Wall St Journal Essay: Brexit Britain is Strong, Happiness is High, Remainers Remarkably Wrong

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British columnist Fraser Nelson has penned an article for the American press, describing how the Brexit vote has failed to produce the economic calamity predicted by globalist politicians and journalists.

The Spectator editor has previously described himself as a “europhile, in love with Europe and (almost) everything about it” who had a poster of the Channel Tunnel on his wall as a teenager — but nevertheless voted to Leave the European Union “with some sadness,” having been “mugged by reality” and concluded that the EU is “an undemocratic and decaying institution that stopped helping Europe some time ago”.

In his Wall Street Journal piece, he takes aim at the received wisdom of the still predominantly Remain-leaning political and media establishment, who tend to act as though it is an established fact that the Brexit vote has dealt a crushing blow to the United Kingdom.

“For a country supposedly crawling out of the ruins of the Brexit vote, the UK has been having a strikingly good year so far,” he observes.

“The number of people working stands at a record high, and income inequality is approaching a 30-year low, according to the Office for National Statistics. New orders for manufacturers are at their highest level in a generation, and employers in general are struggling to find enough staff to cope with demand. Even the (relatively new) national happiness index stands at a peak.”

Nelson contrasts the reality of the British economy’s continued and even improving strong performance, despite currently being in its most uncertain period post-referendum, with the decision to leave the EU decided but the terms of exit still to be determined, with Remain campaigners’ earlier promises of Armageddon.

“Perhaps the direst Brexit warnings came from the UK Treasury,” Nelson recalled.

“The milder of its two forecasts said that the economy would ‘fall into recession with four quarters of negative growth,’ while ‘unemployment would increase by around 500,000, with all regions experiencing a rise in the number of people out of work.’

“As it turned, economic growth accelerated after the Brexit vote. Employment rose by 560,000, and the unemployment rate now stands at a 43-year low.”

For Nelson, the key question after all this was: “How could so many great minds get it so wrong? It is a case study of unconscious bias in forecasts.”

Indeed, Bank of England chief economist Andrew Haldane conceded that the economics profession had had a “Michael Fish moment” with its Brexit predictions, referring to the famous weatherman who dismissed concerns about a possible “hurricane” on national television hours before England was hammered by the most powerful storm in three centuries.

“Too many economists assumed that the public would react to a Brexit vote in the same way that they themselves would: Run for the hills and wait for the sky to fall. So they made guesses—about consumer spending, investment, productivity—and entered them into computer models that came up with nonsense figures,” he explains.

Nelson also took issue with the prevailing narrative that the Brexit vote has led to an “exodus” of foreign students workers from a once tolerant and progressive Britain which now “no longer exists”, noting that the number of EU nationals attending British universities and working for the National Health Service has, in fact, increased.

“[I]t is true that the total number of people arriving from the EU has fallen from pre-Brexit levels — and some employers are indeed panicking,” he conceded.

“Politicians too. Nicola Sturgeon, First <inister of Scotland, warned recently that half of the workers in the UK food-processing industry are EU nationals. The Food and Drink Federation has gone as far as to say that its members might ‘be unable to feed the nation’,” he notes.

“Ms. Sturgeon exaggerated: 33 per cent of these workers are from the EU. But, strikingly, it was just 1 per cent in 2004. So the food-processing industry, like many others, had completely changed its business model in response to the sudden influx of workers, who arrived at a scale the UK government never envisaged.”

Nelson hits on a fact neither the pro-migration left nor neoliberal ‘conservatives’ in Britain wish to address directly, which is that Free Movement and mass migration are only “necessary” for the British economy insofar as industries like catering and hospitality have become addicted to cheap, pre-trained, and effectively unlimited foreign labour.

“The idea of [migrant workers] arriving at a slower rate certainly worries David Page, whose private-equity firm owns the pizza chain Franco Manca,” Nelson observes.

“He warned that his staff feel ‘bruised’ by Brexit and might not hang around in Britain. Facing ‘bigger competition for a lesser pool of staff,’ he said, the company might even ‘have to increase our bonus packages’.

“Heaven forbid! Mr Page’s plight was reported as proof of the grim effect of Brexit on business, but the expectation of such wage boosts is precisely why a lot of people voted for Brexit. They saw it as something that would nudge the balance of power away from the bosses and back to the workers.”

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