Daniel (Lord) Hannan found himself ridiculed on social media recently, after video footage emerged of him before the referendum describing in fantastic terms what the country would be like in 2025 if Britain voted for Brexit. His vision, a mere nine years on from the vote, appeared to be a mixture of Shangri-La and Eldorado. If you haven’t seen the clip, more on it below.
He also writes a regular column for The Washington Examiner, a right-wing website and weekly magazine (motto: ‘Restoring America’, although God help them if they’re relying on him to do it) where he demonstrates that his recollection of the past is no more reliable than his predictions of the future. They are both fantasy worlds to Lord Hannan of Kingsclere.
Hannan steps in to the row over the Northern Ireland protocol
In his latest TWE article on 22 November, Hannan steps in to the simmering row over the Northern Ireland protocol with a piece that defends Boris Johnson and heaps all the blame onto Brussels: A vengeful EU is forcing a crisis in Northern Ireland.
His portrayal of the EU27 taking advantage and extracting ‘vengeance’ from a weakened UK sits rather uneasily with Lord Frost talking up Britain as a global superpower confidently striding the world and looking Europe in the eye as a sovereign equal.
His intervention comes as relations with the US continue to deteriorate, with many blaming the UK government’s cavalier attitude to threats of triggering article 16. Joe Biden believes such a move could put at risk the Good Friday Agreement the Americans helped to broker. The Financial Times has claimed his administration is refusing to lift tariffs on UK steel exports following pressure from congress.
Hannan admits there is a “smidgen of truth” in suggesting Johnson and Brexit are at fault, but he says it ignores the role of Brussels which is “quite calculatedly” jeopardising stability in Northern Ireland “so as to punish Britain for Brexit”.
It all seems like an effort to counter Ireland’s highly effective diplomatic offensive on Capitol Hill.
According to Hannan, the EU is to blame for the Northern Ireland crisis
After the Brexit vote in 2016, Hannan claims the EU wouldn’t discuss a trade deal with the UK “unless London promised that goods in Northern Ireland would match EU standards”. This was in fact the solution jointly agreed between Johnson and Taoiseach Varadkar, as the only way of avoiding a hard land border when all other ideas had failed.
Hannan still believes some sort of “mutual recognition would make that issue redundant” and draws an analogy with Canada and the USA. They too share a border which would, I assume, be made much easier to manage with one of Hannan’s proposed mutual recognition agreements (MRAs), but they don’t have one.
Canada has MRAs on conformity assessment in some sectors with the EU, EFTA, Switzerland, Australia and the UK, but not the USA. And they only recognise certifying bodies in each other’s territories. It does not mean the EU recognises Canadian standards or vice versa, and wouldn’t reduce all border checks in any case.
Following the 2016 vote, Hannan said Britain and Ireland “began to work on technical solutions that would render the border invisible” – does anyone remember those talks? I don’t. But in 2017, after a general election in Britain returned an anti-Brexit majority, MPs then apparently “encouraged Brussels to offer terms so harsh that Britain might drop the whole idea of Brexit”.
And, according to Hannan, “in the most shocking abuse of parliamentary procedure since the 17th century, these MPs paralyzed the government while simultaneously refusing to allow a general election”. Johnson had to agree to the EU’s demands in the end in order to break the deadlock while, as Lord Frost put it, “the UK’s negotiating hand was tied”. Some might refer to it as democracy at work.
The recently ennobled peer adds, “Now Johnson has a majority, and he could tear the [Withdrawal Agreement] up. Yet, contrary to the impression given in most media, he has no intention of doing so”. This is the ‘impression’ given in most media, because Frost very publicly threatens to do so every week, as he did last Friday after a virtual meeting with EU Vice President Šefčovič.
Without a trace of irony, Hannan says, “I have been in politics long enough to know when a story has passed the point of correction. The idea of a populist and irresponsible Johnson versus a dull and bureaucratic EU is impossible to remove from one’s head, but facts are facts”.
Yes, facts are facts. What a pity he employs so few of them in his articles.
Looking into the future from back in 2016
In May 2016, a few weeks before the referendum, Hannan’s video appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. You can see him below, apparently speaking in 2025 from his own fantasy world:
He also wrote an article on 21 June, two days before the polls opened, in a similar vein for Reaction Life, a website founded by Iain Martin, the Brexiter columnist who later admitted the question he most feared was: what EU rules are we going to scrap after Brexit? He had no idea (and still hasn’t).
You will get the tone of Hannan’s article from his opening paragraph:
“It’s 24 June, 2025, and Britain is marking its annual Independence Day celebration. As the fireworks stream through the summer sky, still not quite dark, we wonder why it took us so long to leave. The years that followed the 2016 referendum didn’t just reinvigorate our economy, our democracy and our liberty. They improved relations with our neighbours. The United Kingdom is now the region’s foremost knowledge-based economy. We lead the world in biotech, law, education, the audio-visual sector, financial services and software. New industries, from 3D printing to driverless cars, have sprung up around the country. Older industries, too, have revived as energy prices have fallen back to global levels: steel, cement, paper, plastics and ceramics producers have become competitive again.”Daniel Hannan, Reaction Life, 21 June 2016
It’s hard to know which is more ludicrous. A firework display in broad daylight, a reinvigorated economy, improved relations with our neighbours, Britain leading the world in 3D printing and driverless cars which just ‘sprung up’ out of nowhere? Or that UK energy-intensive industries have become competitive again due to lower energy costs. Some businesses have already had to shut down due to gas and electricity prices being triple the government’s forecast.
He didn’t foresee any of the downsides (not one) that we are currently experiencing, and he certainly didn’t predict the Irish border issue.
In Hannan’s version of the future, every sector of the British economy suddenly started to boom the minute we left the EU and by 2025 the UK had undergone a sort of modern day Wirtschaftswunder where we were all knee deep in money, dripping with newfound prosperity and leering across the Channel. It once again shows how many Brexiters genuinely believed Britain was bogged down with unnecessary, yet unidentified, EU red tape that could be slashed immediately.
In contrast to this magical overnight transformation, another Brexit supporter, Ryan Bourne chair in public understanding of economics at the Cato Institute, writes on Conservative Home that it will take “decades” to determine if Brexit was a success or not.
Of course, Hannan may yet be proved right, but with three years to go it looks highly optimistic, to say the least. It seems more likely that people in 2025 will be worrying where their next meal is coming from.
Hannan was born Eurosceptic
Daniel Hannan seems to have been born Eurosceptic. He founded the Oxford Campaign for an Independent Britain in 1990 as a 19-year-old undergraduate and was the first director of the fledgling ERG (yes that one) in 1993. Unlike Ryan Bourne at the Cato Institute, he clearly wasn’t prepared to wait decades to see if being a member of the EU would bring success. He started to agitate for Brexit just 17 years after we joined, before the word was even invented.
When Britain became a member of the EEC on 1 January 1973 Hannan was barely a year old and living on his parent’s farm near Lima, Peru. He can have no idea what life in ‘global Britain’ was like at the time. He appears to never have done any gainful work at all. Becoming an MEP in 1999 aged 28, he hasn’t taken his hand out of the public purse since.
At the moment he is an adviser on trade to the Department for International Trade, but appears to have no experience or basic understanding of trade or commerce of any kind.
You would have thought a long period of silence would be appropriate from someone who once said Covid-19 “isn’t going to kill you, it really isn’t”. But that is not how Lord Hannan works. In fact, the more wrong he is, the more he is spurred on to new depths of error.
He is to forecasting what William McGonagall was to poetry.