BREXITER propaganda is, sadly, something we have had to get used to since the 2016 Leave vote. However, it has become more challenging to deal with this nonsense as it has increased in volume and intensity, while getting further and further removed from economic reality.

The last of these things – getting more and more distant from economic reality – is no mean feat. Ahead of the referendum, those leading the Brexit charge painted their folly as a move to improve the living standards of ordinary people. These arguments never made any economic sense. None at all. They were utterly ridiculous. How can any exercise which causes huge overall economic damage improve living standards? Oh, and there is also the fact that it was right-wing Tory austerity since 2010 which had hammered the living standards of ordinary people, some of whom were then hoodwinked by Conservative Brexiters into believing it was the European Union’s fault.

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So there can be no doubt the Brexit arguments never had any grounding in any kind of economic reality. And the posters featuring migrants told the real story – this has for the arch-Brexiters always been an ideological drive aimed largely at clamping down on immigration. This clampdown has since been celebrated widely among the senior Brexiter ranks, including by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

We have just had a weekend of dangerous ideological tub-thumping from the UK Government as another deadline for the conclusion of talks with the EU about a future trade deal came and went, with nothing resolved. We had talks of Navy gunboats in the English Channel to ward off French fishermen. In normal times, this would have been fairly unthinkable. However, after years of Brexit nonsense, it was no great surprise.

Financial markets were just relieved, when Monday came round, that the talks had not broken down, or at least not yet. This was, after all, as much as could have been hoped for. With the sides still talking, there remains hope that a free trade agreement will be struck, although we must bear in mind that this will be a narrow deal should it come to pass.

This means the UK’s exit from the European single market, with loss of valuable free movement of people and truly frictionless trade, will cause huge economic damage either way. The Conservative Government has taken us to a place where the only hope is of a consolation prize to ward off utter short-term chaos.

Of course, when we look at how on earth we got here, we should realise that propaganda has been the Brexiters’ main weapon from start to finish.

It played a huge part in delivering the lamentable Leave vote in 2016, and there has been no let-up since, which is of course probably little surprise as already-huge evidence of the damage that has been and will be caused by Brexit continues to mount.

Amid all the no-deal sabre-rattling, the Brexiters seem keen to persuade anyone they think will listen, perhaps the EU and maybe the UK electorate among them, that the vacuous promises made ahead of the 2016 vote about big brave new trade deals were not empty. Of course, they have proved to be empty, but that does not matter one whit to the Brexiters it seems.

However, while entirely predictable based on the Leave camp’s track record and where we are, the Brexiter propaganda on this front would be utterly jaw-dropping in normal times.

Arch-Brexiter Steve Baker, Tory MP for Wycombe, painted a picture last week that the UK’s signing of a trade deal with Vietnam is a big thing, and that it underlines a huge degree of success in sealing such agreements with countries around the world.

Never mind that the Vietnam trade deal and others signed by the Boris Johnson administration, such as that sealed last week with Singapore, mirror what Britain already had as part of the EU and are continuity arrangements. It is crucial to realise this has been all about time-consuming damage-mitigation, not at all about gaining big things the UK did not have already.

The big brave new trade deals the Brexiters promised remain entirely elusive.

The Department for International Trade also seemed unduly excited about what it itself acknowledged was a “continuity” deal with Vietnam.

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And what should we make of Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss highlighting the importance of “certainty” for the relatively small number of UK businesses exporting to Vietnam? It seems pretty rich, given her Government’s failure well into December to let companies and households know what the future relationship with the EU might look like. The EU, as well as being on the UK’s doorstep, is the largest free trade bloc in the world. The EU is a big deal, whether or not acknowledging that sticks in the craw of the Brexiters, who it seems at times would rather grasp at assorted convenient straws than address the key issue.

The Department for International Trade tweeted on Friday: “BREAKING: the UK has just secured a trade continuity agreement with #Vietnam. This deal with one of our fastest growing partners means certainty for the 3,100 UK businesses already exporting goods to Vietnam.”

This prompted the following from Mr Baker: “It’s extraordinary to see @tradegovuk securing so many trade deals so fast, under the leadership of @trussliz. Reasonable people must ask what on earth is the EU’s difficulty.”

While we might have become inured to the Brexiters’ propaganda by now, it is important such a patently ridiculous take on the situation is not allowed to pass without comment.

Former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Danny Blanchflower, who has joined the University of Glasgow in addition to his post as Bruce V Rauner professor of economics at Dartmouth College in the US, responded by spelling out the real impact of the Brexiters’ harmful actions on people in the UK. Mr Blanchflower tweeted: “Do a deal with Vietnam…but not with France Germany or Italy – great – the only issue is how much living standards will fall.”

It is well worth a look at the figures in this context to see what a “reasonable” person might think. If anyone is in any doubt as to whether it is the comments of Mr Baker or Mr Blanchflower which are on the money, the numbers tell the story.

In 2019, goods exports to Vietnam by UK businesses were a bit more than £600 million.

Last year, UK exports to the EU, of goods and services, totalled £294 billion. This amounted to 43% of all UK exports.

This is not to say Britain should not have a trade deal with Vietnam, which exported £4.6bn of goods to the UK last year.

However, the UK had a trade deal with Vietnam as part of the EU, so this is not a new thing it is gaining.

And, just as crucially, the relative numbers highlight how dangerous Brexiter propaganda is when people who are understandably not necessarily well-versed in economics and export destinations are trying to form an opinion about the reality of what is coming with departure from the European single market on December 31. Many will by default believe the mood music from the UK Government.

Ms Truss seemed to get somewhat carried away last week with having signed not one but two continuity deals with relatively small export destinations for UK businesses – the Vietnam trade arrangements rollover followed hard on the heels of a similar agreement with Singapore.

And she often seems more excited about getting into the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the other side of the world than she is alarmed about huge economic damage to the UK economy from the Brexit folly, deal or no deal.

She said of the Singapore and Vietnam deals late last week: “Both these agreements are vital for the UK’s future as an independent trading nation. Not only do they lock in billions of pounds worth of trade, they also pave the way for new digital partnerships and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will play to the UK’s strengths, as we become a hub for tech and digital trade with influence far beyond our shores, defining our role in the world for decades to come.”

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She added: “This is an important part of our vision for a Global Britain that sits at the centre of a network of deals with dynamic nations across Asia Pacific and the Americas as a global hub for services and technology trade. International trade will help us to overcome the challenges of coronavirus and drive economic growth across our United Kingdom.”

This seems to get to the heart of the Brexiter psychology and ideology. Snub the biggest free trade bloc in the world. Look “far beyond our shores”. And let us have some introspection about Mighty Blighty’s “role in the world”. The Brexit bingo card. “Independent trading nation” – tick. “Global Britain” – tick.

On the talk about growth “across our United Kingdom”, we should bear in mind the huge vote in Scotland against leaving the EU. The reality is that Scotland’s economy will suffer because of a Brexit the nation has strongly opposed. And, for the avoidance of doubt, Brexit will not be driving growth anywhere in the UK.

The facts of the matter are that the UK was entirely independent before, as part of the EU, and the country had a much better chance of prospering on the international stage as a member of this huge and powerful bloc. The sovereignty nonsense is of course a red herring, albeit one that has been exploited tiresomely and relentlessly by the Brexiters.

Last Thursday, Mr Blanchflower summed up the actual situation well. He and other experts continue to deal in reality, while Brexiters stick with their ideological fantasy.

The former MPC member tweeted last Thursday: “Why would any country voluntarily decide to raise prices and unemployment create confusion chaos & disrupt the food supply in the depths of a pandemic? This is the only example of a national suicide note in...1000 years – there are NO economic benefits as in ZIPPO. Brexidiots lied.”

Ms Truss’s comments, on a UK Government press release, were polished. Mr Blanchflower’s comments on social media were less measured.

However, it is crucial to see through presentation and propaganda amid the Brexit mayhem, and discern the truth.

Mr Blanchflower is for very good reason a highly regarded international economist, who among many other achievements made a great contribution as an MPC member.

It should go without saying that those wishing to understand the Brexit situation and the further economic damage in the post from it should be listening to the likes of Mr Blanchflower, not to various Cabinet ministers who at times seem utterly consumed with ripping the UK out of Europe.