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Boris’s bluster – on, and on…

by Jack Schickler | 11.05.2016

Another day, another crop of Boris bluster. Fresh from his ten tendentious statements on Monday, Johnson was back in fighting form on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, charging unabashed through the protestations and facts offered by presenter John Humphrys. Here are some of the more egregious statements in Johnson’s 17-minute slot.  

“The growth of intra-EU trade … slowed down in the 20 years after the foundation of the single market”

Taken literally, Boris is saying that EU trade is growing, but that the rate of growth is slowing. This is a bit like saying that your football team is winning, but the goal difference is not quite what it used to be. Boris might pause to consider that, among the 15 countries who were EU members in 1995, trade in goods more than doubled in the 20 years to 2014 (€1 trillion to €2.13 trillion).

The EU is responsible for “£600 million worth of extra regulation per week for UK businesses”

Boris is counting the cost of the regulation but not the benefit. This is a bit like counting the cost of a Cornish pasty but not the pleasure of eating it. Alongside the £600 million expense that Boris cites, these regulations generate benefits such as cleaner air, sounder banks, and so on. Boris’s number comes from a study that also valued regulation’s benefits at £1.1 billion. Because benefits outweigh costs, the UK would maintain most of these rules after a Brexit. We seem unlikely, for example, to slash the climate change or banking protections which we have actively pushed for.

“The United States of America have access” to the single market

The US does have access, but the terms aren’t great. US motor vehicles sold to the EU face an average tariff of 8%; for processed foods it is 14.6%.  American exporters also face non-tariff barriers, such as regulatory restrictions, estimated to be equivalent to a tariff of 21.5% for goods and 8.5% for services. Unlike their counterparts in Britain, US-based banks do not have a passport to operate across the EU single market.

“Measures to prop up the euro … will embroil us further in fiscal harmonisation”

Measures to strengthen the euro zone in areas such as fiscal policy won’t apply to the UK. The EU has agreed, as part of David Cameron’s renegotiation, that the UK will not be involved in euro zone bailouts.

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    Uncontrolled EU immigration means “we cannot .. recruit to the NHS… the people who might want to work in the system”

    9% of NHS doctors are from other EU countries. If we wanted, we could choose to hire more, either from the EU or from non-EU countries.

    Migration imposes “huge unfunded pressures on the NHS and on other public services”

    Informed by Today programme presenter John Humphreys that 85% of EU nationals in the UK are economically active, contributing a net £22bn to the Exchequer, Johnson said that he didn’t know where the figures came from. We can enlighten him – they come from Eurostat and University College London. We set out these figures yesterday.  

    After putting his foot in it six times, Johnson set off around the West Country, brandishing an EU-protected Cornish pasty from his German-made tour bus, on which is painted the claim that the UK sends £350 million a week to Brussels. Asked if he was happy with the use of a figure that has been specifically criticised by the UK statistics authority, Johnson said he was “totally delirious”. We assume he means ecstatic, not feverish, confused or delusional.

    Vote Leave did not respond to InFacts’ request for comment. 

    Edited by Sebastian Mallaby

    8 Responses to “Boris’s bluster – on, and on…”

    • I used to think Boris was a clever man playing the buffoon. Now I realise he’s just a buffoon playing at being clever.

    • I’m sick and tired of Boris’ total misrepresentation of the facts. Try as I might, I don’t seem able to persuade some friends and others to listen to the truth. How do we get the messages across to the person in the street? Perhaps a few clever and comic videos that might go viral on YouTube?

    • Why would you make a big point of mentioning Boris was travelling in German made bus? You take what’s available. I would think he hired it, not bought it. I’m sure it was from a British hire company.
      On migration of workers. It’s interesting that since 2004, 990,000 is the official figure for EU nationals working here, yet 2,231,000+ NI numbers have been issued.

      Assuming that by contributing to the ecomomy” you are referring to the tax that is paid by EU nationals working here. How does it affect the economy when half the money some earn from British employment is sent to their native countries? I know this is accurate because I work with several Romanians and Poles. They house share to keep living expenses down and send the spare money back home to give their families a better life. Ie
      British average wage around £2500 per month. Romanian average wage less than £400. They are easily doubling their potential wage with the money they can send home; and doesn’t it affect our economy if they earn British money and spend it in another economy?

      • Phil: after brexit, because UK will still need hundreds of thousands of migrants to fill job vacancies (as not enough UK citizens around to fill those), the money the immigrants will earn in UK will be even much more likely to be sent home as the immigrants will know for sure that they will be never be able to settle in UK.
        As for numbers of NI: this dies not take into account how many people left the UK. My brother (a former NHS Consultant) as well as his wife both had NI numbers however they never claimed and do not claim any benefits in and from UK. They are both now living and working in Italy already for 3 years (yet still have their NIs but totally inactive). I am also a (actual) NHS Consultant doctor and I have a NI (but claim 0 – zero – benefits, being also a single), and soon enough I will be going back to work in Italy (regardless of brexit, but brexit will be an accelerating factor for me), but still I will have my NI number but also it will become inactive, all of us in the family have the Italian correspondent of the NI (the Italian fiscal code number which we having since about 25 years ago). Therefore the number of NIs issued does not tell that much on the actual number of migrants in UK.

      • We have to make a point of the German battle bus because we do not make buses in the UK and nor would we if we left the EU. Besides we have to distinguish BoJo’s campaigning methods from those of Adolf.

        Not least I assume the Cornish Pasty is being brandished as it is under threat from some alleged new directive banning Cornish Pasties introduced to foil the Pasty tax which tripped up George Osborne so famously in his omnishambles budget. Remember when BoJo was the Telegraph’s EU Correspondent? Blowing up the Berlaymont because of Asbestos? Or the plan by Jacques Delors to take control of the whole of Europe?

    • From my work as a NHS Consultant I can tell that the number of EU immigrants using the NHS is not greater than 3% (likely less than that), but overall the immigrants (EU and non EU ones) will account for not more than 10%. The net contribution immigrants provide to the UK (EU and non EU ones) are enough to build a new hospital and staff it every year (but their money are taken away for deficit reduction purposes, something that will happen also in case with the “saved” EU budget, which account for about a mere 1% of the total UK budget).
      One point I disagree with “INFACTS” is the concept that UK will seem unlikely to slash ambitions on climate changes and banking protections. Well, after brexit THIS WILL HAPPEN. According to prof Minford, EU regulations on workers rights and climate changes are a burden which need to scrapped to focus on the service sector (plus abandoning the manufacture sector to its demise as he stated in March and basically re-stated yesterday from…Germany!!). A post brexit UK will be much less regulated in terms of workers rights, climate change, service sector (including – obviously – banks) in the name of competitiveness. Also according to Heargraves (the billionaire) uncertainty is good (I suppose for him) as there will be lots of opportunities (I imagine for hedge funds people and speculators but not at all for the ordinary people). One has to ask himself from the ordinary people point of view: how uncertainty can be good for them (the ordinary people)? Therefore this means also that banking regulations and protections will (need to) be removed in the name – again – of post brexit competitiveness. Strange that the Leave campaign tells that they are for the protection of the low skilled workers undercut by migration (prof Minford tells that for him the manufacture industry is finished in UK, in substance), for the democracy (deregulate everything and all of it, scrap the European Human Rights Charter, to be replaced…with what? Something rewritten on the advices from Minford, Banks, Heargraves, Farage?), for sovereignity (yeah!! Tell the Chinese, US and others that they will have to abide totally to the UK rules!!), for free trade with the rest of the world (scrap internal tariffs…UK will be unprotected from what other countries/bloc of countries will do).

    • “The growth of intra-EU trade … slowed down in the 20 years after the foundation of the single market”
      Not dissimilar to the remain claim that we would be £4300 per year worse off. It uses the same principles. The economy would continue to grow, but not at the rate as if we stayed in and the difference is £4300 per year less than if we stayed in. Both sides wrong in their workings out.

      The EU is responsible for “£600 million worth of extra regulation per week for UK businesses”
      Sounder banks – ROFLMFAO who on earth dreamed that one up. Red tape costs – period, having been a small business owner – I know!

      “The United States of America have access” to the single market
      The tariffs are immaterial, the statement is correct, which you acknowledge.

      “Measures to prop up the euro … will embroil us further in fiscal harmonisation”
      We have a net contribution of £9 – £10 billion per year to the EU coffers and we have no say in how that is spent. If they want to use it to prop up the Euro, we can do nowt about it. We may not make a direct contribution to any bail outs, but they will find other ways of “fining” us for performing too well or other such reason. This money could, conceivably, find it’s way into the bail out structure.

      Uncontrolled EU immigration means “we cannot .. recruit to the NHS… the people who might want to work in the system”

      9% of NHS doctors are from the EU. Wouldn’t disagree with that, but how long have they been here and it totally misses the point. Just suppose that we are short on doctors and none from the EU wish to work here. Because of the measures placed against immigrants from other countries, we are restricted from employing them. So we discriminate against those from India, Africa, Australia and every other country NOT in the EU. This is what the statement refers to!

      Migration imposes “huge unfunded pressures on the NHS and on other public services”
      You need to get uptodate with your figures. John Humphries is wrong and so is Eurostat and University College London. They are working on out of date figures. European immigrants to Britain cost the taxpayer £3 million a day last year, according to a new analysis. Source; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/16/immigration-from-europe-cost-the-british-taxpayer-3m-a-day-last/

      It is also a fact that immigration is indeed causing serious pressures on the NHS, schools, jobs etc. albeit in certain defined areas of high immigrant populations.