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Final Say: The misinformation that was told about Brexit during and after the referendum

Saturday 28 July 2018 07:00 BST
The infamous bus promising an extra £350m a week for the NHS became a defining symbol of the Brexit referendum campaign
The infamous bus promising an extra £350m a week for the NHS became a defining symbol of the Brexit referendum campaign (Getty)

One of the major criticisms of the Brexit campaign was the number of misleading or false claims.

Both sides were accused of running deeply flawed campaigns with spurious reports such as money flooding back to the NHS in the event of Brexit.

With this in mind, The Independent has launched a campaign calling for the British people to have a Final Say on whatever Brexit terms emerge.

The Independent believes that sovereignty rests with the people – the people should have the opportunity to finish what they began, to pause and consider whether they still want to go ahead with the Brexit course we are on.

Here are some of the most notorious false claims that were made both during and after the Brexit referendum.

  1. 'The money saved from leaving the EU will result in the NHS getting £350m a week'

    One of the most prominent claims made by the Leave campaign was that the UK would take back £350m a week once it had left the EU – with the sum going to the NHS.

    The UK Statistics Authority has since said this was a “clear misuse of official statistics” – most notably because the figure did not take into account the money the UK gets back from the EU after paying into the budget.

    After taking into account the rebate, the figure is believed to be closer to £250m but the question remains whether the money will actually go the NHS.

    On the day after the Brexit referendum result, Nigel Farage, who had been more closely associated with the Leave.EU campaign than Vote Leave, disowned the pledge saying it was “one of the mistakes” that had been made by those wanting us out of the bloc.

    A poll by Ipsos MORI published in June 2016 found that nearly half the British public believed the claim.

    Two years on and Theresa May has now pledged additional funding for the NHS and has said the extra money will come, in part, from a “Brexit dividend”.

    Under the plans, the NHS budget will increase by £20.5bn by 2023, and the government has said this will be funded through a combination of tax rises, economic growth and money no longer sent to Brussels.

    The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has however said that although there would be some savings if Britain leaves the EU, this does not take into account the potential economic impact or the money that could have to be sent to the EU as a result of the Brexit deal.

  2. 'A free-trade deal with the EU will be 'the easiest thing in human history'

    One year after the referendum Liam Fox said a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU would be the “easiest in human history”.

    “The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history,” he told BBC radio.

    “We are already beginning with zero tariffs, and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence, as it is called. In other words, our rules and our laws are exactly the same.”

    However, the negotiations have been far from easy and, with the clock ticking, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit appears increasingly likely.

    Mr Fox himself has now said that leaving without a deal would be better than prolonging talks with Brussels, a move he described as a "complete betrayal" of voters.

    He said any attempt to extend the Article 50 process was unacceptable amid speculation that Ms May could be forced to lengthen the negotiations to prevent Britain crashing out without a deal.

    David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, made similar claims during the referendum campaign and said that Britain would negotiate individual trade deals with other EU countries.

    However, EU member states cannot negotiate individual trade deals with outside countries and instead do so as a bloc of 28.

    “Post Brexit a UK-German deal would include free access for their cars and industrial goods, in exchange for a deal on everything else,” he said in May.

    “Similar deals would be reached with other key EU nations. France would want to protect £3bn of food and wine exports. Italy, its £1bn fashion exports. Poland its £3bn manufacturing exports.”

  3. ‘Two thirds of British jobs in manufacturing are dependent on demand from Europe’

    Alan Johnson, a Remainer and the former shadow chancellor, claimed two thirds of manufacturing jobs were dependent on Europe after looking at outdated analysis that had been conducted by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

    The figure used by Mr Johnson compared the total number of manufacturing jobs, 2.55 million, with the 1.7 million jobs the CEBR had said were dependent on EU trade.

    However, the two figures were not comparable and more recent analysis shows that the figure is more likely to be closer to 15 per cent.

  4. 'Turkey is going to join the EU and millions of people will flock to the UK'

    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 voted in favour of suspending negotiations with Turkey just months after the Brexit referendum, on the basis of human rights abuses and the European Council has said it will not open talks in any new areas.

    During the campaign Michael Gove claimed that Turkey and four other countries could join the EU and claimed it was possible this could happen within four years.

    The claim was used to argue for stricter immigration laws, as forecasts suggested new countries joining the EU could lead to 5.2 million extra people moving to the UK.

    Two years later Mr Gove admitted that fears of Turkish immigration should not have been exploited and said if it was up to him the campaign “would have [had] a slightly different feel”.

    At the time David Cameron said the assertion that Turkey could join the EU was “absolutely wrong”.

  5. 'Brexit will lead to Scotland renewing calls for independence'

    Remainers warned that a Brexit vote would lead to Scotland renewing their push for independence, especially if those north of the border supported staying in the EU.

    A total of 62 per cent of votes in Scotland were cast in favour of Remain but in the 2017 general election the pro-independence Scottish National Party actually lost a large portion of its seats.

    Although thousands of people have marched for independence since the referendum and have cited Brexit as a reason why, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has insisted that any discussion about independence would come after a final Brexit deal is agreed upon.

  6. 'Brexit does not mean the UK will leave the single market'

    Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP who is often described as the “godfather of Brexit” repeatedly assured voters that Britain would not leave the single market if they voted to leave the EU.

    “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market,” he said.

    Owen Paterson, a Tory MP and a prominent campaigner for Vote Leave made similar claims.

    “Only a madman would actually leave the market,” Mr Paterson said.

    Since the referendum Ms May has repeatedly said that Brexit would mean leaving the single market.

    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”.

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