. A Britain where the roads are full of potholes and the rivers full of sewage . . . of unreliable transport and a crumbling NHS and housing and job insecurity’.
Wow! Quite an achievement for a single referendum. The shameless transfer of consequences from Covid and Ukraine to Brexit, is of course routine, as are untruths (the UK does not have the slowest economic growth in the G7). Remainers are also impervious to their own culpability in the disarray in Parliament through their attempts to subvert the result of a legally-conducted referendum. With the resignation of Boris Johnson, they now feel well on the way to overturning the Referendum. As O’Toole says, ‘[Johnson’s] great project, Brexit, is melting like yellow snow in the merciless heat of reality.’ It is up to us Brexiteers to expose such shameless exaggeration and untruth and to persevere just as the Glorious Revolutionaries did in the face of the Jacobite fightback.
This article appeared in Briefings for Britain on June 17, 2023, and is republished by kind permission.