Occasionally on Twitter I get responses and messages which follow a familiar line, normally something like “If Brexit is so bad why is Germany in recession?”
Since the Eurozone has slipped into recession, after the latest economic data from its member states was revised, I expect I will get a lot more messages. So let me try to point out a few things to the Brexit supporters who take great cheer from this news.
Remainers and rejoiners do not think that the EU is some nirvana, a paradise of higher growth and prosperity for all. You claim that they do, but they have never said that and would be fools if they did. Every country has its own problems from ageing populations, low productivity or youth unemployment, to corruption and the lingering costs of communism.
Nor is anyone saying that the British economy will always shrink, or that the EU’s will always grow. Why would anyone be stupid enough to say that? But this is the false claim that many Brexit backing commentators try to use, in order to misrepresent the claims of the people who can see what is happening before their eyes.
Nor do remainers think that the UK is a complete disaster zone with no mates, no money and no sectors of growth. There are some world beating parts of the British economy, just not enough of them, little prospect of developing more under this government and the ability to beat the rest of the world has been hampered by Brexit, not improved. Growth is slower and lower because of Brexit.
All the critics of Brexit are saying, and there is daily proof of this, is that Brexit is an additional burden for the British economy and its society that no other country has to carry.
They and the Brexiteers can see those burdens all around them, it is just that the Brexiteers won’t admit that they can see them. There is none so blind as he who does not want to see.
Those burdens include longer queues at passport control, billions a year on border red tape for exporters, lower investment, lost free movement and lower foreign direct investment. It includes higher inflation, no longer being part of one of the world’s largest economies and many other comparable burdens – they are all around.
This does not mean that Germany is never going to enter another recession. It has been hit hard by the end of Russian gas flows and has had to find billions to alter its whole energy infrastructure. France is wrestling with pension reforms, and it spends and borrows too much. Italy has been in the economic doldrums for decades now.
Brexit has not changed any of those very well known facts, but Brexit makes it far more difficult for the UK to outperform such economies, purely because of an act of self-harm.
Schadenfreude is an unattractive trait, especially when you are delighting in the misfortune of those who despair at your own stupidity.