EU referendum: Vote Leave accuses David Cameron of telling 'five outright lies' in debate - but did he?

The pro-Brexit campaign claimed figures on immigration and NHS investment were wrong

David Cameron speaks during a ITV televised debate called 'Cameron and Farage Live: The EU Referendum
David Cameron speaks during a ITV televised debate called 'Cameron and Farage Live: The EU Referendum

Vote Leave has accused David Cameron of telling “five outright lies” in last night’s televised debate with Nigel Farage.

“He lied about being able to remove EU jobseekers without a job after six months, our ability to stop foreign criminals walking into the UK, our ability to deport foreign criminals, his pledge to restrict benefits and how much his government is investing in the NHS,” said Vote Leave’s chief executive Matthew Elliott.

So are they right?

Cameron and Farage grilled

Vote Leave claim: Cameron claims we can turn anyone away who is a threat. This is a lie.

Is it a lie?

Not exactly. The EU’s 2004 citizenship directive makes it clear that free movement of people within the EU is not an unqualified right. Member states are within their right to deny entry to any EU citizens on grounds of “public policy, public security or public health”. In effect this means that serious offenders can be denied entry and the right to live in Britain.

The caveat is that the directive goes on to say that “previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds for taking such measures”. But it adds that convicted criminals can be excluded on a case-by-case basis if they present “a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”.

David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions

Vote Leave claim: David Cameron is misleading the public when he says he is putting an additional £12 billion into the NHS. This was a lie.

Is it a lie?

Certainly the £12 billion figure, if not a lie, is new. The NHS Confederation, at the time of the budget last summer, said that the Government would be putting an additional £10 billion into the NHS by 2020 – not £12 billion. Mr Cameron may have misspoken – or it could be an aspiration – most experts believe that whether they like it or not the Government will have to put more than the current £10 billion into the NHS before the end of the Parliament.

Vote Leave claim: David Cameron claimed he got what he wanted on benefits (in his renegotiation). This was a lie.

To back this up Vote Leave say that the 2015 Conservative Manifesto states ‘We will insist that EU migrants who want to claim tax credits and child benefit must live here and contribute to our country for a minimum of four years.’

To be fair to Cameron the so-called ‘emergency break’ he negotiated does something similar. It will allow the Government to restrict in-work benefits for new migrant workers for up to four years after they start working under a tapered system. However there are still hurdles to be overcome before this comes into effect – which leave campaigners claim does not amount to a full ban. The truth is that Cameron got some of what he wanted, and what he wanted changed over time.

Vote Leave claim: David Cameron claimed he had a deal to deport foreign criminals. This is a lie.

Again – a hard one to judge. The Government did do a deal which allows EU prisoners in UK jails to be sent back home to serve their sentences which came into force in 2011. But some countries such as Poland currently have an opt out and in practice it has proved hard to enforce with very few prisoners being sent back under the scheme – so yes there was a deal – it’s just not working very well.

David Cameron claimed EU jobseekers must leave after six months. This was a lie.

Existing EU rules allow states to deport citizens from other EU countries if they have become a burden on the welfare system of the state. UK law suggests this occurs after six months of unsuccessfully looking for work, but it is not clear how many people have been removed from the UK on this basis as it is not monitored – or indeed enforced particularly effectively.

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