Mythbusters - People's Vote

Mythbusters

MYTHS ABOUT A PEOPLE’S VOTE

‘A People’s Vote would be undemocratic’

‘Now that Article 50 has been triggered, Brexit cannot be reversed’

‘Even if we chose to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU, we would lose the rebate and our exemptions from Schengen and the Euro’

‘There isn’t enough time to hold a People’s Vote before we leave the EU’

‘We can’t have a People’s Vote because we won’t know the terms of the future UK-EU relationship until after we have left’

‘Those advocating a People’s Vote simply want a re-run because they didn’t like the result first time around’

MYTHS ABOUT EU MEMBERSHIP

‘We send £350 million to the EU every week’

‘We cannot control immigration from Europe as a member of the EU’

‘EU migration has driven down wages’

‘The EU need us more than we need them’

‘Other countries/Turkey will be joining the EU soon’

‘We are constantly outvoted in Brussels by other EU countries’

‘Being in the EU means we can’t trade with the rest of the world’

‘The EU hasn’t changed at all since the Brexit vote, so why should we change our minds’

‘EU laws are made by unelected bureaucrats’

‘If we changed our minds and stayed in the EU we would lose our sovereignty’

MYTHS ABOUT A PEOPLE’S VOTE

‘A People’s Vote would be undemocratic’

The 2016 referendum determined that Britain should set about negotiating the country’s departure from the EU and the People’s Vote campaign respects that decision.

However, the terms on which we leave, and Britain’s future relationship with the EU, were never formulated or put to the public in 2016 and much more information and new facts have come to light about Brexit since then that could never have been known at the time.

We now know that promises made about Brexit, like more £350m a week extra for our NHS and getting a deal with the ‘exact same benefits’, won’t be kept. In fact, if we leave we will have to pay a £40 billion divorce bill in return for a much worse relationship.

The Brexit process is a mess and the negotiations are going badly, which makes it more likely that we will get a bad deal.

Given all this, it doesn’t seem right to tell people, as the Government is doing, that the public should just accept without question whatever version of Brexit they come back with.

‘Now that Article 50 has been triggered, Brexit cannot be reversed’

This is a myth peddled by the Government to give the impression that we could not change our minds and is complete rubbish.

The architect of Article 50, the British peer Lord Kerr, is clear that revoking the notification to leave the EU is entirely up to us.

And key European leaders have said that we can change our minds:

  • Emmanuel Macron, President of France, said in January: “I do respect this vote, I do regret this vote, and I would love to welcome you again.”
  • Donald Tusk, European Council president, said in January that Europeans’ “hearts are still open” to “our British friends” to remain in the EU.
  • Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, told MEPs in January: “If the British people, the British parliament, the British government, wish for another way than Brexit, we would be prepared to discuss it. We are not throwing out the British, we want them to stay.”
  • Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament says: “If the UK wanted to stay, everybody would be in favour. I would be very happy.”
  • Leo Varadkar, Irish Taoiseach says: “The door remains open for the UK to stay in the European Union.”

‘Even if we chose to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU, we would lose the rebate and our exemptions from Schengen and the Euro’

If we revoke Article 50, we wouldn’t lose access to any of our privileges because we would never have left the EU in the first place.

The rebate is part of a legal text known as the Own Resources Decision, which can be amended only if all member states agree.

While we remain a member state, we would not agree to drop the rebate, and since we are entitled to remain a member state, we could not be forced to do so.

The same goes for the Euro, Schengen and our other opt-outs. As we would not have left the EU, there would be no legal basis to change any of these.

‘There isn’t enough time to hold a People’s Vote before we leave the EU’

It depends when Parliament passes the legislation. It would of course make sense to do this sooner rather than later, and that is what we are campaigning for.

But if necessary, Article 50 could be extended to allow for more time to ensure a People’s Vote could take place. This is perfectly possible. A request would need to be made by the Government and agreed by the EU27. All the indications from Europe are that an extension of Article 50 to allow us more time to go through our domestic democratic processes and legislate for and hold a People’s Vote would be looked upon favourably.

‘We can’t have a People’s Vote because we won’t know the terms of the future UK-EU relationship until after we have left’

Theresa May has said emphatically that the country will have full details about the deal negotiated before we leave the EU and we take her at her word.

We already know the details of the divorce deal and the transition, and some key things about the future relationship – for example, whether we will remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, both of which the Government intends to leave.

The Government only decided this after the referendum was held – it was not on the ballot paper. We know far more now and what leaving will mean than we did at the referendum.

If the Government, despite what the Prime Minister has said, tries to fob off the country with only vague plans about leaving and much about the future relationship remains unclear, it will be even more important to have a People’s Vote because the danger will be that we are charging off a gangplank into thin air.

‘Those advocating a People’s Vote simply want a re-run because they didn’t like the result first time around’

Let’s be clear – this is not a ‘second referendum’, or a re-run of the vote in 2016.

In fact, to be accurate, this would be the third time the public have had a vote on Europe, after 1975 and 2016.

But this is a completely new question, about the future relationship which we had no information about in 2016: Once we know all the facts about the Brexit deal, do we want to accept it or not? And who should get to decide that – should it be politicians or the public?

Whatever your views on Brexit, no one would disagree that it’s a very big deal that will especially affect young people for generations to come, and it increasingly looks as though we will get a bad deal.

A People’s Vote would put the electorate back in control and give everyone the chance to decide whether the deal is good for the country.

MYTHS ABOUT EU MEMBERSHIP

‘We send £350 million to the EU every week to the EU’

This figure, which is still cited by Boris Johnson, is complete nonsense. In fact, the independent UK Statistics Authority wrote to him calling it a “clear misuse of official statistics”.

The figure doesn’t take into account the money we get back from the EU in the form of our UK rebate, or the huge amount we receive in investment in the UK through EU funds.

In 2016 our contribution to the EU budget was £18.9bn. However, we got £5bn of this back in the UK rebate and we also received an additional £5.6bn of EU funds in the form of both public and private investment.

The actual net amount we sent to the EU in 2016 was £8.1bn, which worked out at £156m a week. And the reality is that as an EU member state the UK controls more than 98% of its public expenditure.

Our contribution to the EU should be weighed against the financial benefits it results in. The Confederation of British Industry estimates that EU membership is worth £3,000 a year to every British family — a return of nearly £10 for each £1 we pay in.

EU membership also allows us to live, work, study, travel, retire and do business anywhere across 27 other countries and have frictionless trade with our most important trading partners.

‘We cannot control immigration from Europe as a member of the EU’

Yes we can. And there are many more things we could do.

First, we could apply the existing rules that the Government currently chooses not to. For example, EU nationals who have been unable to find a job after six months could be expelled, as they are in Belgium and several other EU countries.

There is nothing in EU law giving recent migrants without a job the right to things like housing benefit or income support. The UK could move more benefits into this category.

The UK could also reintroduce the Migration Impacts Fund, which was scrapped in 2010, to channel more resources to parts of the country which have experienced high levels of immigration.

Recent reform of the Posted Workers Directive, to prevent workers posted to other EU countries from undercutting local wages, show there is a big appetite for reform. We could be working with like-minded countries to push for further reform from inside the EU.

‘EU migration has driven down wages’

Wages have been stagnating – but that is because of Brexit, and the legacy of the 2008 global financial crisis.

There is very little evidence to support the argument immigration dramatically affects the wages and job prospects of UK-born workers.

EU immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare and the use of public services, and their consumption of goods and services increases demand and thereby helps to create more employment opportunities.1

Brexiters often cite a 2015 study by the Bank of England as proof that EU migration exerts downward pressure on wages.2 But the author of the report has recently clarified that the negative impact is “infinitesimally small” and that his findings have been widely misrepresented.

As a study from the well-respected London School of Economics has shown, immigrants come here and buy our products and our services – good for our economy and good for our growth.

Finally, EU migrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare and use of public services.

‘The EU need us more than we need them’

Brexiters have repeatedly claimed that Brussels would be falling over itself to do a trade deal with us since ‘EU countries sell us more than we sell them’.

This is simply not true. A far bigger share of our trade is with the EU than vice versa and, while everyone will suffer from lower trade as a result of Brexit, we will be worst hit.

According to the latest statistics, in 2017, our exports to the EU accounted for 45% of all our exports and we imported 54% of all our imports from the EU over the same time-period.

By contrast, exports from the EU to the UK account for about 16% of all their exports and their imports from us account for only about 3-4% of all their imports.

We are clearly much more exposed and will take a much bigger hit than they will. If anything, we definitely need them more than they need us.

‘Other countries/Turkey will be joining the EU soon’

This is complete nonsense. There is enlargement fatigue across the EU, and no significant appetite for other countries to join the club.

In any case, all existing countries, including the UK, have a veto over whether any other countries should join.

Given the current political situation in Turkey, no EU member state wants it to join, meaning it simply cannot happen.

If we ever decided we wanted another country to join, we could decide to put measures in place to not grant free movement rights until a lengthy ‘transition period’ had been in place. For example, when Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013, we put restrictions in place, not allowing Croatian citizens immediate free movement opportunities in the UK

‘We are constantly outvoted in Brussels by other EU countries’

This is just absolute baloney. Over the last five years, when it comes to votes in the Council of Ministers, 94% of the time, we have got our way.

On a number of issues, the Council of Ministers works on the principle of unanimity meaning that if we’re not happy with something then it doesn’t happen. This includes foreign policy, whether or not other countries can join the club, taxation and the EU budget. This means on all these issues we can always get exactly the outcome we want.

When it comes to the European Parliament, the claim that we’re forever being outvoted by other countries is even more ludicrous because it misunderstands the whole process. In the European Parliament, just as in Westminster, MEPs organise themselves along political lines, not country by country, and they naturally vote in different directions.

‘Being in the EU means we can’t trade with the rest of the world’

The opposite is true. As a member of the EU we have trade agreements in place with around 65 countries around the world, meaning two thirds of UK exports go to countries in the EU, or countries with whom the EU has a trade deal in place.

New agreements signed by the EU with Japan and Canada, and the recent initiation of negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, show the strength of the EU as a negotiating bloc.

The government’s own leaked impact assessments estimate that trade deals with nearly every country in the world would add just 0.3% – 0.6% to GDP – compared to a 5% hit from leaving the Single Market.10

There is no guarantee that these deals will continue after Brexit, as many countries now have an incentive to try to negotiate more favourable terms for themselves. Indeed, both South Korea and Chile11 are already trying this. The result would be a worse deal for us.

As we have already seen, Liam Fox’s attempts to negotiate trade deals are going nowhere fast. Trade deals take many years and involve many trade-offs that the public are unlikely to be happy about – from chlorine chicken to granting more visas.

‘The EU hasn’t changed at all since the Brexit vote, so why should we change our minds’

Again, this is rubbish. Since we voted for Brexit, a lot has changed in the EU. Here are just a few examples:

  • In the summer of 2017, new mobile phone rules came into force meaning that if we go abroad in Europe we can use our phones as if we were back home and no longer face massive phone bills.12
  • In May 2018 the EU passed legislation to stop companies from undercutting workers’ wages. From now on, anyone working in another EU country will have to be paid local wages.13
  • Europe is leading the way in tackling corporate tax avoidance. In the past year, Apple and Amazon have been forced to pay back huge sums to national governments in Ireland (£11 billion) and Luxembourg (£222 million).

‘EU laws are made by unelected bureaucrats’

This is just not true. The European Commission doesn’t make laws. It only makes proposals, which are then debated, amended and passed (or rejected) by elected national governments and directly-elected MEPs.

In any case, Commissioners themselves are accountable to the European Parliament, which elects its president, approves its appointment and can dismiss it by a vote of no confidence.

We elect members of the European Parliament and if they’re not happy with legislation then it either doesn’t pass or they can amend it. Every five years UK voters have the opportunity to boot out their MEPs and replace them, if they wish, in European parliamentary elections.

‘If we changed our minds and stayed in the EU we would lose our sovereignty’

We never lost our sovereignty in the first place. We have always been in charge of our own destiny, and as one of the largest EU member states, we have a hugely outsized influence over the rules.

Indeed, if we really didn’t have control of our own sovereignty, then we would never have been able to hold a vote on EU membership in the first place.

We are members of a vast array of international organisations through which we have given up a degree of sovereignty in return for significant benefits, including NATO, the World Trade Organisation and the UN Law of the Sea.

In fact, Brexit is making us lose sovereignty where we will end up having a close relationship with the EU and implementing their rules just to get access to their markets.