By Daniel Hannan ~
Lloyds Bank, we were told on Thursday, was shedding thousands of jobs because Britain had voted to leave the EU. The BBC assumed a direct link between the branch closures and what it called the “Brexit effect”. Sky News was just as certain: “Lloyds to axe 3000 jobs following EU exit vote”.
There was just one problem. The closures had been scheduled – and, indeed, reported – before the referendum. As Lloyds explained: “The decision on branch closures was made before the EU vote, and is due to changing customer behaviours and greater uptake of digital services.”
On any given day, there will be both good and bad economic news. The trouble is that some of our pro-EU media are determined to see only the bad, and to attribute it all to Brexit. Rather as during the weeks after we left the ERM in 1992, fear of uncertainty prevents some commentators from noticing the positive indicators.
They’re not being consciously biased: it’s human nature to press new developments into your existing expectations. But the sheer, relentless pessimism of the BBC, Sky News and the Financial Times could become self-fulfilling.
So far, the bad news on which Remoaners have focused comes largely in the form of surveys. Hard statistics remain stubbornly cheerful. Britain’s jobs miracle has continued, with more people in work than ever, and recruitment agencies reporting a boom. Start-ups have been launched at a faster rate since the vote than before it. In the last quarter, the UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent; the eurozone, by contrast, slowed to 0.3 per cent.
Unite: Lloyds job cuts nothing to do with Brexit Play! 00:36
Of course, you might accuse me of having a mirror-image bias, of seeing only the encouraging stories. But even hardline Remainers must have noticed the difference between what pro-EU businessmen were saying before the vote and what they are saying – and doing – now.
Before the vote, the bosses of the pharmaceutical giants GSK and AstraZeneca claimed in a letter that leaving the EU would be “bad for business and research”. Now GSK has announced £275 million of new investment in the UK, while AstraZeneca is spending £330 million, pointing out that it’s “hard to find a better place in the world” to carry out scientific research.
Before the vote, Siemens threatened that Brexit would bring “significant and negative long-term effects”. Now, its chief executive, Joe Kaeser, says: “We’re here to stay”. Those negative effects, he explains, will be felt by the EU 27, not by Britain: “We never said the UK is in bad shape if it leaves the EU. We said the EU would miss a massive opportunity.”
Before the vote, the FT claimed that Brexit would imperil Deutsche Börse’s merger with the London Stock Exchange. Now, in a massive vote of confidence in London as the world’s premier financial centre, that merger has been approved.
It’s true that some large corporations – notably British Airways and J P Morgan – are still sore about the vote. Some may even be tempted to use it as an excuse for poor results. But it’s only fair to give the full picture. The giant American bank Wells Fargo is spending £300 million on its new European HQ – in London. Japan’s SoftBank has paid an extraordinary £24.3 billion to purchase the Cambridge tech firm Arm.
Theresa May: UK and France need to keep close economic ties Play! 01:22
Brexit scare stories are evaporating like morning dew. France was going to throw our immigration officers out of Calais; now it says they’re staying. Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, came to London to tell us that “out means out”, and that we’d be treated like any third country; now he says that George Osborne told him to use those words, and that a special deal will be found. Mr Osborne himself threatened us with emergency tax rises; his successor talks, far more reasonably, of tax cuts.
We were told the stock exchange would collapse. We weren’t told that it would be the Italian stock exchange, and that British stocks would be the best-performing in Europe.
We were told that we’d be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US. It now seems that there will be a UK-US deal before any EU-US deal. The same may be true of Canada, which is suddenly more interested in a bilateral deal with London than in its endless arguments with Continental protectionists. From Australia to Uruguay, countries are lining up to sign trade deals with Britain. We are on the way to becoming the centre of global commerce, an off-shore entrepôt, whose example will do far more to persuade the EU to liberalise than ever our imprecations did.
Of all Remain’s predictions, only one has come true. The pound has fallen. And, frankly, not before time. The euro crisis had given it an artificial value. Its overdue correction has brought a series of benefits, from Tata reconsidering its withdrawal from Wales, to Pinewood Studios hailing Brexit as “undoubtedly positive”.
Come, my Remain-voting friends. Don’t put yourselves in the wretched position of hoping for bad news so as to be proved right. It’s bad for the soul as well as bad for the economy. More to the point, it’s groundless.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Daniel Hannan is an British writer and journalist, and has been a Conservative MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.