The Vote Leave campaign has just offered us a referendum broadcast, which was aired on Radio 4 this evening. Here is the full text.
“On the 23rd June there is a referendum to decide on Britain’s future membership of the EU.
This is your chance to Vote Leave and save the £350m a week we pay for Britain to be a member.
Vote Leave to spend that £350m on our priorities like the NHS.
Vote Leave to regain control of immigration and borders.
Vote Leave to stop future migrants from countries like Turkey, Serbia and Albania entering Britain freely.
Vote Leave and we can have a points based immigration system like in Australia. It is safer and more humane.
Vote Leave to deport dangerous criminals and terrorists who threaten our safety.
Vote Leave to let Britain negotiate its own trade deals with the USA, China and India.
Vote Leave to stop British taxpayers bailing out countries like Greece.
Vote Leave to prevent unelected EU politicians passing laws for Britain.
Vote Leave to end EU law overruling British Law.
Vote Leave to stop paying corrupt expenses like £11m a year on a chauffeur service for MEPs.
Vote Leave to stop EU workers undercutting British workers.
Vote Leave to take back control.
Vote Leave on the 23rd June.”
There are thirteen claims in that list. Four are questionable:
- Developed countries with open societies cannot in general control immigration by policing the border – consider the position of the USA, which has millions of unregistered residents.
- Any money not spent on the EU is unlikely to be spent on the NHS; it will have to be spent on replacing the kinds of things the EU does (such as support for agriculture and promoting trade).
- MEPs can claim expenses for travel; this is part of the expense they incur, not corrupt practice.
- Isolation is not self-determination, and leaving is no guarantee that Britain will ‘take back control’. The UK will lose its present control over EU practice, and will have to accept EU conditions to continue trading with the EU.
Five are (more or less) true, but they might not be understood in the same light by everyone:
- Britain could introduce a points-based points scheme – but its current scheme for non-EU immigration suggests it is more interested in direct financial contributions. The Australian approach to immigration favoured by UKIP is not exactly perfect either.
- Britain hasn’t been faced with supporting Greece in the Euro, but that’s not the main point. Members of the EU are committed to supporting countries in trouble, because that is implicit in solidarity, and almost every country in trouble will have been badly managed at some point. Some of us think that mutual support is a good thing.
- Some EU workers can undercut UK wage rates, as the UK can undercut wage rates in much of Northern Europe.
- Britain could negotiate independent trade deals, given time. Whether these would be favourable to Britain would remain to be seen.
- EU law can in certain circumstances trump UK law. We’ve been required, for example, unwillingly to remove gender discrimination from our benefits and pollution from our coasts.
Four of the points made it the broadcast are just plain wrong:
- Britain does not pay £350m per week to be a member. (The figure disregards the rebate. This is like saying that you have just spent £3 on a fizzy drink which was actually reduced to £2, because the label included the price before the reduction.)
- Turkey, Serbia and Albania are not members of the EU. Whether they become members depends on agreement of all countries, including Britain.
- All laws passed in the EU have to go through the Council of Ministers, all of whom represent elected governments. That is not to say that they pass laws for Britain. The system of regulations and directives works by asking national parliaments to introduce laws compliant with the treaties.
- The UK already has the power to deport dangerous criminals, European or not.
The frequent repetition of bogus claims looks like a deliberate and knowing attempt to mislead. Add to that the snide, offensive comments on migrants, applicant countries, ‘corruption’ and the association with criminals and terrorists: Vote Leave comes over as something very unpleasant.
This is my 700th entry on this blog.