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Gove is either ignorant or lying over £350m untruth

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 04.06.2016

We do not send £350 million a week to Brussels. Peddling the untruth after a string of authorities including the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have highlighted the error is a sign of either ignorance or dishonesty.

When questioned about the claim yesterday by Sky News’ Faisal Islam, Michael Gove doubled down, saying: “Every week, we send actually more than £350 million to Brussels.”

Pressed by Islam whether the money “literally” leaves the country, the Vote Leave campaign chair replied: “Yes, because if you look at the Office of National Statistics report, they point out that we send more than £350 million there.”

Islam came back, saying “you know it doesn’t leave the country” and citing the UK Statistics Authority and other sources to back him up. To which Gove responded: “The fact is that we send more than £360 million to the European Union.”

But we do not send £350 million or £360 million a week to the EU because Margaret Thatcher secured a discount on our contributions known as the rebate. This rebate is never sent to Brussels.

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Nor does the ONS “point out that we send more than £350 million there”, contrary to Gove’s claims. On May 25, it said our official gross payments to the EU amounted to £19.1 billion in 2014. That works out at £367 million a week.

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Crucially, it added: “This amount of money was never actually transferred to the EU… Before the UK government transfers any money to the EU a rebate is applied.”

Did Gove not read the ONS report carefully enough, despite citing it on Sky News? Or did he not understand what the words “never actually transferred to the EU” mean?

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Even if Gove failed such a basic comprehension test, did he not read a letter Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave’s campaign director and a close Gove aide, on May 27? The second paragraph said: “As I have made clear previously, this is not an amount of money that the UK pays to the EU each year.”

If Gove did read this letter, did this brilliant man who now holds the office of Lord Chancellor not understand it?

Rebate is not threatened

When Gove aimed to justify his £350 million claim under further questioning by Sky News’ Kay Burley, he said: “That rebate is decided by other countries. It’s not up to us.”

This, too, is false. The UK has a veto on any changes to the way the rebate is calculated.

An ordinary person could easily be ignorant about all this. But how credible is it that the former education secretary, star Times columnist and Oxford graduate doesn’t know these things? And if Gove does know them and still says we send £350 million a week to Brussels, he is lying.

For an explanation of what we send Brussels – as well as why there would be no saving if we quit the EU because our economy would take a hit – please read this article.

Vote Leave did not respond to requests for comment.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Gove is either ignorant or lying over £350m untruth”

  • whether it leaves these shores or not the EU wastes 10 times that amount on moving the parliament every 4 weeks between strasboug and Brussels why can someone actually tell what the benefit is to anyone it total corruption at the highest level and jobs for the boys in the club

    • Ten times which figure? The gross EU contribution is all but £19 bn. The net is in the thick order of £10 bn. The entire EU budget raised from the 28 EU member states is in the thick order of £100 bn. So all the EU budget is spent on alternating the EU’s functions between Brussels and Strasbourg? Not true, I’m afraid.

      I agree that some form of efficiency has to be made out of the moves as they are wasteful and expensive. See http://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/auditors-put-price-tag-on-eu-parliament-travelling-circus/ – £90 m a year is bad enough and should be contained but it is not an argument for throwing out the baby with the bathwater by leaving the EU.

  • The only argument Gove has is that, whilst the gross is the calculation according to the rules, the rebate could fall prey to negotiation. Margaret Thatcher might have negotiated it but Tony Blair, about to have even the tatters of his despicable reputation debased further by Chilcot, gave some of it away in negotiations. We may have a veto over changing the rebate at the instance of the other 27. However, if we wanted something badly enough, eg the Turkish migrant deal, who is to say whether we would exercise our veto on cutting the rebate?

    More to the point is that Gove wants to use the savings on our membership fee for the EU to cut VAT on fuel because the tax is regressive and hurts the poor. Remind me whether Gove was elected for Surrey Heath in 2005 and therefore an MP in 2010. Remind me again. Did George Osborne raise VAT from 17.5 to 20% in his 2010 budget? Did that VAT increase apply to everything including fuel and car repairs from January 2011? It costs about £140 to service my car annually and I have to pay £28.00 VAT on top.

    Remind me again. Did Gove oppose that VAT rise? Did that budget introduce welfare cuts as well? Did Gove oppose those? Were the poor affected by them? See http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/11858/michael_gove/surrey_heath/divisions?policy=1110.

    Gove supported 20% VAT on all taxable supplies across the economy including fuel. Then he went mysteriously absent during later stages of debates on the Finance Bill and amendments. He may have been constrained by Government office from campaigning as vigorously for the poor as he would have wished but I do not have Gove down as a potential member for my trade union. Disingenuous springs to mind.

    • I believe Gove was referring to domestic fuel, where he wished to remove the 5% vat to help the poor. We cannot do this while in eu, although can reduce general level from 20% to 15%.

  • You are correct that 350 million a week does not go to Brussels. More like 161 million net. And the rebate is subject to a veto. Rightly so as if given up needs to be reconfigured CAP payments in tandem to avoid particularly France getting too much benefit. But rebate is variable, so Gove is partially correct it is in hands of others, as a complex calculation of VAT payments. As our GDP has risen we get less rebate. In 1985 Thatcher negotiated this when we were second poorest eu member. Now things are different.