With politicians on holiday, superficial tales are given top billing with no serious scrutiny, writes Brian Monteith.
Maybe serious journalists take a rest too, for the plethora of superficial stories seems rarely to be subjected to serious scrutiny, for if they were they would end up in the bin.
With both Holyrood and Westminster on holiday, what better source of silly stories than what might happen if the Prime Minister does not secure a trade deal with the European Union after we leave on 29 March next year?
Scaremongering makes good headlines and during the referendum there was a never-ending torrent of reports designed to ensure we put our cross at the box marked “Remain”. Just as such negativity failed to stop the Yes campaign managing 45 per cent of votes in the independence referendum, so the often outrageous negativity of George Osborne, David Cameron, Barack Obama, John Major, Tony Blair and other usual suspects did not stop the country voting to leave the EU.
Indeed, there appears to come a point when warnings of biblical proportions only harden voters to believe that those defending the status quo doth scare too much and cannot be true for they are just so plainly absurd.
Nevertheless, millions of pounds are being spent by the EU and billionaire foreign financiers such as George Soros on front organisations that organise protest marches, generate Twitterstorms and concoct media stories seeking to convince people to change their mind and support the EU.
Four things need to be said about this development.
The first is that such direct involvement in our own affairs by foreign powers, billionaires and multinational corporations would in normal times attract universal criticism across the political spectrum, but these are not normal times. By their nature referendums are highly divisive and this means that, just as in a civil war, all moral scruples and restraints are lost. While remain-supporting journalists write of dark conspiracies by Vladimir Putin and his agencies, they have nothing to say about the funding of campaigns by the EU and Soros.
The second observation is that the past scaremongers got it badly wrong. There was no immediate recession, no emergency budget and, instead of half a million losing jobs, employment is at record levels and climbing. Why should we believe these doomsayers this time?
The third point is that even cursory research demonstrates these coordinated scares about “crashing out” or a “cliff-edge Brexit” to be groundless. Last week we had the claim that the UK would run out of anything from insulin to sandwiches; that we would face an increase in super-gonorrhoea (“epidemic” will undoubtedly appear at some point); and the Army will be mobilised to help distribution of anything stockpiled by the government.
Before that we had an Amazon executive worried about civil unrest, Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar telling us we would not be able to fly over Irish airspace, Airbus saying it might leave the UK and BMW joining in with the same threat.
You can sense that remain campaigners would actually like these things to happen so they might say they told us so, and we will go back to the EU begging to be readmitted. Instead the reality is that countries do not need a trade deal to trade with each other. There should be no reason for civil unrest or mobilising troops – but there are many who are wishing it to happen.
There are no trade deals for most of the countries we trade with, including the US, China, India and Australia. Free trade agreements can help increase trade by identifying obstacles and eliminating them, so it is good to establish them, and while there are some 40 countries that want to establish a trade deal with the UK, trade will still carry on – and continue to grow faster with those countries outside the EU – even if we have no deals with anyone.
Better still, we can reduce our tariffs and drive down prices by attracting produce from countries which the EU makes expensive.
Why EU countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Spain would wish to stop selling us their goods and produce is never said – the UK is often their largest market and it would mean economic ruin for them. Why there would be delays for goods travelling out of the EU bound for the UK that already meet EU standards and why we would make it difficult to receive these goods we already approve of is also never explained – but assumptions form the basis for the scares.
We should not need to run out of insulin or see air travel collapse. There are three main suppliers of insulin, two in Europe and one in the US. If the EU companies wish to hand over their share of the UK market – one of the largest – to the US supplier Eli Lilly then it would be against their own interests, but insulin would still be available and a switch of supplier could be managed.
International airspace is governed by the Chicago Convention that has 192 state signatories. The Irish Republic would be breaking the convention – just as the UK would if we retaliated by stopping all Ryanair flights entering British airspace. The threat was plain daft and made Varadkar look an utter idiot.
Scare after scare comes but there is a rational explanation for each and every one – and the British people thus far seem to get that.
The fourth point is that, while Brexit campaigners left the field of battle after they won the referendum, the EU’s supporters have regrouped, refinanced and returned to fight the referendum all over again. Whether or not there is another vote, they are doing everything to have the vote overturned or neutralised so it is Brexit in name only.
With remain supporters in control of the high offices of state, the Cabinet, the Tory party and parliament itself, it is time that rational supporters of Brexit returned to answer the scaremongering and promote Brexit all over again as the right decision it was.
l Brian Monteith is a director of Global Britain