Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Lies and half-truths

The Electoral Commission's EU Voting Guide came through the front door this week. It includes statements by both the official Remain and Leave campaigns. Remain has drawn the short straw in that Leave has the prime page three, the one that immediately hits your eye as you open the booklet. The Stronger In campaign has also been scrupulous in quoting only facts and figures from official sources. One may suspect that the Treasury figures are somewhat overstated, but in the case of employment they are probably understated. The statistic that three million UK jobs are linked to the EU is at least fifteen years old. Recent estimates put that figure as nearer five million.

There is no such restraint on Vote Leave. There are no citations apart from the URI of their web-site. Four times they state that the EU costs us £350m every week, and only once do they hint that the UK gets around a third of it back. Nowhere do they admit that Wales as a whole receives more than she pays in.

They imply that Turkey is about to join, whereas that country, because of its recent assault on civil rights, is further away from being approved as an EU member than she was in 2005 when negotiations were opened. Even if Turkish citizens gain visa-free access to continental Europe as part of a deal on stemming immigration (and this deal at the time of writing is by no means certain), this will not affect us as we are not party to the Schengen agreement. Negotiations with only one other applicant nation have started. This country is the mainly white and Christian Montenegro, which Vote Leave does not mention. Three other countries - Albania, FYROM and Serbia - have applied and been given visa rights to the Schengen area, but this is only a short way along the "process of joining".

The free movement of people under EU law which Vote Leave alludes to frees the labour market across the Union, and is as helpful to workers in this country as it is to those in continental Europe. "Many migrants contribute to society" - the evidence is that most migrants from the rest of Europe
make a net contribution to the UK exchequer. "They also affect public services" - an ambiguous statement glossing over the many public and social service jobs which EU migrants fill.

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