Project Fear

I’ve been campaigning a bit on the EU Referendum. (If you want to know why I think the UK should leave, here are my thoughts.) Here’s the leaflet my wife and I have been stuffing into letterboxes in our spare moments for the past two weeks:


And here’s the leaflet in our area being distributed today by one of the Labour local councillors and the Remain campaign:


Says it all.

7 thoughts on “Project Fear

  1. I must admit, as someone who’s biased to the Remain side, I’ve always felt that the Leave side has presented more of a Project Fear (although I don’t really look at the Remain adverts and leaflets as much, so I wouldn’t notice much of their scaremongering).

    But that said, I wish I read your arguments before I voted, Gerv. They’re very persuasive and factual arguments, and something I’ve been needing to hear from a Biblical perspective. You’ve moved me from being a strong “Remain” supporter into the “I don’t know” camp.

    The European Commission is the EU’s civil service, but it’s true that it’s also the place where laws are initially proposed. But the ones proposing those laws are one representative from each member state. I’ve always seen those representatives simply as puppets for each member state’s government, and they would simply relay what each government wants to propose. As the EU itself is not a state, I’ve been fine with the system working like that. Nevertheless, your arguments still show democratic accountability is lacking, and reminded me of why we put so much of an emphasis on decentralisation in both computer security and Web standards.

    I also found what you said about the ideologies of continental European politicians interesting. I can imagine that’s true. It would be interesting to hear what other Europeans have to say about that.

    At least, whatever the outcome, it is reassuring to know that God is aware of it and it is in his hands.

  2. I see that the Leave campaign pulled off a surprise victory. Congratulations! May God be with the UK in the months ahead.

  3. The leaflet I got from Vote Leave was not as positive. Pretending to be an official document (it was literally headed “Official information about the referendum on 23 June 2016”), it enumerated a number of arguments, including the discredited (and subsequently disowned) £350 million a week for the NHS. But a lot of it was about immigration.

    It showed a map of “countries set to join the EU”: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Each was listed with a population, presumably so I would know how many migrants to expect. On the map, it also showed Syria and Iraq as bordering Turkey (no other countries were labelled). I imagine this wasn’t because they thought I needed a geography lesson. It was to make me scared of the (mainly Muslim) migrants fleeing those war zones across the Turkish border.

    The leaflet I got from Britain Stronger in Europe did focus on what would be lost by leaving the EU (most of the arguments given were economic) and it did use the phrase “Don’t risk it”. But it wasn’t as extreme as the example you give: there were no warning triangles with a bumblebee colour scheme. Just a picture of a smiling baby.

    So it seems that both campaigns are using fear to a greater or lesser extent. For the “Leave” side, fear of immigration from Turkey. For the “Remain” side, fear of negative economic consequences.

    As for the plausibility of each argument: Turkey isn’t going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987 and have made barely any progress. Any EU country can veto another country joining. So the UK could have vetoed Turkey. So could Cyprus, Greece, France or Germany.

    Since we’ve now voted to leave, we can see actually see if some of the economic arguments hold true. Let’s see: huge falls on the stock market (£120 billion lost in one day), the pound trading at its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985 and increasing petrol prices. Sure, some of those effects may be temporary. But Morgan Stanley is planning to move 2,000 staff out from London and Airbus is “considering” its UK operations. They will not be short-term effects.

    So the “Leave” campaign tried to scare voters with immigration from Turkey joining the EU, even though that isn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, the “Remain” campaign warned of the negative economic effects of leaving, which is actually now happening.

    But the “Remain” campaign is the one using Project Fear. Right.

    They’ve both guilty of using fear, just in different ways. But the “Remain” campaign at least had the advantage that its arguments were about things that are actually going to happen.

    And now we’ve voted to leave, we have to live with the consequences.

  4. Given that Remain felt free to give economic forecasts out to 15 years just to make the losses they were predicting sound scarier and have bigger numbers, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assess the economic consequences of leaving after 48 hours. Come back in, say, 3 years time.

  5. Gervase, I have no stake in this at all (am neither British nor living in Europe), so let me say that Alex’s well informed comment above hits the nail on the head and deserves a more thought-out reply than “come back in 3 years time”, when the whole concern is how much of the UK would still be left then.

    There are deep asymmetries between the Leave and the Remain sides; while one may somehow both sides as “using fear”, they are very different: Remain “used fear” simply by pointing out the misleading and misguided elements in the Leave campaign, while the Leave campaign “used fear” by spreading those misleading and misguided arguments, some of which were explicitly stoking anti-muslim sentiment.

  6. Remain said there would need to be an emergency budget – no sign of that now. Remain made economic predictions put to 15 years and cane out with the never-before-heard-of measure of GDP change per household, which is sheer economic illiteracy. They kept talking about 3 million jobs being linked to our trade with the EU, hoping that people would hear that as 3 million jobs would be lost if we left. I am not endorsing everything the official Leave campaign said (my article specifically disavows one key figure) but this narrative of Remain as sober honest presenters of clear facts and Leave as scaremongering liars is just ridiculous.

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