In's Sins

8 traps Remain camp must avoid in final 50 days

by Luke Lythgoe | 04.05.2016

The Remain camp has stuck closer to the facts over the course of the referendum campaign than the Leave camp. Witness the 50 myths propagated by outers that we’ve busted. But we’ve also identified 8 dubious arguments used by those who want us to stay in the EU.

1. Don’t preach “EU makes British households £3,000 better off” like it’s gospel

Despite serving as a core statistic for Stronger In, this is not a precise figure. It comes from a CBI report and represents the midpoint in a range of estimates for the EU membership’s contribution to UK GDP. However, it’s a ballpark figure most economists would agree with.

2. Don’t big up Cameron’s renegotiation deal

Although the deal provided some useful goodies, it was not transformational. The case to remain rests on bigger issues – how the economy and our influence will be damaged if we quit, how Brexit could break up the UK and how we can fight to make the EU better if we stay.

3. Don’t threaten Calais migrant camps moving to Kent

It’s far from clear that Brexit would result in the French scrapping our entirely unrelated treaty allowing UK border officials to check travellers on their side of the Channel. Even if they do, there are other obstacles to migrants easily entering Britain. Most obviously, there’s no reason for physical camps to appear in Kent once migrants achieved their goal of reaching England.

4. Don’t claim 3 million jobs will be lost if we leave EU

The 3 million figure relates to jobs linked to EU trade, a calculation with a long heritage among economists. It should not be used to describe job losses. Fortunately, neither Stronger In nor Downing Street is doing this.

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5. Describe trade statistics correctly

The government’s infamous pamphlet claimed “less than 8% of EU exports come to the UK”. In fact, 14.6% of EU exports come to the UK, if the EU is treated as a single bloc. When intra-EU trade between member states is included, this shrinks to 6.3%. The origin of the government’s 8% remains unclear.

6. Don’t assume Brexit will see all our existing EU benefits reversed

Next year mobile roaming charges will disappear across the EU entirely. Once these consumer protections are in place, only a very vindictive post-Brexit deal would see them undone. This is an example of something best described as a benefit EU membership has given us, rather than a danger of leaving. Budget air travel is another good example.

7. Don’t say Bank of England will push up rates

George Osborne said the Bank of England would raise interest rates because “prices would go up and there would be instability in financial markets”. In this scenario, economists think the Bank is more likely to try and keep rates low, although twitchy investors and a plummeting pound could see risk premiums going up and that might mean we pay more for our mortgages.

8. Don’t say EU trade will vanish

Anna Soubry, the small business minister, once said Brexit would see our EU exports fall to “almost absolutely zero” – though she quickly corrected the slip of the tongue. Of course they wouldn’t. It’s worth outlining the risks of Brexit, but exaggerating them damages the Remain cause.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “8 traps Remain camp must avoid in final 50 days”

  • Item 3. Saying that the agreement on the Calais camp is unrelated to EU membership is naive. It’s true in the legal sense but the French see this as a doing the UK a favour. One of the reasons that they’re doing it is that the UK is a fellow EU member state. They’ve already said that they’ll stop doing it in the event of Brexit.

  • Item 7 is very garbled – will interest rates be higher following Brexit than otherwise? While economic projections are bound to be speculative, there is one thing which is pretty certain – a Brexit vote will increase uncertainty about future trade conditions for the UK until new trade agreements are concluded. This increase in uncertainty will be over and above any existing uncertainty about the future of either the EU and/or the UK economies. Increased uncertainty increases the costs of doing business, and delays investment. In that sense, increased uncertainty can be likened to an increase in interest rates, and indeed, higher rates of return will be required to persuade lenders and creditors to bear the risks associated with increased uncertainty.
    Inward investment to the UK would fall as a result, putting pressure on Sterling (as already demonstrated in the currency markets). Sterling depreciation will put some upward pressure on domestic prices, and might lead the BoE to raise interest rates to counter a run on sterling. Delayed investment at home will slow economic growth. The macro-managers of the economy (the BoE and the Treasury) will need to respond, even if to do nothing different.