Within days, a 16-page taxpayer-funded pamphlet on why Britain should remain in the EU will begin dropping on doormats across England. Here, Political Editor JAMES SLACK examines the Government’s claims and the response of the Out campaign.
CLAIM #1: More than three million jobs in Britain are linked to exports to the European Union.
RESPONSE: The claim is more than 15 years old – having begun life in a South Bank University paper in 2000. In any event, there are five million jobs in other EU countries which are dependent on trade with the UK, such as the sale of wine, clothes and cheese. This means other member states would have far more to lose by not agreeing a trade deal with a post-Brexit UK.
CLAIM #2: The EU is by far the UK’s biggest trading partner. EU countries buy 44 per cent of everything we sell abroad, from cars to insurance.
RESPONSE: The EU’s importance to the UK economy is declining sharply – in 2006 the EU accounted for 62 per cent of British exports. Last year, Britain bought far more goods from EU countries than they bought from us – with the gap at an all-time high of £89 billion. Again, it is the other EU countries with most to lose.
CLAIM #3: If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound – which would risk higher prices of some household goods and damage living standards.
RESPONSE: There is no agreement among economists, businessmen or politicians on the impact of Brexit. For instance, a study published by the Institute of Economic Affairs – and cited by the Office for Budget Responsibility – argues that leaving the EU could actually increase UK GDP by 13 per cent.
CLAIM #4: EU membership gives UK citizens travelling in other European countries the right to access free or cheaper public healthcare. There are no guarantees we would keep these benefits if we left.
RESPONSE: Both Switzerland and Norway use the EHIC insurance scheme – which currently provides healthcare to Britons abroad – and they are not members of the EU. In any event, Britain pays the bill and could continue to do so. Since 2007, the UK has paid out £5.8 billion more to other member states for the treatment of British citizens abroad than has been recouped for the cost of treating their citizens here.
CLAIM #5: Cooperation with the European Union makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK.
RESPONSE: Frontex, the EU’s own border agency, has admitted that mass immigration is allowing terrorists to slip into the EU – including two of those behind the devastating attacks in Paris. Meanwhile Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has said Britain would be safer outside the EU as it would make it easier to deport fanatics.
CLAIM #6: Some argue that leaving the EU would give us more freedom to limit immigration. But in return for the economic benefits that come with access to the EU’s single market, countries not in the EU – such as Norway – have had to accept the right of all EU citizens to live and work in their country.
RESPONSE: EU immigration is increasing the UK’s population by 180,000 every year. Vote Leave point out that the EU has free trade deals in force (which do not entail membership of a customs union or limitless immigration) with at least 17 countries. These include: Colombia, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, Chile, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.
CLAIM #7: The Government has negotiated a deal that will make our benefits system less of a draw for EU citizens.
RESPONSE: David Cameron got a far weaker deal than he originally wanted or his manifesto promised. His changes to benefit rules will come into force in 2017 at the earliest and will be almost entirely counteracted by the new Living Wage. Weekly take-home pay would continue to be 156 per cent higher than in Poland and 353 per cent higher than in Bulgaria, according to research by Vote Leave.
CLAIM #8: Voting to leave the EU would create years of uncertainty and potential economic disruption. This would reduce investment and cost jobs.
RESPONSE: The head of the Remain campaign, Lord Rose of Monewden, has said: ‘Nothing is going to happen if we come out of Europe in the first five years. There will be absolutely no change … It’s not going to be a step change or somebody’s going to turn the lights out and we’re all suddenly going to find that we can’t go to France. It’s going to be a gentle process’.
CLAIM #9: The UK has secured a special status in the EU. The UK has kept the pound, will not join the euro and has kept control of its borders.
RESPONSE: French president Francois Hollande has dismissed the idea the UK’s status is special. Cabinet minister Chris Grayling has warned that, as the rest of the EU moves towards full political union, Britain will be left voiceless, isolated and subject to ever more harmful meddling by a ‘giant federation of eurozone’ states.
CLAIM #10: For every £1 paid in tax, a little over 1p goes to the EU. The Government judges that what the UK gets back in terms of opportunities, job creation and economic security from EU membership far outweighs the cost.
RESPONSE: HMRC collected £515 billion in taxes in 2014-15. According to Full Fact, in 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was £4.5 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was estimated at about £8.5 billion. This is money which could be better spent at home on the NHS and other public services.
CLAIM #11: Being inside the EU also makes it more attractive for companies to invest in the UK, meaning more jobs. Over the last decade, foreign companies have invested £540 billion in the UK, equivalent to £148 million every day.
RESPONSE: Vote Leave say this is extremely misleading. The Government counts every single pound invested into the UK over the last decade, such as money from Australia. There is no way of knowing if this was related to EU membership or not.
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