The anti-Brexit hysteria over NHS workers and employment figures is a cautionary tale to us all, writes James Holland.

Nothing gets Remainers in a frenzy more than bad news they can link to Brexit. A procession of politicians and journalists quickly file onto Twitter, TV and radio, each more shocked or outraged than the last that Brexit should be threatening something they hold so dear.

Remainers were, for example, quick to jump on any negative forecast regarding employment projections in a post-EU referendum Britain. One Guardian headline before the referendum read ‘Brexit could cost £100bn and nearly 1m jobs, warns CBI’. After the referendum, the Guardian seized on a brief drop in employment with ‘UK employment falls in months after Brexit vote’. Then, last week, they followed this up with yet another sensationalist headline ‘UK employment falls for first time since aftermath of Brexit vote.’

What makes these headlines so absurd is that, in reality, the UK labour market since the referendum in June 2016 has been very positive. Unemployment has never been lower in the UK than it is today. There are more people in work than ever before in Britain. Some seek to distract from this positive data by shouting about zero-hour contracts, but as all the evidence shows, most of the jobs created were full-time.

Another story that regularly made headlines was the anticipated exodus of EU citizens after Brexit. The Institute of Directors made the business case in CityAM with: ‘Act now to avert Brexodus, Britain’s directors urge government’. The National in Scotland ran with ‘Brexodus: Sharp increase of EU nationals quitting the UK sparks workforce fears.’ But The Times finally reported last week that:

“The number of EU citizens working in Britain rose to a record high in the year after the Brexit referendum, official figures revealed yesterday.”

The Guardian made a similar case regarding NHS staff, reporting in September this year that ‘almost 10,000 EU health workers have quit NHS since Brexit vote’. What the article disingenuously failed to do though was to state how many new EU staff members had been hired during that time. As recent NHS Digital figures show, the number of EU staff in NHS England actually increased between June 2016 and June 2017.

It is clear that for some in the media, the EU referendum campaign did not end in June last year. Some reporters are still trying to win the Vote Remain argument, rather than reporting the facts. The incessant attack on the UK government’s Brexit negotiation position reveals a bias for unelected bureaucrats in Brussels over elected ministers in London.

Some Remainers believe that if they could only turn public opinion against Brexit with enough doom-and-gloom stories, then maybe the vote could be overturned. Worryingly for democracy in our time, they may be right. Referendums in France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Greece have been reversed or dismissed in the last 15 years. The EU has a track record of ignoring referendum results it doesn’t like and carrying on regardless.

I don’t actually think such an affront to the democratic will of the people could be pulled off in Britain, but that isn’t stopping some of our biggest media outlets from trying. The problem for the media sector is that readers and viewers won’t stand for opinion and speculation filtering into the news sections of their newspapers for very long. When journalism veers into activism, it stands out like a sore thumb, and predicting the future is always dangerous anyway. To maintain the reputation of a newspaper, the opinion and reporting sections of a publication must be kept strictly separate. Unfortunately, some editors and journalists are letting their anti-Brexit emotions get the better of them when picking their stories. Facts that dispel fabrications or exaggerations of the pro-EU campaign ought to lead to a pause for thought and possibly to a reassessment of one’s position. Unfortunately, the reaction is often the opposite.

Interestingly, this unreasonable reaction is in fact a very natural one with an invaluable psychological explanation that really warrants further attention. Researchers have found that our brains lead most of us to defend our entrenched beliefs with irrationality and aggression when they are challenged. This is because dismissing the challenge is less psychologically demanding for us than altering our core-beliefs.

When a Christian is confronted with dinosaurs, he can either dismiss the new facts and continue to believe that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, or he can embrace them and reassess his historical, geographical and biological belief system. When the Communist is presented with data showing that free-exchange has led to increased standards of living for millions, he can either ignore this reality and continue to campaign for the removal of competition in the market, or challenge his beliefs. When the capitalist is shown the damaging effects of unregulated business practices in places where society doesn’t have the legal and political tools to defend itself, he can either dismiss them and continue to invest in unethical ventures, or he can reassess his behaviour.

If you believe that Brexit is an economic disaster that will lead to recession and mass emigration, but you are then presented with facts that challenge this firm belief, you should take some time to reconsider your position, rather than jumping onto the next anti-Brexit bandwagon that presents itself.

 

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