LONDON – England – In response to a Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) referendum campaign broadcast today containing blatant falsehoods and misleading disinformation we reveal the facts behind the lies.
Responding to the publication of Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE)’s first referendum campaign broadcast, Vote Leave Chief Executive Matthew Elliott said:
‘Pro-EU campaigners are repeating the same myths they told us when they declared it would be a disaster if we didn’t join the euro. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.
‘It’s amazing to see the BSE campaign claiming to have a positive message having spent the last 8 months doing down the British economy and our position in the world. On 23 June the safe option is to Vote Leave and take back control of the £350 million we hand Brussels every week.’
BSE False Claims Debunked
‘Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our trade with the EU.’
The figure was invented by pro-euro campaigners. In 2000, Britain in Europe, the campaign to scrap the pound, claimed that 3 million jobs were ‘facing the axe’ if the UK left the EU.
The academic whose work they traduced, Dr Martin Weale, dismissed the claim as ‘pure Goebbels. In many years of academic research, I cannot recall such a wilful distortion of the facts’.
Even the Treasury (whose forecasts are extremely pessimistic) refuses to endorse the claim, saying the true figure is a sixth of this total. The Executive Director of the Prime Minister’s campaign, Will Straw, has admitted: ‘We have not and have never claimed that 3 million jobs would be lost if we left the EU‘.
It has been estimated that, if we Vote Leave, and strike free trade deals with all the countries that the EU has failed to secure FTAs with, it could create 300,000 British jobs.
‘Over 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU.’
This amounts to just 3.7% of the UK’s 5.39 million businesses.
Despite the fact that only a small proportion of UK businesses trade with the EU, every business has to comply with EU law, which costs UK businesses £600 million per week.
This BSE figure is deceptive since it includes not just businesses which export, but also those which import. Since no rational Government would make it more difficult for British businesses to import goods after we Vote Leave, the figure is a significant overestimate.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has accepted trade would continue, meaning jobs would not be put at risk: ‘If we were outside the EU altogether, we’d still be trading with all these European countries, of course we would … There’s a lot of scaremongering on all sides of this debate. Of course the trading would go on’.
When asked whether he agreed with the Prime Minister, the Executive Director of the IN campaign, Will Straw, said he did so ‘absolutely‘.
‘Companies from around the world set up factories and offices here so they can do business throughout Europe, meaning more opportunities’.
Not even the Head of the IN campaign, Lord Rose, has said he doesn’t believe this claim ‘for a moment’ and that it is ‘all a red herring and it is just scaremongering’. He said just last year that: ‘The reason that people want to come to this country is because we have a flexible workforce, because we have stability, because we’ve got a growing economy, because we’ve got strong IPR, because this is a place to do business. I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that everybody is going to suddenly go offshore, I don’t believe that for one moment … so I think this is all a red herring and it is just scaremongering.
‘The UK gets £66 million of investment a day from EU countries.’
These figures are wrong. In 2014, net Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows into the UK from the EU were £5,268 million or £14.4 million per day.
BSE wrongly suggests companies only invest because of EU membership, implying it would fall if we left the EU. Similar claims of a fall in FDI were made if the UK did not join the euro or even held a referendum on the EU. In fact, ‘FDI liabilities grew from £481.1 billion to £588.9 billion from the EU’ between 2011 and 2014, during a period in which overall FDI into the UK rose. This shows that FDI continued to grow in the two years following David Cameron’s January 2013 Bloomberg Speech, suggesting the prospect of leaving the EU has had no effect on investment.
‘And when you’re at work, your rights are secured by EU legislation: paid holiday and sick leave, equal rights, maternity and paternity leave, all protected by EU law.’
The UK had legislation on paid holidays before it joined. Its current legislation is more generous than EU law. The UK had legislation on paid holidays before we joined the EU. The Holidays with Pay Act was passed in July 1938, creating a right to paid holidays. The UK has also been more generous than EU law, with 5.6 weeks entitlement each year, rather than the four contained in EU law.
Maternity pay is more generous under UK law. Statutory maternity pay lasts for 39 weeks under UK law Statutory Maternity Pay. This is much more generous than EU law, which provides for a period of 14 weeks. UK legislation also gives women the right to receive 90% of their salary during the first six weeks of leave. EU law only requires that the rate of pay be equivalent to statutory sick pay in this period. This is £88.45 per week.
UK law on parental leave is more generous than EU law. The same is true of parental leave. UK maternity leave may be taken for up to 52 weeks. EU law only requires a period of four months. There is no need to accept the supremacy of EU law to protect workers’ rights.
The UK had legislation against discrimination long before the EU did. The UK passed the legislation against race discrimination, the Race Relations Act 1965 and the Race Relations Act 1968, before we joined the EU. As High Court Judge Sir Rabinder Singh has said: ‘The Race Relations Act 1976 [which consolidated the 1960s legislation] was perhaps one of the strongest pieces of legislation of its kind in the world and certainly in Europe. It long predated legislation against racial discrimination in EU law‘.
‘Being in Europe also means families enjoy lower prices in our shops and supermarkets. This saves an average household £350 a year – so as Sam grows older, he’ll have more money to put aside’.
The independent House of Commons Library has concluded that EU membership actually increases the costs of consumer goods, stating that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy ‘artificially inflates food prices’ and that ‘consumer prices across a range of other goods imported from outside the EU are raised as a result of the common external tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade imposed by the EU. These include footwear (a 17% tariff), bicycles (15% tariff) and a range of clothing (12% tariff)’.
The EU also requires us to charge household energy bills to value added tax of 5%, increasing the cost of living for low income families.
The European Court has increased the cost of insurance. In March 2011, the European Court ruled that the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights meant that women could not be charged lower premiums than men, increasing the cost of car and life insurance.
‘Remaining in Europe will keep our economy stronger – so we can invest more in vital services like schools and the NHS’
Being in the EU means that we have to pay an annual gross contribution of £19.107bn to the EU. That’s over £350m every week. That means that there are less funds available for our NHS and schools.
In 2014, the NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said the NHS would need an additional £8 billion real terms increase in spending by 2020 to keep even. This is less than the net contributions that the UK is forecast to make to the EU over the same period.
‘It’s a leap in the dark’.
Not even the Head of the IN campaign, Lord Rose, can bring himself to agree with this. He has said ‘it’s not going to be a step change or somebody’s going to turn the lights out‘.
‘[it] would leave UK families £4,300 worse off’.
The Government calculated the £4,300 figure by dividing a putative lesser increase in GDP of 6.2% by the current number of households. This is extremely disingenuous, as official statistics show that the number of households in 2030 is projected to grow to 31.213 million. This is up from 26.994 in 2015, an increase of 4.219 million.
The report does not quantify any potential savings of not having to apply EU regulation in the UK, but instead claims regulation would increase if we Vote Leave.
The report asserts that: ‘under any of the alternatives, the potential gains from additional flexibility on leaving the EU are likely to be significantly constrained, including because of domestic priorities and international obligations. These would be future government decisions. In any case, any potential gains from reduced EU regulatory burdens in specific areas would be significantly outweighed by the losses from the increased regulatory barriers and divergence from no longer being a member of the Single Market. Consistent with this assessment and the approach throughout this analysis, the modelling does not prejudge these decisions and no further assumptions on regulation are made over and above the increase in regulatory barriers that would emerge over time, as captured in the modelling of the effects of the alternative arrangements on trade and FDI’.
In 2005, HM Treasury admitted that: ‘although Europe’s founders aimed to remove barriers and reap the benefits of expanded markets internally, they also sought protection and special treatment for particular aspects of their economies such as agriculture. This has brought costs: expensive subsidies still remain in some sectors and it is estimated that barriers to external trade and investment – such as tariffs, quotas and unjustifiably restrictive standards – could cost Europe’s consumers up to 7 per cent of EU GDP‘.
This is the equivalent of £125.2 billion per year in today’s prices, or £4,638 per household.
This is likely an underestimate, as the burden of EU regulation has increased. Open Europe‘s regular analysis of the cost of just the 100 most burdensome EU laws found in 2013 that the cost to the UK economy was £27.5 billion, but just a few months later had to uprate this to £33.3 billion.