The 2016 referendum was a divisive one. Families were divided, economists were divided, the business community was divided, political parties were divided, and the country was, as a whole, divided. Referendums happen when the divide between the political establishment and the people they represent is too great, and the decision is taken out of the politicians hands and given to the people. The politicians were divided on so much, but the one thing that they seemed to be united on was that this would be it, and that the decision would be made and then the issue settled for a generation. Two and a half years later the country is a lot more united in as far as what they want is for us to get on with it; something we were promised would happen before the we voted.
“This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”
Having made such a promise, the Remain campaign began to worry they might lose. The arrogance that they would give the little people their chance to make fools of themselves started to take a hit when they realised that Leave had the momentum, and that it was going to be tight. The state sponsored propaganda leaflet hadn’t seemed to work, and they resorted to generating fear. The economic claims became more and more farfetched. Half a million job losses were foreseen; we now know that employment went up and is at a record high at that unemployment continues to fall. We were told there would be an instant year long recession; there was not, in fact growth continued.
The claims went on and on. It seemed like each day we were hit with a new threat about how much damage a reckless vote to leave would be. We know that these threats did not have the desired impact because the people of Britain simply did not accept them, and they were right not to accept them. Remainers will say “We haven’t left yet,” as to try and explain why their Armageddon is yet to come, but the predictions clearly stated that the vote to leave would be the trigger, not act of leaving itself. Now it is two and a half years later and we are still in Project Fear – or should that be Project Fear 2. Or 4. Or 6.
If I were a Remainer, I would have wanted the campaign to be positive. I would have wanted it to be based on something uplifting. Vote Leave pushed forward a positive message of breaking free from Brussels’ shackles and embracing the world. Positivity, optimism, that is what voters – what we all – want.
Of course, it’s impossible for Remain to be upbeat because the many flaws of the EU are obvious and there for all to see. So Remain embarked upon a fatal tactic of, “Yes, we can all agree the EU is rubbish, but it’s a risk to leave it.” In doing so they confirmed in the minds of millions of people that the EU is awful. This was never going to inspire an electorate. Positive campaigns are, by and large, more effective than negative ones; those still trying to keep us in the EU have nothing positive left in the tank.
Sadly, the negativity of Project Fear has been ever present since the vote. Even those negotiating on our behalf seem to prefer Project Fear to Project Future. They’re so obsessed with trying to mitigate an imaginary disaster, they won’t look to the horizon and embrace the huge opportunities Brexit has to offer.
Project Fear has had the greatest effect on those that peddled it, but they need to be brave. They need to grasp those huge opportunities in front of us. Only by rejecting scare tactics can politicians deliver on the will of the people. Only by adopting a new attitude to Brexit and the many millions of us who want to see it delivered properly can Parliament reconnect with the ordinary people it appears to have abandoned, and our country begin to heal.
Let’s forget Project Fear. And let’s embrace Project Future.
Will Hollis is a teacher of History and Religious Studies based in London. Follow him on twitter: @wh98422