Project Fear was the cornerstone of the Remain campaign in 2016. Politicians, economists and business leaders warned against the severe dangers of voting to Leave the EU. George Osborne painted a memorable picture of Brexit as a “leap in the dark”.
So how accurate were they?
The forecasts by the Remain campaign about the economic effects of a vote to Leave the EU were particularly stark. Helpfully, for anyone attempting to judge the accuracy of these predictions, they were also strikingly precise. Remain campaigners presented them as concrete forecasts, instead of broad estimates based on contentious assumptions.
A Treasury study – no doubt influenced by Osborne – claimed a Leave vote would plunge the economy into an immediate recession, and lead to an increase in unemployment of half a million.
In fact, employment has risen by 400,000 to a record high. There was, of course, no recession – and we are currently experiencing sold economic growth of just under 2%.
A few days before the Referendum, Osborne ramped up the rhetoric and promised an ‘Emergency Budget’ if there was a vote to Leave. He threatened he would need to impose tax increases and spending cuts. Thankfully Leave won, David Cameron resigned, Theresa May took over the leadership of the Conservative Party and promptly sacked Osborne. So he was not in office to implement his ridiculous and unnecessary plan after the Referendum. While the Treasury, led by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has continued to enforce fiscal discipline, there has been no need for an emergency squeeze on Government budgets, because Osborne’s predicted recession never happened.
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Remainer scaremongering on Scotland has also been proved wrong. David Cameron frequently talked of the risk of Brexit potentially causing the actual break-up of the UK. For this reason alone, many patriotic Britons reluctantly voted Remain.
But Brexit has actually coincided with a dramatic fall in support for Scottish independence – 32% according to the latest opinion poll. Despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s bluster about Scotland being “dragged out of Europe against its will”, the majority of Scots seem happy with the current constitutional situation. Sturgeon has now been forced to row back from her attempt to hold a second independence Referendum.
This unexpected decline in support for Scottish independence may be, in part, due to the popularity of the Unionist Conservative leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson. It may also be caused by the plainly inconsistent position of nationalists, who want to take control of powers from Westminster, only to give them back to Brussels. Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party is committed to trying to block Brexit, and their MPs even voted against triggering Article 50 in the House of Commons.
Many other infamous predictions from the Remain campaign have also been proved false.
France did not pull out of the Le Toucquet Agreement, causing migrant camps to appear in Kent, as predicted by David Cameron. In fact, the Agreement has just been extended – although more needs to be done to ensure there is enough manpower at the border in Calais, given the extra financial contributions from Britain.
World War Three did not occur.
The peace settlement in Northern Ireland has not collapsed, although preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is, of course, a key aim of the negotiations.
The Remain campaign made outlandish claims about the economy, Scottish independence and the border with France, in an unsuccessful attempt to scare Britons away from voting to Leave. Over 18 months on, it is clear that they were wrong – and Brexiteers can look back with confidence at their vote to Get Britain Out of the EU.
Peter Lyon is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out