So “Project Fear” wasn’t actually as frightening as it might have been. Leaked documents reveal what civil servants euphemistically term “further detail” and contain some of the most terrifying facts (not of the “alternative” variety) explaining exactly what will befall us if and when Britain finally does fall out of the EU.
The Treasury, then as now, has the responsibility to steer the country through the most difficult of economic conditions following an EU crash out on World Trade Organisation rules – including no more access to European markets than, say, Pakistan enjoys now. When Philip Hammond failed to mention Brexit and its impact and in his Budget last week, it may be because, whatever it really means, it has become a dirty word in the Treasury. Now we know why.
The figures contained in this report, seen exclusively by The Independent, make perfect sense. Even if you believe Brexit will work better for Britain in the very long term, there will be a heavy price to pay while the economy adjusts in the short and medium term. That is, after all, what happens after any major economic shock – including in the 1970s after Britain first joined the then European Economic Community.
That decision was not as uncontroversial as it may seem to Europhiles and Remainers today. It meant changing our commercial relationship with Europe across virtually every sector, it did destroy some jobs in the UK, and the arrival of the common agricultural policy ramped up the price of food and pushed inflation even higher than it would have been.
Not until the 1990s did the benefits of EU membership start to be felt, when the UK economy started to catch up with its continental neighbours – though Thatcherism and immigration also boosted GDP growth.
Leaving the EU will not be like playing that video in reverse, even if the principle is the same; 1972 is a lost world.
It takes time for new jobs to be created and new markets to be conquered, with or without trade deals, and for investment to flow into new British industries.
I am sorry to say that those of us now in their thirties will not see the potential benefits there are from departing the EU until they’re near to retirement age. As previous generations have already discovered, economic change is never casualty free.