By George Edkins For The Mail On Sunday
Britain must not bow down to ‘Project Fear 2.0’ scare stories if it is to stave off a recession, experts warn today.
The country faces soaring energy bills, widespread drought, sewage overflowing into rivers and the sea, and long queues for holidaymakers at the border.
But John Longworth, the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the UK’s supposed demise had been hugely overplayed by merchants of doom intent on proving Brexit was to blame.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, he said the country was witnessing ‘a resurrection of Project Fear’ – the campaign born during the 2016 EU referendum to scare people into voting Remain.
John Longworth (pictured), the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the UK’s supposed demise had been hugely overplayed by merchants of doom intent on proving Brexit was to blame
And in a stark warning, the entrepreneur said that if the public continued to be beaten down by ‘endless gloom’ the nation would talk itself into a recession.
‘It is clear to me that a clandestine cabal of well-funded campaigners is once again gathering. I call it Project Fear 2.0,’ he said. ‘Be in no doubt that there are grave issues facing this country. But sewage in rivers has nothing to do with Brexit, nor the European Union.’
Last night, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith agreed. ‘We have a core of people who never wanted to leave the EU and they have dedicated themselves to getting us back in,’ he said.
‘It is a relatively small group, but they are very influential and over-represented in the Establishment and the media. Anything goes wrong, they interpret all problems as the result of leaving the EU.
‘What they are experiencing in the EU is very rarely reported in the media, but they have driver shortages, energy problems, high inflation – our inflation rate is by no means the highest in Europe.’
Their concerns were echoed earlier this month by Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss, who accused her rival Rishi Sunak of peddling scare stories as he trashed her economic plans.
In a furious exchange during a TV debate, she said: ‘This is scaremongering, this is Project Fear.’
Martin Lewis, the money-saving campaigner, has also been accused of leading the pessimism after branding the situation ‘absolutely horrendous’
Martin Lewis, the money-saving campaigner, has also been accused of leading the pessimism after branding the situation ‘absolutely horrendous’, adding: ‘There is dismay and depression and there are people worrying about being able to feed their families.’
But the Foreign Secretary played down predictions by the Bank of England that the country was headed for another crippling credit crunch that would last more than a year.
Early this month, the bank said inflation was set to soar to 13 per cent as it increased interest rates to 1.75 per cent – its biggest increase in 27 years.
Miss Truss responded: ‘What the Bank of England have said today is of course extremely worrying, but it is not inevitable. We can change the outcome.’
Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss (pictured) has accused her rival Rishi Sunak of peddling scare stories as he trashed her economic plans
Other forecasts have predicted inflation will hit 18 per cent, while on Friday the energy watchdog Ofgem increased the energy price cap which will lead to typical bills rising from £1,971 to £3,549.
Drought has been declared up and down the country, prompting serious concerns about problems with crop production.
Hosepipe bans have been imposed in a number of areas – despite the failure of water companies to repair leaks responsible for the loss of trillions of litres of water each year.
In recent weeks, dozens of beaches in England and Wales have been hit with pollution warnings after a sudden burst of heavy rain led to the release of sewage into rivers and the sea.
On Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice blamed the overflows on ‘a legacy of the Victorian sewage infrastructure’. But he insisted the Conservative Government was the first to ‘actually tackle this problem’.
Meanwhile, during the summer holiday, travellers have faced long delays at airports and on the roads – a phenomenon many have been quick to blame on Brexit.
Sir Iain said the UK had always had problems with France over delays at the ports.
Mr Longworth, now chairman of the Independent Business Network, said the greatest danger the country faced was talking itself into recession.
He added: ‘Crying wolf in this way has terrible real-life consequences, and the merchants of doom could yet create a self- fulfilling prophecy for us all.’
Reiterating his support for Miss Truss to become the new Conservative leader, he said her plans for tax cuts, reversal of the National Insurance hike and a moratorium on green levies on energy bills would help grow the economy.
He added: ‘Britain will soon be one of the best-placed economies in the world. We may yet avoid a recession.
‘The future is bright for Britain. Don’t be fooled by the naysayers.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group