During the EU referendum campaign Brexiters liked to accuse Remainers of “Project Fear” while relentlessly scaremongering over everything from Turkey, an EU superstate, economic catastrophe and even cancer.
As these examples show, many of those doom-laden predictions of what might happen if we stayed in the EU have already proven false.
The Leave campaign constantly warned about Turkey joining the EU, opening up the UK’s schools, hospitals and housing to many of Turkey’s 80 million population. Ukip even suggested Ankara would be in the bloc by 2020.
Since then we’ve seen an attempted coup, an authoritarian crackdown by President Erdogan, and a diplomatic row in which he referred to the Dutch as “Nazi remnants”. MEPs have called for Turkey’s EU accession talks to be frozen and the EU-Turkey migrant deal is at risk of falling apart.
Brexiters like Boris Johnson regularly prophesied Britain being dragged “willy nilly” into an EU superstate, despite UK opt outs from the eurozone, border-free Schengen area, and many justice and home affairs policies.
It is now clear that passion for “ever closer union” has seldom been cooler. Many EU leaders now support the kind of “multi-speed” Europe David Cameron would have been very keen on, as outlined in a recent EU white paper. Even the Express, never above contradicting its own editorial line, ran the headline “Merkel’s nightmare” about a Demos report showing growing euroscepticism in pro-EU powerhouse Germany.
EU’s economic decline
Another Johnson soundbite: “The only continent with weaker economic growth than Europe is Antarctica.” Why, Brexiters argued, should Britain shackle itself to this corpse?
It is true that the EU economy was sluggish recovering from the recession and eurozone crisis, but recently its GDP growth has picked up. In 2016 the EU expanded faster than the US for the first time since 2008. Africa’s growth slowed, Asia was steady and Latin America contracted. Antarctic’s economic growth is unrecorded. Apart from global markets, the main threats to the EU’s economic growth now are political, Brexit among them.
Patients denied cancer drugs
Days before the referendum, the pro-Brexit press made hay claiming “EU red tape” was denying women a new “breast cancer wonder drug” called Ibrance and was “condemning cancer victims to early death”. Much of the blame actually belonged to manufacturer Pfizer. Ibrance has now been approved in Europe, although further studies suggest it isn’t the “wonder drug” people first hyped it to be.
Now, the real risk of delaying cancer care is Brexit. The UK’s decision to drop out of Euratom, the European atomic energy community, raises questions about the supply of medical isotopes for radiotherapy. There are concerns about the development of paediatric cancer treatments if Britain is shut out from cross-border EU trials. There will also be the upheaval of relocating the European Medicines Agency (EMA) away from London. All this creates uncertainty and raises the question of the future compatibility of the EMA with a new UK drug approval agency, which may slow down the approval of new drugs.
Edited by Michael Prest