Labour Leave get their facts wrong by Hugo Dixon


Labour Leave get their facts wrong

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

The ‘Labour Leave’ campaign launched yesterday, putting a leaflet titled “6 reasons to leave the EU” at the top of their new website. With seven bullet points on its front page, the title of the leaflet is misleading. The contents aren’t much better.

The leaflet opens with the claim that “the UK gives Brussels £50m every day, £350m every week, £19 billion every year – nearly 20% of the EU’s budget”.

This is easily rebutted. Not only don’t their sums add up – 52 weekly payments of £350 million make £18.2 billion, not £19 billion – but the numbers are plain wrong. The UK’s notional contribution to the EU was £17.8 billion in 2015, but after deduction of the £4.9 billion UK rebate, the amount the UK actually paid over in 2015 was £12.9 billion.

Even using the actual figure would be misleading if it was intended to suggest that Britain would save that much by leaving the EU. That is because the EU spends money in the UK– see our full analysis here.

The leaflet goes on to assert that “UK exports to the EU have shrunk from 51% to 43%”.

What these figures actually refer to is the proportion of UK exports that go to other EU countries. From 2007 to 2014, this fell from 51% to 44%.

The fall didn’t happen because UK sales to the EU plummeted. Despite the intervening recession and subsequent eurozone woes, the total value of UK exports to the EU actually rose from £194 billion to £229 billion in that period. In real terms, that’s roughly level.

What these figures show is that other countries around the world are buying British. That doesn’t tally with the argument that we’ll be better off “unshackled from the EU… free to make our own agreements with new powerhouse economies such as Brazil, the Philippines and Commonwealth members like India”.

Moreover, other even if EU countries are taking a smaller share of our exports, arguing that the UK would be better off out makes little sense. Reducing access to a market that accounts for 44% of our exports would hardly be good news for producers.

The next part of the leaflet argues that “freeing our NHS, railways and public services from inefficient private contractors is under threat from the USA TTIP trade treaty”. Leaving aside the suggestion that the state would do things more efficiently, the European Commission has consistentlystated that public health services would not have to be opened to competition from or outsourced to private providers, and safeguards have been written into the EU’s TTIP negotiating position.

Moreover, as the Commission pointed out, under the EU’s proposals the UK would be free to bring outsourced services back into the public sector so long as they respected property rights – which are already protected under UK law.

Labour Leave also say that agriculture accounts for a small part of the EU economy, but subsidies for farmers take up rather a large part of its budget. The Common Agricultural Policy, Labour Leave says, raises prices for Europeans, and pushes Africans into poverty.

Recent evidence shows the effect of the CAP on world markets is “relatively minor” and that there isn’t a simple way of showing that the CAP is “unambiguously favourable or unfavourable” for developing countries, but most of Labour Leave’s points are correct.

What they aren’t is an argument for the UK to leave the EU. Outside the EU, the UK would not be able to push effectively for reform of the CAP. Indeed, without the more free-market influence of the UK, the EU might even strengthen its existing agricultural policies.

The leaflet goes on for several pages. It does not improve beyond the first. After castigating the EU for failing to enforce animal welfare rules, it complains on the same page that the EU is too interfering. It states that the ‘latest polls’ show Leave in the lead, but it quotes data from November. Other, more recent data and the poll of polls show ‘Remain’ in front.

The leaflet also quotes Toyota CEO ‘Aido Toyoda’ saying “We will continue to make cars in the East Midlands if Britain were to leave the EU”. Mr Toyoda, whose first name is Akio, has said no such thing.

It’s no wonder that the leaflet found that “the UK will thrive out of the EU”. If you don’t pay attention to facts when you argue your case, you can justify any conclusion.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes is a journalist at InFacts, a new enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. This article is being published here because the InFacts website is still under construction.

Originally published by Hugo Dixon 21/01/2016.

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