A leaflet entitled “The UK and the European Union: the facts” is landing on doormats. To the untrained eye, it looks like a neutral piece of bumpf shedding light on the complex issues of the EU referendum.
In fact, it is riddled with fiction – and the key fact, that it comes from Vote Leave, is virtually hidden.
The Electoral Commission’s rules say campaigners must include an “imprint” of the promoter’s name and address either on the front or back of campaign material. Vote Leave have chosen to do this in tiny print hidden among the Ts&Cs on the back of their folded leaflet.
The leaflet also urges readers to visit eureferendumfacts.com, a website which repeats almost the same information. Near the end of the page, there’s what sounds like comforting advice: “There are risks in voting either way. Experts, politicians, and businesses are divided. People have to weigh up the risks and potential benefits of each course of action for themselves.” It then provides links to both the Vote Leave website and the rival Stronger In campaign.
Now look at some of the supposed facts.
“The EU has grown to take control over more and more areas which don’t have anything to do with trade – such as our borders.”
Because the UK isn’t in the Schengen Area, we have control of our borders. Muddling free movement of people with a lack of border control is one of the Leave camp’s favourite ploys.
“The British public cannot vote out the politicians who make our laws.”
Presumably Vote Leave refer to the European Commission. Not only are the commissioners appointed by heads of government, including David Cameron; the European Parliament, directly elected by European citizens, has the power to dismiss them. The threat to do so forced the entire Commission to resign in 1999.
“The UK’s official EU budget is about £350 million a week… We get less than half of this money back.”
It’s not surprising that we get less than half £350 million a week back from the EU, given that we never send this much money there in the first place. The £350 million figure doesn’t take account of the rebate successfully negotiated by Margaret Thatcher. This never goes to Brussels.
InFacts contacted Vote Leave on these points but received no response.
Edited by Hugo Dixon