Leader: Brexit ‘project fear’ has become ‘project cold, hard reality’

Workers leave the Nissan car plant after finishing their shift in Sunderland. (Photo by SCOTT HEPPELL / AFP)SCOTT HEPPELL/AFP/Getty Images
Workers leave the Nissan car plant after finishing their shift in Sunderland. (Photo by SCOTT HEPPELL / AFP)SCOTT HEPPELL/AFP/Getty Images
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THERE is an especially bleak irony to the decision by carmaker Nissan not to proceed with plans to build its new X-Trail model in Sunderland.

A majority of the people of that struggling city voted, in 2016, to leave the European Union after a campaign that promised such a decision would lead to a new era of opportunity.

Instead, warnings of the negative impact of Brexit – warnings dismissed as scaremongering by those who drove the Leave campaign – have now become all too painful reality.

In a letter to workers at the Sunderland plant, Nissan management states that continued Brexit uncertainty is not helping firms plan for the future. Now, hundreds of new jobs will not come to Sunderland. And beyond this miserable fact, it is impossible not to see Nissan’s decision as a harbinger of worse to come across industries which believed – and continue to believe – that Brexit is bad for business.

During the Scottish independence and Brexit referendum campaigns warnings of the downsides of voting to break away were dismissed as the stuff of “Project Fear” by those pushing for an end to the status quo.

This was, undoubtedly, a powerful soundbite which fed into the idea that voters were being bullied and lied to in order to keep them in line. Now those who relied on those words should be thoroughly ashamed.

Many voters in cities like Sunderland, quite understandably, felt that they had been left behind, ignored by successive governments while their communities suffered and their prospects grew narrower. Of course the promise that Brexit would improve their lots was going to hold a great deal of appeal. But what was once dismissed as “Project Fear” is now “Project Cold, Hard Reality”. Those who voted to Leave are now learning that they were lied to.

Prime Minister Theresa May promises she will be “battling for Britain” when she returns to Brussels for further talks with EU counterparts this week. This is an admirable sentiment but, we are bound to say, it is little more than that.

The Nissan decision shows that the negative effects of Brexit are outwit the control of our political leaders. Neither the Prime Minister nor anyone else can turn back this particular tide.

The case for a second referendum grows stronger by the day.