Miliband, Mugabe & moolah: Insults & project fear drive Brexit debate

Former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband (L) and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. © Reuters
Clearly unable to sit on the sidelines gazing across the Atlantic from the comfort of his New York office any longer, former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband has waded into the Brexit debate with an apocalyptic warning.

In one of the strongest interventions yet for a senior political figure, writing in the Guardian newspaper, he says Britain leaving the EU risks the "destruction" of the international order.

Miliband, now head of the International Rescue Committee in the Big Apple, warned against what he calls an “act of political arson.”

“If the world is increasingly divided between firefighters and arsonists, then Britain has for centuries been a firefighter. This is no time for Britain to join the ranks of arsonists and there should be no doubt that Brexit would be an act of arson on the international order.”

He also said “no nation in human peacetime history has voluntarily given up as much political power as we are being invited to throw away on June 23.”

Is this Zimbabwe?

Not wanting to be outdone by the hysterical rhetoric, the Euroskeptics, have piled in. Some are still smarting over the use of over £9 million (US$12.8 million) of government money to produce a leaflet campaign to convince Britain to stay in the bloc.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of “spiv Robert Mugabe” tactics. Even worse, it was an MP from Cameron’s own party that did it according to the Daily Mail, in the form of former Tory vice-chairman Nigel Evans. No response as yet from Zimbabwe’s leader.

The fear takes hold

So far the Brexit debate has been all about what might happen in the future for better or for worse; but there are signs an effect is already being felt.

The Financial Times reports that City managers are obsessed with little else and are holding back on hiring and investing. City recruiter Morgan McKinley reports the number of jobs being offered has fallen by more than 20 percent. This they say is in no small part because of fears of what comes next if Britain does vote for a Brexit.

IMF warns of severe damage…maybe.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) isn’t really helping people make up their mind at this point. It’s cutting its forecast for British growth from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent and says a Brexit would cause “severe regional and global damage.” It then says demand at home, low energy prices and relentlessly rising property prices are likely to offset the impact.

Polls for thought

Still can’t decide where your vote is going? If the spokespeople on all sides of project fear are to be believed, imminent disaster lurks around every corner.

The latest poll at least, released by ICM on Tuesday, says the "leave" campaign now has a three point lead over the "remain" camp, standing at 45 percent.

Ahead of the June 23rd vote at this stage only one thing is certain.  Tomorrow another poll will say something completely different.