Some proponents of a second Brexit referendum argue that the first was problematic because of the huge number of demonstrably false claims made during the course of the campaign.
Here are some of the most notorious and patently false claims made by both sides of the debate.
‘Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market’ – Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
This claim, repeated by economically liberal Brexiteers, was demonstrably false – Theresa May has now committed to taking the UK out of the single market, a point explicitly repeated on Friday by Downing Street.
Following the referendum Oliver Norgrove, a former Vote Leave staffer, who supports staying in the single market, urged people to check the official campaign’s website and official literature – noting that the things they had campaigned for were “utterly achievable in the EEA and make no mention at all of leaving the single market”.
‘Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week’ – Boris Johnson
The claim by the Leave campaign that the UK would take back control of “roughly £350m a week” was derided by the UK Statistics Authority as “a clear misuse of official statistics”. The problem with the notorious £350m figure is that it is a “gross” figure – it doesn’t take into account the money the UK gets back from the EU. It also doesn’t take into account Britain’s rebate on top of that.
When those are taken into account the figure is £250m, but debate over the money also had a bigger flaw – the effect on the UK’s public finances from depressed economic growth caused by leaving the single market is expected to dwarf any saving made from ending the UK’s subscription to the EU budget. The Office for Budget Responsibility says that even a 0.1 per cent fall in growth over the next 50 years would see tax receipts £36bn lower.
Thus, the impression that leaving the EU would somehow save money or lessen austerity is likely to be a false one.
‘We will need an emergency Budget to restore stability to public finances’ – George Osborne
George Osborne’s predicted “emergency Budget” full of tax rises and spending cuts after the Brexit vote never materialised – the Treasury has broadly stuck to Mr Osborne’s economic plans on spending from before the vote. It also has no significant plans to raise taxes or cut spending when Britain actually leaves the EU in March 2019.
It could be argued that Mr Osborne never had the opportunity to implement his emergency Budget, because he was replaced by Philip Hammond. But ignoring the fact that the two chancellors are from the same party and both campaigned for Remain, Mr Osborne did have nearly a month in office after the 2016 referendum, suggesting it wasn’t that much of an emergency.
‘The UK loses out because other members favour a highly regulated and protectionist economy’ – Jacob Rees-Mogg
The claim that the UK is constantly being overruled by other EU countries is false. Research by UK in a changing Europe shows that the UK has been in a minority on 57 legislative acts at the European Council since 1999, when the decisions were made public. Since then it has been in the majority on 2,474 acts, and abstained on 70 occasions.
Separate research by VoteWatch shows a shifting pattern in votes between 2004-2009 and 2009-2015, however – with the UK becoming the government most likely to vote against the majority in the second period. But even taking that data into account, the UK is still on the winning side 87 per cent of the time and far from being isolated, has consistent allies like Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania and Greece that back it on the vast majority of votes.
‘Two thirds of British jobs in manufacturing are dependent on demand from Europe’ – Alan Johnson
This claim by the Remain campaign was based on outdated data by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The consultancy has since revised the figures: it says the figure is more likely to be around 17 per cent.
The problem with the original figure was that the Remain campaign compared the total number of manufacturing jobs, 2.55 million, with the 1.7 million jobs the CEBR had said were dependent both directly and indirectly on EU trade, including in other industries. The two figures are not comparable so the two-thirds number was wrong.
‘Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU’ – Vote Leave publicity
Though Turkey has been an official EU candidate state since 1999, talks have long stalled and there is no prospect of the country joining the bloc anytime soon.
The European Parliament officially voted in favour of suspending negotiations just months after the EU referendum, on the basis of human rights abuses – while the European Council has said it will open talks in no new areas.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also since said Turkey will never become an EU member, effectively blocking any accession. Turkish President Erdogan’s constitutional referendum has effectively sealed the deal.
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