Brexit, politicians and ‘lies’


Sir, – Kathy Sheridan takes the baton from Fintan O’Toole this week in The Irish Times’s seemingly endless series of articles attacking Brexit (“What are odds of successfully suing Boris Johnson for lying?”, Opinion & Analysis, September 26th). The odds – thankfully – are very remote indeed. Yes, there will always be some disgruntled citizen who takes the government of the day to court following a referendum. Indeed, there was a legal challenge to the repeal of our own Eighth Amendment but the courts, quite rightly, gave it short shrift. The will of the people must prevail in a democracy, after all.

Your columnist refers to Marcus J Ball, a “young man from Norfolk” who is taking Boris Johnson to court for the “lie” that the UK sends around €350 million a week to Brussels. This crude figure was based on the £19 billion transferred to Brussels in 2014. Arguments about the rebate won by Mrs Thatcher mean that some commentators put this figure at closer to £14.5 billion. Reading Kathy Sheridan’s piece, however, one could be forgiven for thinking that Britain contributes nothing at all to the EU’s coffers.

Quibbling about whether the figure is a top end £350 million or a low end £280 million aside, the point being made was that once Britain leaves the EU it will – eventually – cease to contribute towards the EU’s honey pot. This is not a lie. She goes on then to outline the “lies” of Michael Gove and various others on the Leave side of the argument. Mr Gove’s “lie” is to imply that the Brexit negotiations would be easier than they have turned out.

What Kathy Sheridan expressly fails to do anywhere in her article is to highlight or even acknowledge the lies and untruths spouted by the Remain side of the argument.

Theresa May’s chief tormentor Donald Tusk claimed – with typical restraint – that a successful Brexit vote would herald “the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also western political civilisation in its entirety”. Two years later, Europe seems stubbornly intact. Was this a lie or just hysterical exaggeration?

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney – in a series of highly publicised interventions – claimed that the UK economy would go into an immediate recession if Britain voted Leave. He also predicted an instant stock-market crash and the loss of half a million jobs practically overnight.

None of this has come to pass. The United Kingdom – the fifth-largest economy in the word, lest we forget – is currently enjoying its lowest unemployment figures since 1975. In retrospect, we can see that these were all politically motivated “lies”. Project Fear Version 1.0 was one big lie in order to intimidate voters and it failed.

There were, it’s true, lies flying around from both camps prior to June 2016 but Kathy Sheridan has no interest in the untruths of the Remain side. To her, Brexit was “a ridiculous referendum” that should never have happened in the first place and her ideological obsession with undermining the largest democratic mandate these islands have ever seen ultimately overrides any pretence at journalistic objectivity. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.