The Leave campaign’s 4 biggest euro-fibs
Leaders of the Leave campaigns have turned being economical with the truth into an art-form over the course of the EU referendum. To paraphrase legendary foreign correspondent Louis Heren, whenever you hear a prominent Brexiteer, ask yourself “why is this lying *** lying to me?”
Here are the four fundamental mistruths at the heart of their campaign.
1. Brexit would fund the NHS – WRONG!
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (among others) have both pushed this particular fantasy. In a statement released at the start of June they claimed:
“One of the best ways to protect, and to strengthen, the NHS for the people of this country is to use some money we currently spend on EU membership to invest in improving healthcare.”
Their figure of £350million a week to spend on the NHS was demolished almost instantly (here’s our take), and they were rebuked (twice) by the UK Statistics Authority as they kept on using it regardless. Their health lead Dr Sarah Wollaston actually defected when she couldn’t bring herself to use a battlebus emblazoned with a lie.
And to make it even more shamefaced, leaders of the Leave campaign have never been the NHS’ most reliable defenders. In 2003 Boris declared that people should be made to pay for access to the NHS “If NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused like any free service… If people have to pay for them, they will value them more”. Prominent leave supporters: Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and Dan Hannan have all advocated privatisation of the NHS in the past.
The Chief Executive of NHS England is a more reliable witness. Simon Stevens believes that the biggest risk comes from the economic turmoil and lost growth that has been predicted by everyone from the Bank of England to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the OECD, and the London School of Economics. “…when the British economy sneezes, the NHS catches a cold” he warned “and this would be a terrible moment for that to happen at precisely the time the NHS is going to need extra investment.” That’s why our NHS is safer IN!
2. Workers’ rights would be safe after Brexit – WRONG!
Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom both recently weighed in to dismiss the idea that Brexit posed a threat to rights at work. They said that it was:
“a great insult to the social reformers, who, over many decades, have put the UK at the forefront of advances in employment”.
Boris Johnson, on the other hand, has stated his preference for dismissing exactly these rights on multiple occasions. For example in 2012 when he said “Boil it down to the single market. Scrap the social chapter.” Or two years later when he opined that: “The weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking: the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers directive, the working time directive and a thousand more.”
And Work and Pensions Minister Priti Patel expressed a desire to “halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation…”
They’re hardly the only ones. Leading employment barrister Michael Ford QC has made clear in his advice to the TUC that, in his professional opinion: “All the social rights in employment currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable.”
Their rare attempt to show what might actually happen after a brexit, by publishing a “framework for taking back control” only made it worse for them, as they admitted: “When the ECA is repealed Parliament will decide carefully which areas of existing EU law should a) be kept, b) be amended and c) be removed.” We wonder if ALL workers’ rights are going to be preserved, exactly why they need a B or C option?
3. Brexit would bring down immigration – WRONG!
This has been the bedrock of the Brexit campaign. Particularly in the last weeks of the campaign they have doubled down on the dog-whistle rhetoric, ranging from Nigel Farage’s claim that Britain is at ‘Breaking Point’ to Michael Gove and Boris Johnson claiming that Turkey’s accession to the EU was imminent. Tory Brexit supporters have adopted UKIP’s call for an Australian point-based immigration system, arguing that this would involve letting in people with the skills the economy needs, but reducing the number of unskilled migrants from the rest of Europe.
As the TUC has pointed out, this misrepresents what the Australian system delivers. Rather than tackle short-term skill shortages in the labour market, the employer sponsorship aspect of the Australian system has led to a massive influx of unskilled and semi-skilled workers who are exploited by their bosses. Last year, we reported that they accounted for between 7-10% of the labour force, and up to 20% among younger workers.
And on the BBC’s Great Debate on Tuesday night, Gisela Stuart repeatedly failed to answer the question Frances O’Grady put to her about what would happen to immigration numbers if we left the EU. Leaving the EU would do little to solve the problem. Much has been made of the government’s intention to bring net migration down below 100,000 a year, an aim Brexiteers argue is impossible without leaving the EU. What they tend not to discuss is the fact that non-EU migration is higher than that from the EU, so even if the 174,000 EU migrants that entered the UK in 2014 ceased to arrive that would still leave 194,000 migrants from outside the EU.
People have legitimate concerns over immigration and the way it has been mis-managed by successive governments. But immigrants play a vital role in the UK society, across all levels of the NHS, in education and the caring industries, and they are often just as much the victims of exploitation as existing workers. It was the bankers’ crisis and the Government’s misguided cuts since the crash that have led to the average household being £40 a week worse off. It is bad bosses who have used immigrants to undercut existing wage rates, and the Leave campaign is stuffed full of people who would like to give them even more scope to do so by scrapping workers’ rights.
4. Jobs will be safe after Brexit – WRONG!
This one is perhaps the most brazen yet. Pro-leave advocates from Michael Gove, to Boris Johnson have dismissed fears of a recession in the wake of Brexit. At the Great Debate on the BBC last night, Boris Johnson said he would apologise publicly if people lost jobs because of Brexit, which won’t be much of a comfort once the damage is done.
But given Gove and Johnson’s previous dismissal of “experts” and “propaganda”, why not turn to the Brexiteers themselves? Patrick Minford, economist and member of the group “Economists for Brexit” has been quoted on numerous occasions cheerfully confirming that jobs would be lost in the event of a vote to leave. In March of this year he declared “over time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us.”
It might not scare Patrick Minford, Boris or Gove, but it should cause the 250,000 workers in UK manufacturing whose jobs could be lost, according to the TUC and the Engineering Employers’ Federation, considerable concern indeed. On the other side of the debate from Patrick Minford, but agreeing with him that jobs would be lost, are Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, and the IMF. Decent jobs with good pay are under threat from Brexit, no matter how much Gove and Boris try to protest otherwise.
Nought out of four
On these four key issues – the NHS, rights at work, immigration and jobs – Leave campaigners are not just misleading people, they are doing it intentionally and systematically. And we won’t get a chance to go back when, surprise surprise, they’re proven wrong.
Reject Project Lie, and vote Remain – Don’t risk it.