June 16, 2024

As Britain’s bad economic news mounts, all the Brexiteers can cry is, “But what about Germany?”

Give the defenders of Brexit some credit. When Britain announced on Thursday morning that it had entered a recession, they immediately began to pick apart the failings of a country with a black hole at the heart of its economy.

Unfortunately, the country they chose was Germany.

Never mind Britain’s two consecutive quarters of declining Gross Domestic Product. Never mind that if you look at GDP per head of population (and not a total figure swollen by rising immigration), we’ve been in recession for much longer – there were falls in per-head GDP in every quarter of last year and there has been no growth since Q1 of 2022, the longest unbroken downturn since records began in 1955. But never mind the resultant pain from that in Birmingham and Manchester, just look how they’re suffering in Berlin and Munich!

“It’s not down to Brexit – Germany is very poorly at the moment,” claimed former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe on Thursday’s edition of the Jeremy Vine TV show. She went on to reassure viewers, unchallenged, that “half of Europe in is in recession”, which it is not.

“Germany and France [have] been in recession for months now… Brexit means a better UK economy,” wrote the former Tory MEP David Bannerman on Twitter/X. They have not and it does not.

And then there was the broadcaster Andrew Neil, fearlessly impartial on Brexit while writing for the Daily Mail and chairing the Spectator, two places where the bitter Brexit Kool-Aid is still drunk with fervour. Neil, who has a Twitter following of 1.2 million, chose to reply to an account with 800 followers that had dared to claim “We’d be in a much better state if Brexit hadn’t smashed our GDP by 5% a year since the vote to leave EU”. Neil sneered: “Spot on, old bean. Very perspicacious. I mean, just look at how the German economy is racing ahead. Oh wait…”

Had the poor unfortunate that Neil was patronising just made up that 5% figure, then? Oh wait… no. In fact, it was part of another piece of damning economic news for Brexit Britain this week, a calculation by the Wall St investment bank Goldman Sachs which showed that we have “significantly underperformed” other countries with advanced economies since the 2016 vote. But never mind that either when we can talk about Germany’s woes!

So let’s do so. Unlike Britain, Germany is not currently in a recession, but it’s been in one recently and is likely to descend into one again soon. It has deep-seated economic issues which go far beyond the impact of Covid and Ukraine; some resulting from transforming the motor industry which helped make it an economic powerhouse, some as a result of it pulling away from Russian gas. Its overall GDP was worse than Britain’s last year. Its plan to use unspent Covid funds to clear debt has been ruled out by a court. Even though Japan’s slip into recession has just elevated it to the status of the world’s third-largest economy, Germany is in trouble.

But then so is Britain. And while Germany at least acknowledges why it is underperforming, Britain denies that it is underperforming at all, never mind that Brexit might just be one of many reasons why. Meanwhile, it continues to be the smug neighbour who scoffs at the ageing Volkswagen in next door’s garage before climbing behind the wheel of his own battered, rusting Mini and setting the satnav for the sunlit uplands.

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