1 March 2016

Cameron embarks on Project Lie to keep Britain In


Are you frightened out of your wits yet?

You probably should be, after more than a week of scare-mongering claims from the Remain camp about how Britain will fall into chaos, economic ruin and be overrun by illegal immigrants and terrorists within nano-seconds of a vote to Leave the European Union.

Oh, yes, and don’t forget the plague of locusts and the fire and brimstone too.

These claims – widely predicted and getting more ludicrous by the day – have been dubbed “Project Fear” by Eurosceptics, who have rightly heaped scorn on the outlandish suggestion that Britain outside the EU will collapse into a black hole of obscurity and poverty.

But Project Fear is not just a cynical attack on our democracy, shutting down proper, healthy, informed debate about the real issues affecting the future of our country.

It’s actually more sinister than that because Project Fear is not so much about stoking up the fears of the British people but about the willingness of many of our political leaders – and specifically the Prime Minister David Cameron – to lie to us.

Project Fear is a misnomer. It is actually Project Lie.

So what precisely is Mr Cameron lying about? It’s hard to be sure but there are, just like the EU referendum ballot paper, two options.

The Prime Minister, after winning a handful of laughably insignificant reforms from his fellow EU leaders, is now happily leading the campaign to stay in the EU amid claims that a vote to leave would devastate the UK’s future prosperity and security.

But hold on a minute, only a matter of a few months ago, didn’t the Prime Minister publicly state to the British people that, if he failed to win the necessary reforms from the EU, he would campaign to leave?

Indeed, Mr Cameron promised just that in a number of TV interviews and in his speech at Chatham House last November.

“If we can’t reach such an agreement,” he said, “And if Britain’s concerns were to be met with a deaf ear, which I do not believe will happen, then we will have to think again about whether this European Union is right for us. As I have said before – I rule nothing out.”

Since there are only two options in an in-out referendum, then “ruling nothing out” can only mean one thing: that Mr Cameron was willing to campaign for a vote to leave the EU. So, that means he thought a Leave vote would be a better result for Britain than an EU with no reforms.

Indeed, he was very clear that the result of a vote to leave the EU would be anything but disastrous for Britain. In the very same Chatham House speech, he explained: “I am not saying for one moment that Britain couldn’t survive outside the European Union. Of course we could… Whether we could be successful outside the European Union – that’s not the question. The question is whether we would be more successful in than out?”

This is bizarre, given the terrible fate that he and his own ministers now insist awaits us if we do indeed walk away from the European Union. If the dangers of leaving are really so awful, why would he ever have risked choosing to campaign to leave? Or if leaving is not actually a terrible risk, why is he now claiming it is?

Indeed, why would he ever have promised an EU referendum at all? Surely, whatever the public clamour, no responsible Prime Minister should ever offer voters a choice between two options when he genuinely believes one of those choices to be cataclysmic for the country?

So what can we conclude from this?

Well, either David Cameron knows that all the Project Fear claims are blatant lies and he is happy for those lies to be told to the British people in a bid to win the referendum. Or he lied when he told the British people that he would campaign to leave the EU if he did not secure the reforms he wanted.

Either way, he has lied to us. Project Fear has morphed into Project Lie and barely anyone has so much as blinked an eye.

The British people deserve better than fear and lies: they deserve the truth.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a journalist and broadcaster. A former political editor and LBC Radio presenter, she is a regular on TV shows such as Question Time and Have I Got News For You, and on Radio 4’s Any Questions.