Nigel Farage managed to make no fewer than three factual errors in an 11-minute interview on the Andrew Marr programme on 21 Feb.
The UKIP leader first got Britain’s budget maths wrong. He said “we are paying over £50 million a day in a membership fee” to the EU. As InFacts has already shown when Tory MEP Daniel Hannan made the same mistake, the gross amount we actually send Brussels is £35 million a day. This is because Margaret Thatcher negotiated a rebate on the UK’s budget contribution, cutting the amount sent to the EU.
What’s more, if you net off the amount Britain gets back from Brussels (for agriculture, science and so forth) and the proportion of the EU’s aid budget that we count towards our own development target, the cost is £17 million a day. That seems like a reasonable price for full access to the EU’s single market with its 500 million people.
When contacted by InFacts, a UKIP spokesperson said a figure of £55 million a day was reasonable as the UK’s membership fee, citing research by Full Fact. However, after InFacts pointed out errors in its calculation, Full Fact corrected their piece.
Farage then reiterated the assertion that Britain could have access to the single market without free movement of people. He said that David Cameron’s contention that you couldn’t was “completely and utterly untrue”. It is what Farage said that is untrue. As InFacts showed when Hannan made the same error, no country has full access to the single market without free movement of people.
The UKIP spokesperson said that he believed Britain would be able to negotiate a free trade deal if it quit the EU. The snag is a free trade deal is inferior to full single market access. For example, no country has managed to cut a free trade agreement with the EU that gives its financial services industry a passport to operate across the trade bloc. It is theoretically possible that Britain might get a special deal that no other country so far has managed to clinch with the EU. But given that this would open a Pandora’s box of demands from other member states, there is no basis for assuming this.
To complete his hat-trick of errors, Farage repeated his contention that if Britain stayed in the EU, “we’ll be part of a Europe that wants Turkey to be a member within five years”. When UKIP pushed this line in a party political broadcast, InFacts demonstrated that it was fanciful. Turkey’s membership process started in 1959 and so far only one of 35 negotiating “chapters” has been closed. Even if all chapters were closed, every EU country (including the UK) would have a veto.
The UKIP spokesperson pointed to page 46 in this European Commission document to back up Farage’s contention that the EU wants Turkey to join in 2021. What the document actually shows is something completely different: proposed budget allocations up to 2020 to help the country’s long drawn out process of trying to join the bloc.
Edited by Luke Lythgoe
This piece has been modified to remove the name of the UKIP spokesperson
This piece has been updated to reflect the fact that Full Fact has corrected its piece.
Hugo Dixon is the author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better. Available here for £5 (paperback), £2.50 (e-book)