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Info M 02.02 Claims in Brexit Campaigns

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Info M 02.02 Claims in Brexit Campaigns

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Three claims by the Leave Campaigns with solutions

“We send the EU £50 million a day – let’s fund our NHS instead.“

The sum mentioned is to high.

The contribution Great Britain pays every year for the EU adds up to 17,8 billion Pound, that is about 342 million Euro per week, and hence, about 50 million Pound per day. However, the sum of 4,9 billion Pound needs to be subtracted from the annual sum, since Margaret Thatcher initiated the so-called UK rebate. Thus, Great Britain is refunded the sum of 4,9 billion Pound per year. Additionally, Great Britain’s private sector as well as the public institutions receive payments from the EU of about 5,8 billion Pound per year. Accordingly, the cost of UK’s EU membership amount to 7,1 billion Pound, that is 136 million Pound per week and about 19 million Pound per day (cf. Niedermeier / Ridder 2017: 26f).

“We need to take back control of our borders so we decide who can come here – and who can’t.“

Implies false preconditions and contradicts other claims by the Leave Campaigns.

Due to the policy of free movement of workers, EU citizens are allowed to move freely within the EU and they may choose their place of residence as well as their place of work. Concerning internal migration in the EU, EU member states seem to have less control than other states. However, since Great Britain is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, which seeks to avoid identity checks at internal EU borders, there were and are identity checks at British borders. Additionally, entry can be denied to EU citizens, in case there are security concerns. Giving up free movement implies Great Britain losing the unlimited access to the EU Single Market, since free movement is a precondition for the EU Single Market – and this does not conform to the claims by some Brexit proponents who claimed that Great Britain could still be part of the EU free trade area after the withdrawal. Furthermore, only half of the migrants in Great Britain are from other EU member states; for migrants from other states the British government may as well determine limits independently (cf. ibid. 2017: 27f)

“UK trade and jobs will thrive after we vote leave.“

Final statement not yet possible – most prognoses foresee negative consequences for GB.

Prognoses about the economic consequences of the withdrawal from the EU are hugely problematic, not least because these impacts depend massively on the kind of withdrawal (keywords: withdrawal agreement, hard Brexit, access to Single Market). Most of the studies published concerning the different scenarios foresee more negative than positive effects for the British economy. Brexit proponents argue that leaving the EU would free the British economy from the chains of the EU restrictions and support economic growth, since Great Britain would be detached from the rather slow growing EU economy (cf. ibid. 2017: 28f). This might be true, however, one should keep in mind that Great Britain would have to conclude trade agreements with other states on its own from then on – a lengthy process in which Great Britain’s negotiation position as an individual state would be weaker than the negotiation position of the whole EU. Moreover, the Europe is Great Britain’s most important trade partner: over 40% of the British export of goods and services stay within the EU member states.

Three claims by the Remain Campaign with solutions:

“The European Union has helped reconcile countries which were once at each other’s throats for decades. Britain has a fundamental national interest in maintaining common purpose in Europe to avoid future conflict between European countries.”

No false claim, but it awakens fears concerning rather unrealistic scenarios in case of a withdrawal from the EU.

The Prime Minister at that time, David Cameron, expressed the fear Britain’s withdrawal from the EU (and the involved weakening of the EU) would constitute a relapse to less peaceful times for Europe several times prior to the referendum. However, it is questionable if the peace in Europe is actually that unstable so that a British withdrawal from the EU could constitute a serious threat. A common European foreign and security policy together with Great Britain would certainly be more effective – Great Britain is among the states having the 10 biggest military forces after all. However, most of the EU member states are members of the NATO which makes outbreaks of war among the member states very unlikely. But from a strategical perspective one can doubt the usefulness of this and other claims by Cameron. By overemphasising the negative consequences of a withdrawal from the EU the positive effects of a membership were quickly overshadowed. This is the reason why Cameron’s political opponents accused him of using scaremongering instead of solid arguments to convince British people to remain in the EU (keyword: project fear) (cf. ibid. 2017: 29f).

”Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our trade with the EU.“

The amount of jobs is doubted by economic experts.

The different remain campaigns emphasised the economic advantages of the EU membership, plus they warned against the fact, that a loss of these advantages would have a negative impact on the British economy. The accuracy of the figures supposed to underline these arguments were often doubted by economic experts (cf. Treib 2018: 241). Additionally, the seeming fact that 3 million jobs are linked to trade with the EU does not say anything about whether these jobs would remain in case of a British withdrawal from the EU or not; this depends on the kind of withdrawal. This claim, however, suggests that the job holders are threatened of losing their jobs in case of a withdrawal.

"Being in Europe means lower prices […]. If we left, your weekly shop could cost more."

Final statement not yet possible – however, negative economic consequences are probale.

Many economic experts share the opinion that a short term price increase after the Brexit is not unlikely. Especially so, in case the value of the British Pound is weakened. However, it is difficult to make reliable statements about the long term economic consequences of the Brexit, because there are a variety of factors need to be considered. One cannot restrict the perspective to individual realms without neglecting substantial factors. For example, the missing competition with other companies in the EU could result in increased prices in different sectors – conversely, the removal of EU restrictions concerning the agricultural policy could result in a cut in prices. The degree of truth of this claim also depends on the kind of withdrawal.

Sources

  • Niedermeier, Alexander; Ridder, Wolfram (2017): Das Brexit-Referendum. Hintergründe, Streitthemen, Perspektiven. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien.

  • Treib, Oliver (2018): Wenn der Geist einmal aus der Flasche ist. Das Brexit-Referendum und die Politisierung der EU in Großbritannien. In: Anders, Lisa H; Scheller, Henrik; Tuntschew, Thomas (Hg.): Parteien und die Politisierung der Europäischen Union. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien.

Fußnoten = footnotes