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New Vote Leave bosses can end Project Fiction

by Jack Schickler | 14.03.2016

Vote Leave’s change of leadership gives it a chance to turn over a new leaf. Until now, the pro-Brexit group has shown such disdain for the facts that it could be dubbed Project Fiction. Now that Labour MP Gisela Stuart and Tory minister Michael Gove have taken Vote Leave’s helm, a good start would be to avoid the following six prize errors.

First, Vote Leave incorrectly states that the UK sends £350 million each week to the EU. In fact, thanks to the UK rebate, this sum never goes to Brussels. It would be odd if Gove and Stuart weren’t aware that this £350 million figure has been comprehensively refuted. And yet Vote Leave and its top campaigners repeat it – or variations of it – frequently.

Second, the campaigning group overstates the cost of red tape. It says EU regulation “costs UK businesses over £600 million every week”, but the very same Open Europe research from which this figure comes notes benefits from the same regulations of over £1 billion a week. Citing the costs without mentioning the benefits is misleading.

Third, Vote Leave downplays British influence. It say the UK can only rely on 8 per cent of votes in the Council when it actually has 12.7 per cent. It says we have been “outvoted every single time” we vote against new EU laws, but forgets to mention that we actually vote on the winning side 87 per cent of the time.

Fourth, the group describes EU law as “untouchable”. The EU has actually scrapped 6,145 legal acts between 2005 and mid-2014. One set of EU laws is indeed “untouchable” – those leave campaigners have invented: rules that stop children blowing up balloons, teabags being recycled, houses being built within 5 km of heathland and so on.  

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    Fifth, Vote Leave understates the impact of leaving on British trade. If we leave the EU, we wouldn’t inherit most trade deals the EU has already signed with other parts of the world – contrary to what Nigel Lawson, the previous Vote Leave chairman, has said. The Leave camp also obfuscates about what Brexit would mean for access to the EU’s single market (which would be hard to maintain), pretending this is just a free trade deal (which we presumably would be able to sign). In fact, a free trade deal would be inferior.

    Finally, the group exaggerates the support it has from business – stating that “by a 2:1 margin, UK businesses think the EU and Single Market are bad for jobs”. Not only is this boast based on polling by a linked pro-Brexit organisation; it only refers to small and medium-sized enterprises. Meanwhile, polls conducted by the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses of their members all show more business support for staying in than leaving.

    If Gove and Stuart genuinely believe Britain is better off out of the EU, they shouldn’t need to rely on fiction. They should believe their case can be built on facts.

    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    One Response to “New Vote Leave bosses can end Project Fiction”

    • Here is another fact of life for pro-Brexiters: There really is no ‘special relationship’ with the United States. You have been conned! Grow up!

      Americans living between 3mm and 4,000 miles outside the Washington Beltway have never heard of your special relationship. US politicians don’t want a Brexit. The issue has no constituency in America. It does not get politicians (re)elected. .

      America has so many ‘special relationships’ with so many nations _ Cuba. Saudi Arabia. Israel. South Korea, Japan and China spring to mind _ that score higher on the US priority list.

      When I returned to Europe after a decade in North America, I remember being confused by the term ‘special relationship,’ British media and political types bandied it about with abandon. But in my 10 years as a journalist over there I had never even heard of the term.

      What Americans and their politicians understand is the EU and NATO with Britain firmly in both.