The term "Project Fear" has been used in British politics, during and after the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership by Brexiteers campaigning to leave the European Union. It puts forward claims that the economic and socio-political dangers of leaving the E.U. are just scaremongering and pessimism employed by those in favour of remaining in the EU. The phrase was coined by Rob Shorthouse, who was the "Better Together" campaign's director of communications during the Scottish independence referendum, and was later used by 'remain' supporters in the buildup to the "Britain Stronger In Europe" campaign during the EU membership referendum campaign.
As a phrase relating to the Better Together campaign, “Project Fear” first appeared in Glasgow’s Herald newspaper in 2013. According to a report in the same newspaper last year, a volunteer at the campaign’s Glasgow headquarters had coined it “as an ironic suggestion for Yes Scotland – a handy name it could use in its constant complaints about Better Together’s alleged Unionist scaremongering”. In others words, it was a way of referring to its own campaign as characterised by its opponents – “a joke phrase”
The former Mayor of London and key figurehead of the Leave campaign Boris Johnson, re-introduced the term. He put forward claims that the pro-EU campaign in the 2016 EU referendum was guilty of scaremongering, saying that "the agents of Project Fear" were trying to "spook" the British public into voting against British withdrawal from the EU.
The phrase was also used by those who were in favour of Britain remaining within the European Union, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that "The EU referendum is about our future relationship with Europe, not who is the next leader of the Tory Party ... the Labour leadership will not go anywhere near the Tories' 'project fear' campaign on both sides of the debate. But instead we will continue to set out the positive case to 'Remain and Reform' the EU to create 'Another Europe' ... Another Europe is not just possible but urgently and vitally needed, which is why we must reject the offer of a Tory Brexit.".
Alistair Darling says that "Project Fear? In fact, it is a reality check. The kind anyone would take before making such an enormous decision in their lives. David Cameron, who resigned as Prime Minister after the E.U. verdict, rejected any allegations of fear-mongering, saying that "The only project I'm interested in is Project Fact. Project Fact is about saying: 'Stay in and you know what you'll get.'" Others, such as the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, have also pointed out that the Leave side were in fact scaremongering with false claims of imminent Turkish accession to the EU. When Iain Duncan Smith claimed if we stay in the EU terrorists would find it easier to get into the UK, the hypocrisy is clear ." What is preying on people's fears of terrorists attacks if we remain in the E.U. if it is not scaremongering.
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