The Remain campaign’s outlandish prophecies of recession and world war following a Leave vote became infamous during the EU referendum — and have been revived stronger than ever as EU loyalists attempt to derail or water down Brexit.
Claims a vote to Leave the European Union would inflict an “immediate and profound shock” on the British economy, tipping the country into recession and throwing between 500,000 and 800,000 people out of work proved to be dramatically wrong after the public defied establishment expectations and backed Brexit, with the Bank of England’s chief economist admitting the episode had been something of a “Michael Fish moment” for the so-called “experts”.
The failure of Project Fear to persuade voters in 2016 has not dissuaded EU loyalists from adopting similar tactics to try and persuade the public to either change their minds or accept a kind of “Brexit In Name Only”, or BRINO — anything but a clean “No Deal” exit on World Trade Organization terms.
Here are some of Project Fear 2.0’s Greatest Hits from 2018:
Britain Would Run out of Clean Drinking Water
Bureaucrats at Michael Gove’s Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) claimed that a No Deal Brexit could result in a shortage of chemicals required to purify drinking water, and that suppliers “would probably need to stop the water supply to all their customers — potentially millions of people” in short order.
Why being outside the EU’s Customs Union should have such a dramatic impact on a famously wet United Kingdom while countries such as Norway and landlocked Switzerland — both European countries outside the EU — seem unaffected was never made clear.
The NHS Would Run out of Essential Medicines
While the drinking water threats have gotten little traction, repeated claims that No Deal could see the National Health Service (NHS) run short of essential medicines appear to have caused more consternation, with even Theresa May piping up to say her diabetes medication is made in the EU.
Again, however, the claims appear to lose credibility when one considers that there are no mass shortages of insulin, epilepsy medication, and so on in Western European countries outside the EU’s Customs Union, nor in relatively remote Western countries such as Australia and tiny New Zealand — neither or which have a Free Trade Agreement with the EU.
Leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms would leave the UK able to trade with the EU — and the rest of the world — on the same terms as those countries first world countries that remain able to maintain public health without being EU members.
Cheese to Become an “Occasional Luxury”
Less serious — and still less credible — than the warnings over drinking water and medicine, was the idea that No Deal could see butter, yoghurt, and cheese could become “occasional luxuries” in Britain — a country which is a major producer of all three product varieties, and where they were staples long before EU (or EEC) membership.
“Brexit Threat to Sandwiches”
Evidently thinking food-related scare stories would have the most personal impact on the British public, the dairy shortage claims were followed by warnings of a “Brexit Threat to Sandwiches” reported by BBC business editor Simon Jack, citing a single unnamed source.
Sandwiches were, of course, invented in Britain long before the EU was ever heard of, at a time when the country was not just not in a customs union with Continental Europe, but actively at war with most of it.
Britain Could Run out of Mars Bars “Within Weeks”
Despite the sandwich famine story being roundly mocked by most observers, similar threats that No Deal could see Mars bars have been issued as Brexit Day looms.
This did not appear to have the desired effect either, however, with Boris Johnson speaking for many when he asked: “Are we really going to abandon Brexit because of a Mars bar shortage?”
Planes Will Be Banned from Irish Airspace
One of the more provocative No Deal threats was issued by the pugnacious Irish Taoiseach (prime minister), Leo Varadkar — despite the fact his country stands to lose more than any other EU member-state from Brexit.
This threat evaporated fairly quickly when it became apparent how many Irish flight paths have to cross British airspace, however.
Leo Varadkar implying Britain won't be able to fly over Irish airspace after Brexit is probably the dumbest comment made this year. Take a look at just how many flight paths from Dublin cross over the UK! ⬇️♂️
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) July 20, 2018
We’ll All Catch Super-Gonorrhoea
Another health-related claim, this time about an increase in disease rather than a shortage of medicines.
Claims have been circulated that infectious diseases such a super-gonorrhoea will supposedly be harder to combat outside the European Union — a dubious proposition, given many such diseases are introduced to the country via immigration, and Brexit will increase control over this.
Illustrating the sick claim was Labour’s Lord Malloch-Brown, who helps to co-ordinate the George Soros-funded campaign to thwart Brexit, saying Britain will become a “mangy old lion”.
“Almost More Damaging than the Second World War”
Finally, Sir Richard Branson, a vociferous billionaire anti-Brexiteer who lives outside the European Union on a private island, gave EU president Donald Tusk’s old 2016 warning that a Leave vote could mean “the end of Western political civilisation” a run for its money by claiming No Deal would be “more damaging to Great Britain than almost the Second World War”.
The Second World War saw almost 400,000 British servicemen killed in action, as well as close to 70,000 civilians including women and children slain, many in the indiscriminate bombing campaign conducted by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz and the later V1 and V2 rocket bombardments.
WATCH | We didn't think it was possible but @richardbranson just stepped Project Fear up a notch: "Brexit would be more damaging to Great Britain than the Second World War."
And the Chancellor says we're the extremists!
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) December 15, 2018
How leaving a trade bloc turned nascent superstate and diverging from its regulatory regime could be “almost more damaging” than this, Sir Richard could not explain.