Ministers need to mind their language

Ministers need to mind their language

It hasn’t been a quiet summer for Brexiteers.

Those still unreconciled to the referendum result have resurrected Project Fear because they hope endless doom-mongering will scare the public into backing another referendum, in which we’d all vote Remain. Unless, of course, we want to see an all-out civil war, as Amazon boss Doug Gurr suggested. This is being carried out despite polls suggesting the public just want the Government to get on with it.

In a month bereft of actual news, the media has lapped up the endless press releases from the Remain campaign warning of everything from us having no food if we leave the EU, to us being infected with super-gonorrhoea.

The dominoes for a second referendum are being cunningly lined up by democracy deniers, which is why I was aghast to see Government Ministers seemingly joining in the doom-fest.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that there would be an “adequate” supply of food if we left without a deal. The phrase was seized upon by the continuity Remain campaign, leading to much comment that nobody voted Leave to have an “adequate” supply of food. I suspect it was merely a poor choice of words on Raab’s part, but it exposed just how vital semantics have become at such a delicate time. Raab should have laughed off such an absurd notion that we should be stockpiling food and reiterated that his department would ensure our food supply would carry on as normal. He could have even turned it into a positive and explained how we’ll actually see costs come down once we’re free from the EU’s external tariffs, which make imports from the rest of the world more expensive.

You’d have thought this might have led Number 10 spin doctors to issue a warning to others to be more careful with their words, which is why it was absolutely baffling to see Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt come out a few days ago and say that a no-deal Brexit “would be a mistake we would regret for generations”.

It wasn’t even a veiled or back-handed comment. It was an outright attack on the WTO option, which many Leavers have spent the summer demonstrating as something to be embraced.

One of the Prime Minister’s favourite catchphrases is that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, yet she appears to be allowing her Ministers to go around making comments which completely undermine that principle.

Hunt tweeted, a day later, to slightly row back on his comments, but the damage was already done.

The Remain camp had been handed a great top line and the Government’s own negotiating position apparently undermined by a senior minister.

Now, I’m not one to advise the Government, but if you’re in the middle of a negotiation in which you claim you’ll walk away if you’re not offered the right deal, it might be germane to not take every opportunity you can to show the other side you’re terrified of actually leaving the negotiating table.

With talk in Westminster turning to the possibility of extending Article 50 if Chequers falls through, it’s imperative that Leavers ‘take back control’ of the narrative and push a positive vision for Brexit.

We need our Ministers to be Project Cheerleaders for the fantastic opportunities Brexit has opened up for the UK, not simply the administrators of a managed decline.

It is imperative that the Cabinet make the positive case for Brexit, deal or no-deal.

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