Anthea McIntyre MEP: The leave campaign has built its house on sand
Guest Blogger, 27 May 2016
The Leave camp in the referendum debate are quick to accuse their opponents of conducting Operation Fear.
In truth they are like the “foolish builders” of the Bible who have built on sand. Consistently their claims and warnings are so tenuous,so far distant from reality, that they will not withstand the rains and winds of expert and media scrutiny.
By contrast, I believe the Remain campaign has built on the rock of solid facts.
I acknowledge that individuals on both sides have sometimes done the level of debate a disservice by being so entirely one-eyed view and selective with their “facts” – but only the Leave campaign has taken such a cavalier approach to accuracy in its claims
Let us take a look at some of the myths – and the truth they mask.
“The EU Costs us £350m a week”
That would equal £18.2 billion a year. In fact that is the level of our gross contribution and takes no account of our hard-won rebate or the billions we receive in payments for agriculture and the countryside, in structural funding for our regions and in vital grants for research and development.
So, we should talk about a UK net contribution of £9.8 billion in 2014. HM Treasury states that the contribution in 2014 is 0.4% GDP – a contribution of 28p per person per day.
“The rest of the EU defrauds the system to the cost of the UK”
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has found that Britain is 14 times worse than Ireland and 27 times worse than Germany when it comes to properly spending EU cash. The UK has been hit by £650 million in fines over the last 10 years for errors in the way Whitehall departments distribute funds. Far from us being defrauded by the rest – our own record is sixth-worst of the 28 member states.
“Trade with Europe would be be unaffected if we left”
The EU is our biggest trading partner, with almost half of UK trade – 45% according to the Office for National Statistics – being with the EU. By being in the EU, the UK and our businesses can trade freely with no tariffs and barriers.
If we voted to leave the EU, it would damage trade, and would harm UK businesses and growth, putting millions of jobs at risk.
Only last month the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that leaving would be the equivalent of imposing an additional “tax” of one month’s income on UK workers. The UK could not negotiate a “sweeter” deal on trade and investment than it had now, it concluded.
“New trade deals will come automatically if we leave”
Negotiating as part of a 500 million-strong economy gives us clout we could never have on our own. Thanks to our membership of the European Union, we benefit from free trade agreements with over 50 countries around the world. We will also benefit from new free trade agreements the EU is currently negotiating with countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan.
On top of that 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU (according to HMRC) and its 500 million consumers.
“Being in the EU stops us trading with the rest of the world”
Absolutely not. Thanks to our membership of the European Union, we benefit from free trade agreements with over 50 countries around the world. And we are trading more and more with rising economies like China and India. We will also benefit from new free trade agreements the EU is currently negotiating with countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan.
“Leaving the EU will halt migrations to the UK”
Leaving the EU will not stop immigration to the UK. Countries such as Norway and Switzerland, which are not part of the EU, have to accept free movement and have proportionately higher rates of EU migration than the UK.
“Leaving would give us back control of our fisheries”
Leaving would not mean autonomy. Instead quotas would still need to be negotiated between the UK, the EU and any other member state involved, including Norway or Iceland, according the Marine Conservation Society. A great deal of uncertainty, antagonism and wasted energy would be involved in renegotiating from scratch our place in the fishing seascape.
“Farmers and the countryside would do better if we left”
Subsidies from the EU made up 54 per cent of UK farm income in 2014. Leaving the EU would threaten that level of income in several different ways. The very fact of leaving would put a huge hole in public finances and make it very difficult for the UK government to sustain this level of support. In addition there can be no certainty that a future UK Government would remain sympathetic and helpful towards the farming industry in particular and the countryside in general.
“Turkey will soon join the EU whether we like it or not”
Every EU country has a veto on the accession of any new country to the EU. Ironically, the only way we won’t have a say on Turkey joining is if we leave the EU.
So time and again the Leave claims simply do not stand up to scrutiny. And that is leaving aside some of the truly risible assertions about the EU – that it is banning paper rounds, wants to abolish Christmas or was set up by the CIA.
Operation Fear, even if we accept that label, is at its heart a responsible campaign, built on rock. Operation Fable is built on the sand and the rains, floods and winds of scrutiny are causing the foundations of the Leave house to crumble.
Anthea McIntyre is a Conservative MEP for the West Midlands and has been since 2011. Follow her on Twitter @