In the run-up to the EU referendum, the British people were subjected to a barrage of dire warnings about the economic consequences of voting to leave – the economy would go into recession, unemployment would rise, investment would collapse and UK exports to Europe would face a bleak future.
Voters, particularly in the Red Wall of northern England’s Labour heartlands, decided to ignore these scare tactics and put Britain’s freedom to make its own laws and determine its own destiny first. Ever since, the Left-leaning Metropolitan Remainers have heaped condescension upon them, trying to imply that Brexit has been a disaster and that they were stupid to ignore their warnings.
When the same voters, in 2019, opted to “Get Brexit done” by supporting the Conservatives, many for the first time, they were once again subjected to derision and mockery.
So, how have the predictions of doom mongers played out? Let’s start with the predictions about growth. “Brexit could lead to recession, says Bank of England” ran the headline in The Guardian in May 2016. What has happened since then? World Bank figures show that of the main European economies since 2016, France has grown 8.7 per cent, the UK 8.6 per cent, Germany 8.1 per cent and Italy 6.1 per cent. Of the G7 economies, the UK was the fastest growing in 2021 and 2022.
So what about unemployment? The Treasury said that in the “severe shock scenario” unemployment would rise by 820,000. The CBI estimate was that nearly a million jobs would be lost. The TUC and the Lib Dems claimed that three million jobs depended on our EU membership, the implicit threat being that these jobs would be lost if we voted to leave.
The reality? In June 2016, at the time of the referendum, there were 31.76 million people employed in the UK, with an unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent. Today, we have 33.05 million people working and an unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent – and that despite a global pandemic. In other words, not only were the warnings about rising unemployment completely false, we have actually added over a million jobs since Brexit.
It is a similar trend on investment, which was predicted to collapse. The UK ranks highest in Europe for new investment projects and continues to deliver more total jobs and jobs per project than Germany and France, which is in line with the Government’s focus on value over volume when attracting foreign direct investment. Alison Kay, Managing Partner for Client Service at EY goes further, pointing out that “investment intentions are at a record high and almost half of the investors surveyed think the UK’s attractiveness will improve in the near term”. Only this week, we had the spectacular announcement that Tata will invest £4 billion in its car battery manufacturing gigafactory in Somerset.
Finally, what happened to the scary forecasts about the effects on UK exports to the EU? In May 2016, the month before the referendum, the UK exported £11.6 billion of goods to the EU. It continued to climb, post-referendum to £14.8 billion by February 2019. After falling during the pandemic, exports continued to rise and, in fact, in July 2022 they reached £17.7 billion. This was not only the highest since Brexit, but since 1997.
There is a legitimate criticism of the Government in its failure to get across the true facts about the post-referendum economy, at a time when the unrelenting negativity of the hardline Remainers continues to poison our political discourse. That needs to change if the Tory position is to recover and we are to avoid a repeat of recent by-election losses.
What should we say to the voters of the Red Wall who enabled us to live in a Britain that controls its own future? It would not have happened without their courage and belief in our country. They were right. I thank them.