EU referendum: Remain campaign reports Vote Leave to Electoral Commission over 'misleading' leaflet

Pro-EU campaign spokesman accuses Vote Leave of trying to pull 'a grand deception of the British people'

Oliver Wright
Political Editor
Wednesday 06 April 2016 15:41
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Labour MP Chris Bryant made the complaint about the leaflet, which was delivered to thousands of homes
Labour MP Chris Bryant made the complaint about the leaflet, which was delivered to thousands of homes

The claim and counter-claim between pro and anti-EU campaigners has sunk to new depths after the leading group vying to pull Britain out of Europe was reported to the Electoral Commission for allegedly making misleading claims in a leaflet.

Chris Bryant, Labour’s Shadow Leader of the Commons, made the complaint over literature delivered to thousands of households over the last few weeks.

While the leaflet was produced by the Vote Leave campaign it contained none of the group’s branding – and directed people to a website which Mr Bryant suggested seemed “deliberately designed to appear impartial”.

Pro-EU campaigners claimed the leaflet made “at least” eight misleading claims despite suggesting it was presenting “the facts” about Britain’s membership.

Among the disputed assertions in the leaflet were claims that the EU had “taken control” over Britain’s “borders and public services”.

The main pro-EU campaign said this assertion was wrong as the UK remained in control of its borders as a result of the country’s opt-out from the Schengen Agreement. They added that the EU had “absolutely no say” over how Britain ran its public services.

Britain Stronger in Europe also rejected Vote Leave’s assertion that “The EU costs Britain £350 million a week”.

In fact, they said, Britain’s contribution was around £7.1bn a year – or £136m a week – equivalent to £263 per household per year.

The independent think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the UK’s overall net contribution would be a little over £8 billion a year in future. They added that in the past it had fluctuated from year to year and was £7.5bn in 2012, £9.1bn in 2013 and £5.7bn in 2014.

James McGrory, the chief campaign spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe, claimed Vote Leave was trying to pull “a grand deception on the British people” and were using a fact sheet that was “remarkably short on facts to do so”.

“This leaflet is nothing short of Project Fantasy,” he said. “It fails to address the real concerns that many people will have about the economic costs to Britain of leaving Europe’s free-trade single market.”

Addressing the lack of branding on the leaflet a source in Vote Leave pointed out that Britain’s Stronger in Europe had also produced literature with deliberately obscure branding on it.

A spokesman added: “People want to know the facts on the EU such as the fact that we send £350m every week to Brussels that could go to the NHS if we vote leave and we are experimenting with different formats to see what is most effective.”

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