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Analysis

Telegraph scare story on Brexit delay doesn’t stack up

by Luke Lythgoe | 11.03.2019

Delaying Brexit even for three months would cost billions of pounds and lose us our seat at the EU’s decision-making table, according to The Telegraph’s front page story today. This is a scare story unsupported by evidence.

First take the claim that the UK would “lose its seat at the table for laws that are being made in Europe”. A ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last December says that, if the two-year negotiating period under Article 50 is extended, the UK still has all the rights and obligations of an EU member state. One of those rights are votes at the Council of Ministers.

Now look at money. The Telegraph, citing unnamed sources, claims: “Britain would be expected to pay another £13.5 billion per year, more than the current £9 billion, because the UK would lose its rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher.”

There are two things wrong with this statement. For a start, delaying our departure wouldn’t in itself lead to any increase in our £39 billion divorce payment – because this figure already includes our membership fee until the end of 2020. During that period, if the prime minister gets her way, we will be in a limbo-like “transition”, following EU rules without any vote on them.

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What’s more, there’s no question of us losing our rebate so long as we stay in the EU. The ECJ ruling from December specifically refers to the UK staying an EU member “under terms that are unchanged”. That means, among other things, no loss of rebate.

However, it’s a different story if we quit the EU and then need a longer transition period to negotiate the sort of comprehensive trade deal the prime minister wants. In that scenario, we would have to pay extra money. We would probably lose our rebate and pay something like the extra £13.5 billion a year mentioned by the Telegraph.

So yes, we do risk paying extra billions into the EU budget without a rebate. But only if MPs vote for Theresa May’s deal. Far better to delay Brexit, with the purpose of finding an alternative course of action. And if we ultimately choose to stay in the EU, that will be good for our economy and avoid years more uncertainty. We will be able to keep our rebate and seat at the top table too.

When approached for comment on this story, the Telegraph told InFacts: “We are simply reporting the feedback we are getting from senior figures in Brussels who know what is going on behind closed doors.”

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Telegraph scare story on Brexit delay doesn’t stack up”

  • Like virtually everything that has to do with Brexit as well as, for instance, the way Trump got the USA in his hands: the main culprit that got us where we are now is the impotence to critically approach to political machinations in a large part of the population. Both countries lost sight of the simple fact that democracy requires well-educated people to function properly. It would have prevented rabiate populism, with its vicious lies and smokescreens (or gas-lighting in the US), from getting a popular hold in the way it occurred. Given that no brexiteer, who didn’t feel the need to get better educated on the subject, is likely to have had another look at the pro’s and cons of being in the EU, I have a sneaking suspicion that all the untruths that have been peddled all those years have lost nothing of their attraction to the Brexit clans. Be prepared to get desperately disappointed as far as a second referendum is concerned.

  • It is undoubtedly true that the disinformation regularly and consistently fed to large segments of the English electorate over forty years or so ( readers of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun etc ) had a big influence on the result of the EU referendum. The problem is a major one for democracy in the UK; the abuse of Freedom of the Press by the press.
    A second referendum therefore is certainly a risky business but is there an alternative ?
    Apparently not, now that Parliament has foolishly delegated its responsibilities to the ” people “. One can only hope that a second referendum would be conducted in a totally different manner with many more specific safeguards to prevent the abuses ( and possibly criminal actions ) now revealed since the last referendum.