Brexit myths – and truths 2

Brexiters have constantly weaponised lies, half-truths, doctored statistics and the like to make (and win) the case for leaving the EU.  Here, we counter a number of the most overused Brexit myths – a useful resource for anyone wanting to respond to the UK Government’s propaganda., not least about the Trade and Co-operation Agreement it agreed on 24 December (updated version of earlier post).

Myth 1:

Covid is likely to have a far more significant effect on the economy than Brexit.

The Truth: 

The Government is clearly hoping to conceal the effects of Brexit behind the effects of the pandemic.  Although the Chancellor has tried hard to give the impression that Covid will have a more significant impact, that’s very unlikely to be true.  Both the Governor of the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility have forecast that the long-term effects of Brexit, even in the event of the thin deal that we now have, will be greater than those of Covid-19.  And yet the Chancellor, remarkably, did not even mention Brexit in his statement on the comprehensive spending review. 

Myth 2:

We’ve freed ourselves from unelected Brussels bureaucrats 

The Truth:

The UK was never subject to laws passed by unelected Brussels bureaucrats. When the UK was in the EU, British prime ministers and ministers – all of them elected MPs – played a leading role as members of the European Council in setting all policy direction and approving legislation. And all legislation was scrutinised and only passed if approved by directly elected MEPs. And most commentators are dismissive of claims (via Johnson and Gove notably) that “liberation from Brussels” means the UK Government can now, only now, get on with “levelling up” aka tackling deep-rooted inequalities in British society.

Myth 3:

This is about reclaiming our sovereignty and bringing decision-making closer to home.

The Truth:

Under the UK system, it is the Westminster Parliament (“the Queen in Parliament”) that is sovereign. And yet Parliament will be given one day only to scrutinise the new deal, which runs to over 2000 pages.   In practice, Parliament is being asked to approve the deal with a gun held to its head.  That is the opposite of democracy.  

Not that this is anything new.  This government has done everything it can to neuter Parliament illegally trying to stop it from sitting in 2019; ensuring it has no say in future trade negotiations with other countries; and, since coronavirus, obstructing rather than facilitating measures to enable MPs to work and vote remotely.  

The Government has also, through its Internal Market Bill, launched an unprecedented power grab on the devolved administrations. And it is putting former MPs and MSPs, even ones who have just lost their seats in an election, into the unelected House of Lords that now has a record number (850) of members, second only in size to China’s People’s Assembly. What could be less democratic than that?

Myth 4:

The UK has regained its independence

The Truth:

The UK never lost its independence. Are we honestly to believe that Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, among others, were not prime ministers of an independent UK? Are France and Germany not sovereign, independent countries? And Latvia, Malta and Poland? The real issue is how far nation states are prepared to pool sovereignty. The EU-27 openly espouse this; the UK does not acknowledge how much membership of bodies such as the UN, NATO and WTO impinges on its sovereignty.

Myth 5:

All EU nationals working in the UK will be able to stay in the country with the same rights they enjoyed when the UK was an EU member

The Truth:

All EU nationals living in the UK, some of whom have been here their whole lives, have had to apply to be allowed to hold on to their existing rights and stay in their own homes. Some applications have been wrongly rejected while many other applicants have been given the short term “pre-settled” status when they were entitled to permanent settled status. Those with settled status are nonetheless concerned that the government provides no physical documentation/certification, which can be a huge problem for them when asked to provide proof.  Many EU nationals, while being told they can stay, have been left feeling deeply unwelcome in the country they call home, and questioning whether their own neighbours ever really “accepted” them.  

A very useful Q & A on that deal can be found here

Screenshot (below) of slide on proposed governance of the deal by Prof Catherine Barnard for UK in a Changing Europe