Saturday, October 29, 2016

The nonsense from both sides continues even after the EU referendum

During the EU referendum campaign I posted a whole series of posts about how too many people on both sides were publishing vast quantities of utter nonsense.

There were honourable exceptions on both sides, but the amount of nonsense written and spoken during the referendum made it one of the most depressing campaigns I've witnessed in my entire life.

I am not sure whether it was more depressing that in many cases people genuinely appeared to believe the rubbish they were spouting, (which is why I have tried to avoid using the word "lie" to describe it) or that others seemed to be cynically manipulating and misrepresenting the facts.

As, for example with the utterly misleading suggestion - and "misleading" is a very kind word, but it was the word used by Andrew Dilnot, the UK statistics boss responsible for the Office for National Statistics who the Leave campaign claimed to be quoting, so we will stick with it - that £350 million a week could be made available for the NHS if Britain voted leave.

And the nonsense still continues.

For example, here is an attack by the Mail on Bank of England Governor Mark Carney because, according to the headline, "his 'Project Fear; predictions were repeatedly proven wrong."

What wrong predictions were those? Well, there is a clip on the website version called

"Mark Carney warns back in May that Brexit could see pound fall sharply."

Oh, wait ...

The actual text of the article says that many of his other predictions "are yet to materialise"

Well of course not - many of them related to things which might happen after Britain actually leaves, and we have not even triggered article 50 yet.

The article also attacks Mark Carney for the measures he took after the vote: it's my personal opinion that those measures were one of the reasons the economy is still going strong and we did not have a "Brexit Recession" after the initial shock of the referendum result.

Another example of overstated panglossian tripe about Brexit is

this article in the express which suggests the economy is "soaring"

when actually the economy has "soared" to growth of 0.5% in the three months after the vote from 0.7% in the three months before the referendum.

Of course, the fact that growth is down, but higher than was expected following the vote has been easy for people to spin whichever way they wanted it to.

Actually, growth of 0.5% in the quarter since the referendum looks pretty reasonable, and does show that the economy is currently strong and resilient and certainly hasn't gone into a recession yet - but those figures provide neither the evidence for Brexit being a great success that some Leave supporters are prematurely trying to claim nor the justification for doom and gloom which is coming from some on the other side.

The same article claims that  "manufacturing has received a big boost from the fall in the pound, which means that British-made products are now much more competitive on world markets."

Oh Foxtrot Foxtrot Sierra. Those British manufacturers whose sales include a higher proportion of exports than the proportion of their costbase which is based on imported supplies or materials will find it easier to export for that reason.

However, those manufacturers who do depend to any significant degree on imported parts or materials, especially if their sales are oriented more towards domestic markets than exports, will have been clobbered by the increase in their costs caused by the fall in the pound.

Any so-called journalist on either side of the debate who gives one side - whichever it is - of that equation without the other does not understand the first thing about economics or is deliberately giving a one-sided picture.

And there is plenty of equally silly premature doom-mongering from the remain side.

The Guardian and Independent newspaper and websites are particularly full of such articles but they can be found in many other places.

It was once suggested that

"Forecasting is the art of saying what will happen, and then explaining why it didn't!"

Some of those who predicted a severe slowdown immediately after any vote to leave, never mind after Britain actually does leave, such as a Politico article,

"Why Brexit hasn't destroyed the British economy (yet)"

have noticed the embarrassing failure of the facts to live up to their predictions but suggested

"What economists appeared to have gotten wrong is the timing of a Brexit-induced slowdown."

which they are now suggesting will happen next year.

An article by Chris Bryant (not the MP), "Brexit's economic windfall is a delusion" falls into the same trap.

I'm really not impressed by this. Anyone who predicts a recession year after year will eventually be right, but only in the sense that a broken watch is right twice a day.

If there was or is going to be a Brexit recession, it would have taken place this year or will take place after we actually leave. If there is a recession in 2017 it is likely to have other causes than Brexit.

Amid all the doom and gloom on the Independent site, there is one very sensible article,

"Forget the Brexit statistics: it's still too soon to know what leaving the EU will do to the economy."

Too right!

For reference, here is a full set of links to the articles in which I pointed out some of the most egregious instances of false statements by both sides during the EU referendum campaign. Every one of these posts sought to correct errors from both sides.

The wrong reasons to vote leave or remain

The worst of both worlds

The worst of both worlds part 2

The worst of both worlds 3: a puerile barrage of dodgy statistics

The worst of both worlds 4: cognitive dissonance

The worst of both worlds 5: trashing Britain, and scaremongering about the NHS

The worst of both worlds 6: jumping the gun

The worst of both worlds 7: no need for insults

The worst of both worlds 8

Worst of both worlds 9: Juncker and Vote Leave lose the plot again

Worst of both worlds 10

Worst of both worlds 11

Worst of both worlds 12

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