The Folly of “Despite Brexit”

Despite the apocalyptic warnings of the IMF, the world’s leading economists and our dear former Chancellor, it looks like the UK will not be sliding into a post-Brexit recession. The economy is growing, the FTSE 250 is high, and manufacturing has recovered from an initial shock.

Of course, not all the economic data is positive; much still lies uncertain about Britain’s future outside the EU. Nevertheless, you would think that anyone whose narrative predicted total economic disaster immediately after a Leave vote would seek to revise that narrative. Apparently not.

Today, the media’s favourite phrase is “despite Brexit”. The economy is growing “despite Brexit”. The FTSE 250 has recovered “despite Brexit”. The sun has risen “despite Brexit”. In other words, “our theory is correct, so reality must be wrong”.

The flip-side of the coin is the tendency to blame Brexit for anything negative whatsoever that has occurred since June 23. Hate crime is up because of Brexit. Investment is down because of Brexit. There’s no marmite because nasty Mr Johnson took it all away.

This is a form of circular reasoning: if anything negative happens, it must be because of Brexit; if anything positive happens, it must be despite Brexit. In other words, the Remain side’s narrative is true a priori, and no evidence whatsoever can defeat it.

In truth, the aftermath of Brexit is an issue of correlation and causation. We cannot prove whether any negative or positive event is “caused by Brexit”. But Remainers don’t just posit causation that they can’t prove; they want to have their cake and eat it too.

They suggest that negative events are caused by Brexit, but that positive events are merely associated with it. Unless these people have a superhuman ability to tease apart causation and correlation, and unless the universe accords entirely with their one-sided narrative, they are talking nonsense.

So “despite Brexit” is fallacious folly, a rhetorical tool of bad faith that Remain supporters are using to cling onto their anti-Brexit prejudices. Let’s discard this phrase, focus on the facts, and proceed with at least a modicum of optimism.

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