Another day, another warning about the economic bombshell which would follow Brexit. This time it’s the turn of the IMF. In a press conference at the Treasury, Christine Lagarde spoke of the outcome of a vote to leave the EU ranging from ‘bad to very bad’. Whilst the IMF’s report said:
‘A vote to leave the EU would create uncertainty about the nature of the UK’s long-term economic relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. A vote for exit would precipitate a protracted period of heightened uncertainty, leading to financial market volatility and a hit to output.’
George Osborne was clearly grateful for the support of the IMF in the severity of their warning against Brexit. The Chancellor went on to echo Lagarde’s comments, talking of sharp drops in house prices and slating the leave campaign’s suggestion that Brexit would mean more cash for public services in Britain. Taken on its own, the IMF’s warning is unlikely to filter through to many voters. It’ll also provoke the usual fury amongst leave campaigners that another outpost of ‘Project Fear’ has popped up. Lord Lamont, for one, criticised the ‘daily avalanche’ of ‘propaganda’ surrounding the EU referendum.
So why was Osborne looking so pleased with himself? It’s because he knows that the IMF’s remarks – coming just a day after Mark Carney and the Bank of England warned against Brexit – form part of a broader narrative that will have an effect on undecided voters. The reasoning goes that the pattern of warnings about Brexit will eventually settle in and hover through voters’ minds when they’re alone in the polling station on June 23rd. Yes, there are arguments against what the IMF had to say, and Osborne himself has been no stranger to criticising the IMF in the past. But so long as the drip-drip of Project Fear continues to trickle down, leave have their work cut out if they want to win this referendum.