The claim that Britain faces an economic crisis in the event of a Brexit vote is widely seen as an integral part of “project fear”. However, there might be a more sinister reason for the scaremongering.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics this week show that the UK economy is slowing. The growth that still remains is in the wrong sectors of the economy – most notably too much consumer spending on imported goods. The government is desperate to blame the slowdown on Brexit. Phillip Inman at the Guardian falls for the Brexit line:
“Tumbling business investment, which recorded its first annual fall in three years, also restricted growth and fuelled concerns that businesses are holding back on plans to expand ahead of the EU referendum.”
However, Jeremy Smith at PRIME takes issue with the Brexit narrative:
“Today’s more detailed GDP figures for Q1 of 2016, published by the Office for National Statistics, confirm that the UK economy has indeed slowed, but provide absolutely no evidence that the slowdown is due to fears of Brexit. Rather, they demonstrate – as we have been saying time and again over the last 6 months – that the economy has been decelerating for well over a year – thanks mainly to home-grown self-imposed Osbornian austerity, together with some wider international weakening.”
In April, Osborne put out the lie that companies were holding back on investment pending the outcome of the referendum. This is the lie that journalists like Inman now repeat as truth. But it is far from the truth, as Smith explains:
“It is true that total investment (GFCF) has relatively stagnated, but this too goes back a year. So yes, the slowdown in investment has lasted for a year, and the last quarter shows a slight increase. So no, whatever impact Brexit might have, if the people vote to Leave, the slowdown we are experiencing cannot be laid at the Brexit door.”
The real story is that Cameron and Osborne have mismanaged the UK economy since they took office in 2010. To paraphrase a younger George Osborne, they failed to mend the roof while the sun was shining. Well now the sun has stopped shining. UK manufacturing is in recession; consumer confidence is worse than in 2008; debt is back to pre-crisis levels; key industries like steel and oil are in freefall; and international storm clouds are gathering.
The architects of this tragedy would desperately like to persuade you that they are not to blame.