(Photo: Gage Skidmore)
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been in The Daily Express again attempting to persuade its readership to vote OUT in the forthcoming European referendum (not that they take much convincing if the recent poll by the paper can be believed).
Mr Farage was up to his old tricks peddling misinformation to the masses. Here are six porky pies from the article.
1. IT COSTS £55 MILLION A DAY TO BE AN EU MEMBER
This was the headline of Farage’s piece – something he’s been fond of asserting for a while now. It sounds a lot but actually works out at £20billion a year, approximately 2.5% of the annual budget.
But this is the gross figure i.e the amount paid in without accounting for any rebates, subsidiaries, etc. The fact-checking organisation Full Fact has analysed these figures and found that the net amount works out closer to £12billion a year (or £33million a day). In 2013, this figure was down even further to £8.6billion a year (or £24million a day).
But of course, these figures need to be put in context and calculated against economic benefits of EU membership. The Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, reported that the net benefit of EU membership to the UK is at least £62billion per year. This is due to access to the EU single market, stronger trade terms with global markets, increased investment flows and free movement of labour.
So to complain about the costs while ignoring the benefits doesn’t make much sense. If Farage wants to report that it costs £55million a day for EU membership, he ought to at least mention the £170million or so a day we’re getting back from that payment.
2. BRITAIN CAN STRIKE THE SAME KIND OF TRADE DEALS WITHOUT EU MEMBERSHIP
Farage mentions that non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Iceland have struck trade deals with countries such as China and it’s true, there would be nothing stopping Britain entering into trade agreements with countries around the world.
But as it has already been mentioned, one of the key benefits of EU membership is the leverage the EU has in terms of securing agreements, so it would be difficult to strike out alone and expect to be treated on the same terms. US trade representative Michael Froman has already stated that Britain will be disadvantaged in terms of a deal with the US if it leaves the EU.
Regarding trade with EU member states, we would instantly be hit with tariffs if we left the EU. According to an analysis by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) on the likely effects of a Brexit, trade costs with EU countries would be likely to increase due to both tariff and non-tariff barriers being raised and Britain not being involved in any EU integration to reduce non-tariff barriers. The CEP estimates that trade losses caused by Britain leaving the EU could be anywhere between 2% and 10% of GDP.
3. THE MAJORITY OF OUR LAWS ARE MADE BY THE EU
UKIP frequently claim that over 70% of our laws are made by the EU and that we have lost our sovereignty. The 70% figure appears to be one plucked out of thin air. A Full Fact analysis highlights the complications over ‘what exactly we can measure to determine the proportion of UK law and regulation originating in Europe, which immediately complicates any straightforward answer‘ before going on to conclude that, depending on exactly how this is measured, the total percentage of laws coming from the EU is anywhere between 15 and 50%. Some way off the 70% figure quoted by UKIP and short of the majority stated by Farage.
4. OUR SUPREME COURT CAN BE OVERRULED BY A COURT IN LUXEMBOURG NOT STAFFED BY PROPER JUDGES
Another spurious claim. The European Court of Justice (ECJ), based in Luxembourg, is the highest court in the EU on matters of EU law but not on matters of national law (and as mentioned above, the percentage of laws generated by the EU is smaller than UKIP would have you believe).
But even on matters of EU law, the ECJ cannot overrule the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court must give effect to EU law and the rights contained within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in its decision-making.
In instances where the Supreme Court cannot interpret national legislation so it’s compatible with the ECHR, it will issue a ‘declaration of incompatability‘. Legislators will then look at reviewing the laws to see if they can be made compatible with the rights laid out in the Convention. However, the Supreme Court ultimately has the power to decline to follow a decision from the European Court if it can justify its reasoning.
5. EU LEGISLATION MAKES THINGS DIFFICULT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
‘If we vote to remain in this Union we will be helpless to stop the spread of EU legislation that holds back our economic potential and makes life hard for those who run small businesses‘ says Farage.
It’s the assertion of Farage that the EU has a negative effect on every single aspect of British life and that everyone would be better off if we pulled out. However, small businesses are generally in favour of remaining in the EU. Research published by the Federation of Small Businesses in 2015 found that 47% of its members were planning to vote ‘yes‘ in the referendum, compared to 40.9% voting ‘no‘. It also found that over twice as many members felt that leaving the EU would negatively affect their business compared to those who felt that remaining in the EU would have a negative impact.
In a 2013 YouGov poll of small to medium business owners, 71% said that EU membership had a positive effect on their business, while only 13% reported a negative impact. While these studies did find some discontent over certain aspects of EU membership among owners of small businesses, the case Farage makes for Brexit being to their benefit looks decidedly weak.
6. STAYING IN THE EU MAKES US VULNERABLE TO TERRORISM
Farage inevitably throws up the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and suggests that voting to stay in the EU puts us at risk of a similar occurrence. But this is just daft and irresponsible scaremongering designed to influence those floating voters who might not be paying attention to the stuff on economics or legislation.
One could just as easily make an argument that leaving the EU would make us vulnerable to terrorism but that would be equally stupid. Those sorts of statements should have no place in these debates. The fact that Farage has used this as an influencing tactic only serves to further weaken his hole-ridden claims in this article.
More info on the pros and cons on staying in or leaving the EU here.
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