Would a “hard Brexit” be the disaster much of the financial media makes it out to be?

It depends on what the alternative is, and what time frame you’re considering.  Long term, the disaster would be if Brexit didn’t happen.  This includes the deal on the table now that has been negotiated with the EU.  It’s a Brexit in name only, leaving Britain nominally sovereign yet a subject of a foreign government.  Investor’s Business Daily explains this accordingly:

Brexit Vote Disaster: No Matter What Happens Politically, Britain Must Leave The EU

So if the alternative is to remain, whether explicitly or via a “soft Brexit” deal, Britain’s national sovereignty is gone.  Central governments are not known to peacefully diminish in power.  In the example of the United States, the federal government, originally a union of states, has grown in power far beyond the original vision of its founding.  The central government of the EU would be no different; there are already calls to augment the “monetary union” with a “fiscal union”.  Unless vigorously resisted, as Brussels grows ever more powerful and intrusive, the once sovereign states that make up its membership would ultimately be no more sovereign than the states of America.  The lives of British citizens would be ever more dictated by a socialist continental bureaucracy of political and financial elites.  The fight for total European domination by a central government that was lost in the first half of the twentieth century would be complete in the first half of the twenty-first.  The center of the remain contingent in the UK is already the political and financial elite, and it is in their interest to paint a complete Brexit as an economic disaster to scare up as much political support for its agenda as it can.

Does that mean that a hard Brexit would be painless?  Was America’s own struggle for independence painless?  Of course not.  There was an all-out shooting war.  The war Britain is now fighting for its independence would be benign in comparison.  There would be substantial financial and economic disruption, but blood need not be spilled.

Even this would be only a temporary disruption on the road to something better.  It’s a truism that the government that is closest to the people governs best.  Certainly the case that the British could be better ruled from a remote capital than one on its own soil has not been made.  There would be nothing standing in the way of new trade arrangements with the United States and other countries, and ultimately it would be in the interests of all concerned for Britain to have a healthy trading relationship with the EU.  Britain was originally drawn into the European common market by the promise of free trade among its members; the problem is that the EU, as we observed above, has mutated far beyond that:

The Bear’s Lair: Getting to Brexit in a naughty world

The path to get there may be obscure, but only via a clean break would the parties see an incentive to honor the original intent.  Should the UK succeed in its bid for independence, its markets would likely be hit hard initially but with great potential to rise in the following years as the dust settles and a newly free and re-energized Britain emerges.