Ever since the campaign to leave the European Union began the British public have been subjected to a barrage of fabrications, myths and downright falsehoods in a bid to drum-up anti-EU sentiment.
Misinformation has become almost synonymous with the Leave Campaign, whose own director even admitted that they won by lying to the public.
They lied about the NHS, they said striking a free-trade deal with the EU will be “the easiest thing in human history”, they fuelled anti-immigrant rhetoric with misleading reports of Turkey’s accession into the union and they assured us that Brexit doesn’t mean the UK will leave the single market.
But of all the untruths peddled by the campaign the biggest one was that we hold most of the cards.
In July 2016 prominent Brexiteer John Redwood said “getting out of the EU can be quick and easy” because we are in the driving seat. But as we have seen unfold in front of our own eyes over the past months that simply is not true – and there’s a good reason why.
Article 50 is written to give the EU full control of the exit process. Leaving the EU is like joining it, with the union setting the terms and delineating its red lines and not the other way around.
The two year turn-around means that the departing country has to swallow the deal or be left with nothing at all, and if the departing country invokes the treaty before it knows what it wants then it is left particularly vulnerable when the closing stages of the exit period draw near. That leaves them in a perilous position and ravished by division as the EU remains a united front.
The EU must also make a political statement to any member that invokes Article 50. As Charles Grant, the director of the Centre of European Reform notes, “the world must see that Brexit carries costs, pour decourager les autres. Hence the EU’s insistence that the future relationship must not give the UK frictionless trade”.
Any economic case is often outweighed by this political prerogative, especially among the people negotiating the deal on the EU side, which makes a mockery of the notion that “they need us more than we need them” because we buy their Prosecco and drive their cars.
You can apply the same logic for defence, security et al – all of which are superseded by the overarching political need to keep the union intact. As Grant concludes, “the big lesson of Brexit is that any country trying to leave will find the process much more complicated, difficult and expensive than anyone imagined. The Brits have probably inoculated others against trying to pursue the same path for at least a generation”.
We weren’t told that by the Leave Campaign, were we?