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John Redwood resurrects Brexit myths

by Charlie Mitchell | 26.09.2016

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham has rehashed vintage Leave camp untruths in a Telegraph column this morning. Let’s turn ‘project fear’ into ‘project cheer’, he proclaims. But from the NHS to Britain’s EU membership contributions, Redwood has made some inaccurate claims.

Here are five of his most misleading statements.

1. Redwood says EU nations “have more to lose from tariffs than us” recycling the cliché that our trade deficit with the EU means other EU countries would be impoverished if our free trade with Europe is dismantled. This is incorrect. EU exports to Britain are just 3% of the EU’s GDP, so we need the EU more than it needs us.

2. Redwood says farmers and universities “did get a bit of our EU money back, though most of it did not come home”. In reality, farmers are well-served by EU subsidies and will be worse off after Brexit, as the National Farmers Union has also indicated. Eliminating direct EU subsidies would cause income per farm to plummet by between €17,000 and €36,000 on average, depending on as yet unknown post-Brexit trade deals. Redwood advocates continuing payments to farmers, though the Treasury’s commitment to do so until 2020 does not go far enough. For universities, access to research networks and loss of EU students if they have to pay higher non-EU tuition fees post-Brexit, is as important as research funding, with some universities are considering opening branch campuses within the EU.

3. He states our net contribution to the EU is £11 billion a year – a massive climb down from the £350 million a week trumpeted by Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove during the referendum campaign, but still wide of the mark. In fact, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher negotiated a rebate – an annual reduction in contributions – in 1984, which reduced our contribution by around £5 billion last year. Brussels also sends the private sector and UK government subsidies and grants from, for example, the Common Agricultural Policy. These grants amounted to £4.4 billion in 2015. Factoring in such payments puts the cost of membership at around £7.1 billion annually, or 30p per person per day.

4. Redwood asserts the EU has unfairly imposed VAT on Britain, “in ways we do not like”. However, while VAT harmonisation enables equitable free trade between within the single market, Britain still retains some power to reduce VAT.

5. He argues the money saved from EU membership costs “can be spent on the NHS”, In reality, if we lose full access to Europe’s markets, which account for half our trade, we’d have less to spend on the NHS, not more. In addition, restrictions on free movement could harm the NHS. One in 10 doctors, and 4% of nurses are from another EU country.

This article was corrected after publication. An earlier version stated that chancellor George Osborne failed to scrap the tampon tax, despite an EU proposal to relax the regulations. The commission is still to put forward the legislation on the zero VAT issue. In addition, “egregious fallacies” was changed to “misleading statements”.

Edited by Yojana Sharma

Tags: , Categories: Articles, Brexit, Economy

5 Responses to “John Redwood resurrects Brexit myths”

  • Of course the untruthful and misleading nature of Mr Redwood’s article should be exposed. But this raises the more fundamental question of the manner in which the majority of the UK press has willfully and falsely presented the facts about the EU to the UK public ( and obviously many other issues as well ). How does the UK permit the continual abuse by the Press of its so called freedom ? This abuse has never probably been so apparent as doing the Referendum Campaign with the enormous and tragic consequences that we know and yet the Press is never really held to account.

  • Just because a trade deficit with the EU converts to 3% of EU GDP, it doesn’t mean the loss of that trade is unimportant. Wouldn’t that tip the EU into recession, after 8 years of austerity and massive youth unemployment in southern member countries?

    Your conclusion that Great Britain needs the EU more than the other way round is laughable.