Toby Young’s Dirty Dozen

by Jack Schickler | 18.03.2016

Conservative commentator Toby Young has published a 3,000 word essay on why he’ll vote leave. It appears on the Civitas “EU facts” site, but InFacts has spotted a dozen claims that are misleading or incorrect.  

[There is a] likelihood that Turkey will join the EU in the not too distant future

Turkey has aspired to EU membership since 1959 and formally applied to join in 1987. But it has closed just one out of thirty-five negotiating chapters. There is little reason to expect this slow progress to speed up. In any case, the UK would have a veto. Young, who himself likes to denounce the In Campaign’s “Project Fear”, is himself engaging in scaremongering.

We won’t be able to stop Islamic State-trained fighters, disguised as Syrian refugees, entering the UK… once they’ve obtained German citizenship, we won’t be able to stop them crossing our border.

Asylum seekers have to wait roughly a decade before getting a German passport. Why Islamic State would hatch such a long-range plan to attack the UK is not clear. Again, Young is guilty of scaremongering.

Another myth the scaremongers have put about is that British expats living on the Continent would have to return to the UK the day after a Brexit vote

There are around 1.2 million British expats living in other EU countries. Even if they are unlikely to be deported, many of their rights could vanish after Brexit, as QC George Peretz has argued.

Canada, for instance, will shortly have access to the single market without committing to free movement. Why couldn’t we negotiate a Canadian deal for Britain?

The free-trade deal Canada has just agreed falls far short of full single market access. For example, unlike their British equivalents, Canadian banks will not have a passport to operate across the EU.

Our objections to Brussels’ petty-fogging dictats are consistently ignored

In the EU Council, the UK votes on the winning side 87% of the time, and gets laws it doesn’t like amended or stopped.

Only six per cent of British firms export goods and services to the EU so having no control over the regulations … is a small price to pay for liberating the vast majority of companies.

This 6 percent figure ignores the fact that larger employers are more likely to export. It leaves out importers, which also rely on access to the single market. It excludes companies that supply exporters or importers, and so are indirectly exposed to Brexit.

[For] the remaining 27 member states [to] gang up to impose tariffs on all British goods and services…. would … be a breach of the World Trade Organisation’s rules on tariffs.

Actually, WTO rules do not prevent tariffs on goods. They do even less to safeguard free trade in services, which account for 78% of our economy.

Britain has the fastest growing economy in Europe.

It does not. In terms of projected 2016 economic growth, the UK comes joint 12th out of 28 EU countries. Countries set to grow faster include Sweden, Ireland, and Spain.  

If the British economy suffers from a lack of investment during [Brexit negotiations] … we can more than compensate … by negotiating our own trade deals with the rest of the world once we’re out.

A  typical trade deal can take seven years to negotiate, and it seems unlikely we could start negotiations until we left the EU. Even then, it is not clear how much bargaining power Britain would have. It would be a tall order to negotiate deals good enough to replace what we might lose from leaving the single market. Of our top ten trade partners, seven are in the EU.

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It would be bad enough if those [EU] laws originated in the European Parliament, which is at least an elected chamber. But the EU body responsible for proposing legislation is the European Commission.

The Commission makes legislative proposals, but these do not become law until agreed by national governments in the Council, and in the vast majority of cases the European Parliament must approve them too. Both the Council and the European Parliament usually amend legislation before agreeing to it.

Only one of the 28 Commissioners is elected – the President, Jean-Claude Juncker, and only by the European Parliament, not any actual voters. The other 27 are appointees.

The Parliament approves the President, but also holds hearings with each commissioner before she or he is confirmed to a post. If unsatisfied, parliament can block an appointment; the threat of doing so has led to the withdrawal of candidates including Italy’s Rocco Buttliglione and Bulgaria’s Rumania Jeleva.

The countries of Europe… [have] varying levels of commitment to freedom and democracy (women didn’t get the vote in one canton in non-EU member Switzerland until 1991)

Respect for freedom and democracy are fundamental values of the Union, and prospective EU members must demonstrate that their institutions guarantee democracy. Why Young makes his argument based on sub-national elections in a non-EU member is unclear.

Contacted by InFacts, Toby Young commented that the points raised in this article are “not factual corrections, but differences of opinion.”

Edited by Sebastian Mallaby

This article was updated shortly after publication to include a response from Toby Young. The first paragraph was amended to say that Young’s claims are “misleading or incorrect”, rather than “not actually correct”.