With less than seven months to go until the UK leaves the EU, Project Fear is back – only this time those on both sides of the Brexit fence are firing shots.
Just hours later, the car giant announced at least 1,000 of its workers would drop down to a three-day working week until Christmas – jarring confirmation that they weren’t fibbing.
But while Remainers were throwing around doomsday scenarios of a post-Brexit apocalypse, Brexiteers were doing everything they can to blame Theresa May for what has turned into tortuous negotiations with the EU.
In anticipation of this political punditry pantomime escalating as we edge ever closer to March 29, 2019, HuffPost UK is attempting to sort the facts from the fear.
First up, senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin and his terrible timing mentioned above.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER
THE FEAR: The automotive industry is “making things up” and “scaremongering” over warnings a hard Brexit could dramatically affect profits, potentially leading to thousands of UK job losses.
FROM: Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin.
THE FACTS: Normally Jaguar Land Rover’s claim would be the “fear” in this section, but dramatic events just hours after Jenkin’s comments turned the tables.
At least 1,000 workers at the historic Castle Bromwich factory were told they will drop down to a three-day working week until Christmas.
The change came as the car giant claimed it is struggling as a result of Brexit and a fall in demand for diesel models.
Teasing out the level of responsibility of each of these factors is difficult, but reduction in staff hours is a sure sign that warning signs from the automotive industry are more than just bluster and “scaremongering”.
UPDATE: BMW today announced it will not build cars at its Mini plant immediately after the UK leaves the EU next year, to carry out annual maintenance.
A statement said: “As a responsible organisation, we have scheduled next year’s annual maintenance period at Mini Plant Oxford to start on 1 April, when the UK exits the EU, to minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“While we believe this worst case scenario is an unlikely outcome, we have to plan for it.”
RHETORIC RATING: 1/10 – it appears to be happening.
THE SUICIDE VEST
THE FEAR:Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has put the UK constitution in a “suicide vest” and handed the detonator to Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
FROM: Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
THE FACTS: This is a very daft thing to say and even MPs in his own party rebuked him for it.
RHETORIC RATING: 10/10 – BoJo at his rhetorical worst.
THE BREXIT DIVIDEND
THE FEAR: An International Monetary Fund report said it was “hesitant to allocate any Brexit dividend to the NHS” and suggested claims made by Vote Leave that the health service would be handed £350m a week in extra cash were not realistic.
Most worryingly, it said the UK economy was likely to be weaker under any likely scenario, while a disorderly, no-deal Brexit would have serious consequences.
FROM: IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and Chancellor Philip Hammond.
THE FACTS: Thing is, Christine Lagarde knows her stuff and always comes prepared with a bag full of statistics.
The IMF has consistently been pro-Remain but its reputation relies on accuracy rather than pushing any kind of domestic political agenda.
So in sum, it’s usually a good idea to listen to what it’s saying.
The PM herself has unsurprisingly taken a rosier view, admitting only that in a no deal scenario “there would be some short-term disruption”, but this deliberately vague assessment is hardly reassuring.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said people were being “too casual” about the situation and that no deal would be “catastrophic”, echoing the IMF’s concerns.
RHETORIC RATING: 2/10 – Lagarde can’t predict the future but she has no stake in lying.
THE FEAR: No deal could mean asteroids hit us!
FROM: Campaign group Best for Britain
THE FACTS: In the event of a no deal, the UK could be excluded from the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme which tracks asteroids and space debris.
RHETORIC RATING: 10/10 – There will still be plenty of people looking out for asteroids and there is absolutely no evidence they target countries based specifically on EU membership.
THE FEAR: MPs have warned that Theresa May is leading the country towards “economic disaster” after Mark Carney reportedly told Cabinet ministers that house prices would fall by 35% if the UK leaves the EU without a deal with Brussels.
FROM: Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, who works with the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain.
THE FACTS: Well, Carney did say that and it is his job to do just that. But the 35% figure is in the event of a no deal Brexit only and the government is still confident this won’t happen.
Which brings us to...
THE DARKEST HOUR
THE FEAR: The British government will have to experience its “darkest hour” and stare into the abyss of a no-deal Brexit before it caves to Brussels demands.
FROM: Senior EU Diplomats
THE FACTS: There are two sides in every deal and those senior EU diplomats represent one of them, so what they’re saying suggests any games of brinkmanship the PM is planning to play won’t end well for the UK.
They insist May must be prepared to shift on her red lines in negotiations such as the Irish border issue but the PM this week insisted MPs will only have a choice between her proposed Chequers deal or no deal at all.
Internal Tory politics are pitting May against the hard Brexiteers in her party such as Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, said May’s binary choice of Chequers or no deal was a calculated, if sightly risky move.
Brexiteers would not have the “chutzpah to say ‘no way’” and Remainers would decide that carrying on fighting the plan would be too risky.
Adding to May’s woes, Tories are now holding open discussions on how to oust her as PM.
RHETORIC RATING: 3/10 - those diplomats hold a lot of the cards and May’s position in her own party is shaky