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Analysis

Really? ‘Not as bad as we thought’ is best Brexiters can do?

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.01.2018

Brexiters have laid it on thick following unguarded comments by David Cameron, who described Brexit as “a mistake not a disaster”. The former prime minister was caught on camera at Davos telling steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal: “It’s turned out less badly than we had thought but it’s still going to be difficult.”

The pro-Brexit press say Cameron’s comments show the “blood-curdling warnings” of Project Fear have been “proven wrong”. “Congratulations, Dave. At last you’ve seen the light!” read the Daily Mail’s front page. Nigel Farage said the former prime minister had been “busted” by his remarks.

“By now we were supposed to be crawling around in the scorched-earth remains of the Brexit apocalypse!” quipped Vote Leave campaigner Theresa Villiers. But is that really the best Brexiters have got? Avoiding an apocalypse is hardly the patriotic Brexit paradise voters were sold in 2016. Where are those “sunlit uplands”?

This reaction says more about how badly Brexit is going, rather than Cameron’s prediction that Brexit would “detonate a bomb under the economy” – although he never predicted an actual apocalypse. If Brexit was going well, Brexiters would be attacking Cameron’s latest comments for their gloominess. Instead they’re clutching at them, desperate to justify a project which is losing its way.

It’s true, Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne didn’t anticipate the UK economy’s resilience. This has been partly attributed to the booming global economy – not least in the rest of Europe, where we do most of our trade. But Brexit means Britain is missing the boom.

This week the IMF has downgraded the UK’s economic forecasts to 1.5%, while upgrading the EU’s growth to 2.2%. The governor of the Bank of England is reported to have said that Brexit is costing us £200 million a week in lost growth. This dwarfs our EU membership fee, which InFacts calculates at around £128 million. All this means less money for the government to spend on public services than it would have had, at a time when we should be reaping a global windfall.

Of course, this is all before Brexit has actually happened. The real pain will come if the Tory government wrenches us out of the single market and customs union, disrupting trade and the complicated international supply lines upon which many employers depend. Ministers’ tendency to stick their heads in the sand over future problems could yet tank the economy, for example running out of time to agree a new trade deal during the two-year transition period the government wants and hence falling off a cliff in 2021.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “Really? ‘Not as bad as we thought’ is best Brexiters can do?”

  • Well, Cameron would say that, wouldn’t he? After all he has always been more interested in his own career and reputation than the future welfare of the country.

  • Well said. Brexitards complain when they’re accused of stupidity yet here they are exposing the state of their ‘thinking’ by praising this disaster of a PM, who made such bad decisions, now telling them they’re wrong! As for his visionary predictions, who’d believe them. No one except him has been fool enough to say anything more than we’re losing a hundred million a week thanks to the decision to leave, and while the eu and the world booms the uk limps, not forgetting the loss of european labour who are no longer happy to come here, the loss of global reputation and the loss of clout at the european top table. Yup. A great news day at the Heil.

  • Cameron’s remark is absurd. Brett has not yet happened. All that has happened so far is the anticipation of what might happen. Having said this, in anticipation of Brexit, the UK has already lost three EU agencies which until now were based in this country and providing employment and income to UK businesses and had its currency devalued by 15% approximately.

  • Cameron knows it was his decision to unleash the Brexit debacle, so he must have a certain guilt about that. You couldn’t really expect him to say that because of him, the country has been divided, our businesses have no idea where they can export to and our standing in Europe and the World has been totally screwed. So he’s trying to put a gloss on our situation, though of course, negotiations on the crucial trading relationship haven’t even started yet.