Brexiteers try to wriggle out of blame for economic slowdown

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 10.08.2016

The economy is flagging, the Bank of England is cutting interest rates to try and stave off a recession, and The Telegraph knows exactly what’s to blame. It’s not the referendum result the paper campaigned so hard for. It is, instead, the audacity of those who dared to campaign against it.

In an extraordinary editorial last week, the Telegraph takes aim at “the pessimism of the previous government, the Labour Party, Barack Obama, global institutions, sections of the media and, of course, the Bank itself”, blaming our current plight on a truly mammoth case of false consciousness.

Professor Simon Wren-Lewis – of the Blavatnik School of government at the University of Oxford – says this doesn’t add up:

“For this idea to be true, it isn’t just consumers who have been collectively fooled, but firms who have stopped investing and hiring, and the markets. In fact, the only people who think the negative effects of the uncertainty created by Brexit are unreal are those Brexit advocates who now seek to pretend it has nothing to do with them.”

What’s more, if economists really were the silver-tongued charmers the Telegraph casts them as, we wouldn’t be seeing the Bank take action:

If economists had the ability to change the state of the economy by just saying things, we wouldn’t need the [Bank of England].. to change interest rates: they just need to say everything is fine and they would be believed.”

So we in the Remain camp can breathe easy. We haven’t talked a recession into happening and, contrary to the Telegraph’s argument, the travails of the British economy aren’t due to “pessimism” or “paranoia”. Throughout the referendum campaign, experts raised serious, well-founded concerns about the potential for Brexit to cause serious economic harm. These went unanswered, because the Leave camp had no answers to offer. Instead, they were met with smears.

This tactic won the Brexiteers the campaign, but Professor John Van Reenen – director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE – says that silencing economists won’t fix a thing now:

The Telegraph’s absurd claim is the Bank is totally wrong and that all will be simply spiffing if only all those pesky economists stopped telling the truth about how high uncertainty, less trade and lower foreign investment are bad for the national wealth.<

As predicted, things are getting worse. And also as predicted, Brexiteers will blame the Remain campaign for causing the harm they themselves have inflicted on the British people.”

Edited by Hugo Dixon

Categories: Economy, Post-Brexit