June 7, 2016
The longer the campaign for an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU goes on, the more the Vote Leave claims prove to be bogus or complete lies. Take the claim emblazoned on Boris Johnson’s battle bus that “we send the EU £350m a week”. Condemned by the head of the independent Statistics Commission as “potentially misleading”, it quotes only the UK’s gross contribution without deducting what we get back from the EU.
Figures are boring, I know, but the voting public need the facts and not deliberate “deceit”, to quote ex-PM Sir John Major on tv last week, to make an informed decision on June 23.
The sum of £350m per week is based on the Treasury’s estimate of the gross amount the UK contributed to the EU last year, which was £17.8bn, or £342m per week. From this must be deducted the £4.9bn annual rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher [which is never “sent” to Brussels anyway]. Then some £4.4bn is returned for agricultural subsidies to farmers and aid to deprived areas of the UK. On top of this, the EU injects £1.4bn into the private sector mainly to support research. This takes the net cost of the UK’s membership to £7.1bn a year, or £135m a week, nearly a third of the £350m that Vote Leave claims.
If Britain does leave the EU, the UK government would presumably continue to fund farming, research and regional development. So not all the notional savings of Brexit would necessarily be available to “spend on the NHS”. Especially since the Vote Leave leaders are making wild populist promises like cutting VAT on fuel bills. Which they will not be in a position to implement [unless they stage a coup against Cameron, which is not impossible].
Of course, the UK’s net contribution to the EU of £7.1bn a year is a large sum. However, this represents only about 1% of the UK’s annual spending budget of £750bn this year, that is one penny out of every taxpayer’s pound. A not an unreasonable price to pay for Britain’s access to the Single Market of 500m consumers and all the other benefits of EU membership.
If we pull out of the Single Market, all major economic institutions such as the Treasury, the Bank of England, the IMF, OECD, IFS, the LSE and Oxford University all say that the British economy will take a hit and shrink post Brexit, which will far outweigh our current net contribution to the EU. All of which will hit the most vulnerable in society hardest.
The British public are being conned by the Vote Leave campaign. Although the closing date for voter registration has gone by, postal votes are out now for those who have registered. There is still time to instruct proxy vote holders and to urge friends and family in the UK to vote “Remain” on June 23.
Malcolm Hardy, Tibi