Brexit fears of Project Fear unfounded – Patrick Mercer

WELL, one month on from having finally jettisoned the shackles of the EU, Project Fear has yet to come to pass. Sterling hasn’t sunk, the country isn’t starving, terrorists haven’t swooped and Northern Ireland isn’t ablaze.

Chaos at ports like Dover has not materialised following Brexit.

True, Covid has dominated the agenda and distracted us from everything else but now it all feels a bit like the threatened Armageddon at the start of the new millennium.

Yet, while some practical things are very different, the schism between Leave and Remain is just as bitter.

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One might have hoped for some reconciliation, a resigned shift towards “loser’s consent”. But no. That sore just won’t 
scab over.

Theresa May (right) has been critical of Boris Johnson's foreign policy.

In terms of practicalities, 
there was some clever propaganda put about by both sides when great queues of lorries built up at Dover almost as soon as Brexit had been proclaimed.

Remainers yelled “Told you so – we’ll all starve” while Leave shrieked “It’s all to do with Covid. Thank heaven we planned for No Deal, otherwise it would have been so much worse”.

The truth is, though, the jams are no more. But that’s not the whole story.

Bureaucracy and form filling have certainly multiplied and this is definitely affecting trade.

A police officer checks a driver's Covid-19 test documentation at the entrance to the Port of Dover.

Most vocal about this seem to be Scottish fishermen, many of whose exports to the Continent have been spoilt while endless new documents have had to be filled out.

And fillings of another sort shot into the news when Dutch officials impounded British hauliers’ sandwiches – because they didn’t meet EU regulations.

In response, the SNP’s Ian Blackford – who looks like he knows a thing or two about packed lunches – declared: “There is an alternative for Scotland. It is time to find our way back to Europe, out of the darkness of Brexit.”

Could the lowly ham cob inspire Scotland’s charge out of the UK and back into the EU? Don’t hold your breath.

Similar foot dragging occurred with the ground-breaking Trade and Co-operation Agreement which was promulgated last month.

It was agreed that the EU would ratify the deal by February 28 but MEPs have now tried to insist the deadline is pushed back to late April so they can have more time for scrutiny.

But, no. Our Prime Minister has insisted that the bloc sticks to the agreed date. Now there’s a welcome change!

The clearest difference, though, has come from the vaccination issue.

Some commentators have sniggered at European red tape that led France and even Germany’s jabbing plans to stall while Britain raced ahead. But this is deadly serious. The EU’s slothful reaction is killing 

While this country’s efforts have been far from perfect, their relative speed and efficiency have been a tangible demonstration of British acumen.

What a wonderful way to find that we are now no longer throttled by the stultifying bureaucracy of our former masters. More, please. What’s no different, though, is the belly-aching of the likes of Mr Blackford about Britain’s rejoining the EU – and it’s not just the SNP.

Big names in Labour – including recent leadership candidate Jess Phillips MP – are trying to blow on the fading embers while even Tony Blair 
has hinted at the establishment of a new, single-issue party.

To underline this, the Remainer rump was largely mute when lives were lost and many cities seriously damaged as the BLM movement ripped through the US.

Yet when an armed, lethal mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, they were vociferous in their outrage.

Both sets of thugs scorned democracy but Remain seemed almost to approve of those who came from their side of the argument.

This was the same hypocritical caucus, remember, that created the enormous pressure wave of legal, political and economic agitation that was hell-bent on defying a majority of 17.4 million votes for Brexit.

And it isn’t just the usual suspects that still act this way.

Note Theresa May’s views in a recent newspaper article where she suggests that Boris Johnson has undermined British values by threatening to break international law in Brexit trade talks and scrap the foreign aid target.

The former prime minister said the two actions “hardly raised [Britain’s] credibility in the eyes of the world”.

I understand she may still be smarting a bit but such ill-placed passions – in my view – aren’t going away any time soon.

I’m reminded of those Japanese soldiers who took to the jungle after their country’s defeat in 1945 to continue the fight: fanatics for a dead cause.

If there’s one good thing to come out of the Covid debacle, it’s that our politicians have something else to obsess about other than Brexit.

Of course there are still going to be bumps along the road of this divorce but in four short weeks we’ve tasted the reality of freedom from Europe.

We must now stop looking over our shoulders and harness our nation’s full potential to get out of the mess in which we find ourselves.

Patrick Mercer is a former
Conservative MP.

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