However lengthy the UK Goverment’s first batch of 25 documents covering a ‘no deal’ Brexit were, the contents for some could never be detailed enough – even down to changing the pictures on cigarette packets (EU copyright). And what details have been given would always be likely to fuel as much apprehension as they sought to abate.
It is right the Government should make contingency plans for a ‘no deal’ and that these should be published – particularly when a ‘no deal’ looks more likely.
But hysteria should be avoided. Groups representing hospitals and ambulance services in England have warned of possible “stockpiles and shortages of medicines and medical devices” – though the papers reveal the UK has agreed to accept EU testing and safety approvals; police chiefs have warned of a risk to the public if the UK loses access to EU-wide crime databases; the farmers’ union says some farms could be “on the brink of collapse” without frictionless trade after Brexit.
The words “catastrophic” and “devastating” are bandied about as if disaster was certain.
But what of the certainties that former Chancellor George Osborne and the Treasury cited ahead of the EU referendum: a £30 billion “black hole” in the public finances; an “emergency budget”; house prices “hit by at least 10 per cent”; as many as 820,000 jobs lost; and that “a vote to leave will push our economy into a recession”.
None of this has happened. Borrowing has fallen to the lowest quarterly level since 2002-03. Numbers in work are at a 40-year high. There has been no house price crash – and no recession.
Let’s remember that we are, after all, still in negotiation with the European Commission on a deal – one that both sides have the strongest incentive to reach.
But while the UK has kept compromising the EU Commission keeps saying ‘no’.
I do not envy the frustration and impatience that business leaders must feel about the lack of progress. But business finds a way: whatever the political obstacles, companies keen to trade will overcome obstacles – a skill and ingenuity as prevalent across German car makers as among component suppliers in the UK.
Scaremongering? It demeans us. It condemns us to defeat. And it has never added a jot to our wealth and well-being.