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Government makes strong case for EU membership

by Jack Schickler | 07.04.2016

The government is proposing to send a pamphlet on the benefits of EU membership to each UK household. It has drawn predictable fire. Nigel Farage says it is “jammed full of lies and inaccuracies”, while Boris Johnson and Michael Gove draw attention to the £9 million taxpayer price tag. At the time of writing, a petition to have the leaflet stopped had 53,000 signatories.

Whatever the costs, the exercise is hardly unprecedented. Under Electoral Commission rules, the Remain and Leave campaigns can distribute one free leaflet each. In the previous, 1975, referendum on Europe, three official leaflets were sent round – from the in campaign, out campaign, and government.

In terms of the facts it presents, InFacts finds the pamphlet – and the accompanying research and analysis – makes a strong case for EU membership.

[The UK] has kept the pound, will not join the euro …the UK will not be part of further European political integration

The UK has a Treaty opt-out from the euro, and its opt out from political integration is set out in the renegotiation. Decisions to join the single currency or cede more powers to Brussels could only happen after a referendum.

We … play a leading role in determining the rules that govern [the single market].

Britain is one of the most influential of members in the council of ministers which agrees EU laws.  

Leaving would create uncertainty and risk

No one knows what single market access we would have after Brexit, but in the meantime there would be a considerable period of uncertainty, holding back investment and growth.

[EU membership] gives us access to trade deals with over 50 countries around the world.

The European Commission cites trade deals in place with 53 countries, plus more underway. If we left, we would not have an automatic right to piggyback on them.

Over 3 million jobs in the UK are linked to exports to other European Union countries.

Correct, though not to be equated with the number of the jobs Brexit would put at risk. Exports to other EU countries would not vanish.

The EU is by far the UK’s biggest trading partner.

Correct.

We have a commitment to reduce EU red tape

The European Commission has committed to work “towards establishing specific targets … for reducing burdens on business”.

EU reforms in the 1990s resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights within Europe.

EU aviation liberalisation undoubtedly led to more competition and lower fares.

Mobile phone roaming charges for texts, data use and calls will be abolished across the EU.

Correct.

EU membership also gives UK citizens travelling in other European countries the right to access free or cheaper public healthcare

More details on the EU healthcare rights Britons enjoy are here.

EU membership means you and your family have the right to live, work or study abroad in any of the 27 other EU member countries.

While estimates differ, a central figure suggests around 1.2 million Brits live in other EU countries. There are also 210,000 English households with a second home elsewhere in Europe, and in 2014 nearly 37,000 from the UK studied, trained or volunteered under the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. Brexit would put expats’ rights in jeopardy.

If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices for some household goods and damage living standards.

Even Johnson’s own economic adviser admits “leaving the EU would be an economic shock” – and that “most, if not all, economic shocks depress economic activity”. Mark Carney has said Brexit could mean “movements in the exchange rate, which would push up on inflation” – though he acknowledged other countervailing impacts could push prices down.

Since 2004, using the European Arrest Warrant, over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited from the UK

The European Arrest Warrant allows speedier, simpler extradition for serious crimes.

We control our own borders….giving us the right to check everyone, including EU nationals, arriving from continental Europe.

This claim is cited by Farage as an example of the “lies and inaccuracies” in the leaflet. The UKIP leader is wrong – as a non-Schengen member, the UK controls its borders. It can and does refuse entry, including to EU citizens, for example if they pose a threat.

On immigration, the Government has negotiated a deal with the EU that will make our benefits system less of a draw for EU citizens.

The renegotiation sets out changes on migrants’ access to welfare. However, as InFacts has previously commented, hurdles may still lie ahead.

Non-EU countries – such as Norway – have had to accept the right of all EU citizens to live and work in their country.

Correct. Norwegians also pay about as much as we do to access the EU.

EU action helped prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons

The EU was one of the parties to the recent Iran nuclear deal.

The EU is leading the world on tackling climate change

At last year’s UN climate change conference, the EU bloc represented one-sixth of the world’s economy. The EU had already set ambitious climate change targets, building on action the UK had already taken domestically.

Nigel Farage, when asked by InFacts, did not provide any further examples of the “lies and inaccuracies” in the government’s leaflet. He said “InFacts is a propaganda group campaigning for the remain side. You can’t be an objective journalist and a campaigner for one side at the same time”.

For a fuller analysis of one further statistic contained in the government’s leaflet, see here.

Edited by Geert Linnebank

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5 Responses to “Government makes strong case for EU membership”

  • The only dodgy comment in the pamphlet is that the vote is a “once in a life time” opportunity. It is the one an only chance voters have to keep the UK in the EU on its existing terms. If we leave, whatever the UK electorate decided in a later vote, the UK could only rejoin the EU in the same way as any other applicant country and the rule that is always applied to applicant countries is that they must accept the “aquis communautaire”,

  • I can’t see anywhere, an explanation to rebut the “£350 million a week” claim that keeps popping up from the Brexit camp. In fact it popped up in a statements by one of the leave spokespeople talking about the leaflet!

    This myth is one of the most persistent and common ones that is repeated and then parroted everywhere. It would be nice to have it busted once and for all.

      • Yeah, but it would have been a prime opportunity to get that fact out in front of as many people as possible. At the moment the “£350million” myth is one of those things that is taken as fact. It has to be busted every time.

        So many “undecided/outish” people I meet say (something like) “£350million a week is a huge amount of money”. Because the “fee” seems so huge it makes retaining it seem attractive, even in the face of the disruption an exit would cause. If people could understand that the “fee” is effectively pocket change, then it’s retention in the face of the disruption becomes less of a prize.

        on a related note, getting the size of the EU budget out there in comparison with the UK budget would be worthwhile. People think it’s this vast sum that dwarfs national budgets, when in fact it’s a tiny sum, less than the UK pensions budget.

        If people could see how little (in relative terms) the EU budget is, then getting rid of it would seem less attractive.

        If we could get the fact that it is less than half that figure AND get that figure on context of overall government spending embedded in the public consciousness it would remove a major pillar of support.

  • Yes of course the UK is one of the most influential members of the EU. Unlike others who tend to soft pedal their criticism out of a kind of politesse, the UK tends to be quick to draw attention to issues in Commission proposals. However what then often happens is that others play catch-up and latch on to the British critiques.

    Oddly, what works against the UK’s influence in Europe is UKIP’s almost entirely negative role in the European Parliament and its total failure – which is intentional – to work for a reformed EU.