Magazine article The Spectator

Brexit's Bitter Harvest

Magazine article The Spectator

Brexit's Bitter Harvest

Article excerpt

Why the leaders of the Leave campaign should pray they don't win

Nick Cohen and Fraser Nelson discuss The Spectator's decision to back Brexit:

We British flatter ourselves that common sense is a national personality trait. Giddy Europeans may follow the abstract notions of dangerous leaders, but we could not be more different. We are a practical, moderate breed -- if we do say so ourselves -- who act according to the evidence, not fantastical theories.

Let me see how this dear delusion is bearing up. It feels as if the Leave campaign will win the EU referendum. But even if Leave loses, it seems certain that it will perform so well as to produce an existential crisis in both our main parties. Our fabled common sense should also tell us that the British economy could have a crisis of its own. We do not need to lose ourselves in arguments about statistics to understand that the likely consequence of exiting the richest single market in the world is that foreign investors will look elsewhere and domestic firms will think of relocating.

Yet millions of Britons believe Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove when they say that all the national and international bodies warning of spending cuts, tax rises, job losses and inflation are not just wrongheaded, but full of corrupt liars bought off with EU gold. Think about what the invective says about those who would determine our future. Even right-wing journalists were alarmed when they heard Vote Leave smear the Institute of Fiscal Studies as a 'paid-up propaganda arm' of the EU. They did not have the sense to follow up and ask what right-wing conspiracy theory said about the veracity of the conspiracy theorists.

Our common sense also ought to tell us that 'there is no magic money tree'. Sensible conservatives have told us so often enough in the past. Yet now, all of a sudden, one of the greatest miracles in natural history has occurred: a magic money tree has appeared from nowhere. If we only vote to leave, its beneficence will ensure that we have tens of billions of pounds to spend on the health service, school buildings, school places, scientific resensible to see a smash-up coming.

There's another crucial question that cannot be dodged. How can an alliance of Nigel Farage and George Galloway, of Boris Johnson's opportunism and Michael Gove's fanaticism, endear itself to millions of allegedly commonsensical Britons? …

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