Leading article

The ‘in’ side’s shockingly bad start in the EU referendum campaign

Their data is dodgy, they disregard the facts and their leaders are lazy

30 January 2016

9:00 AM

30 January 2016

9:00 AM

David Cameron wants to get the European Union referendum over with quickly — and understandably so. Things are still going well for him, and his political opposition is in disarray. The ‘in’ campaign will draw heavily upon his personal authority and the public is not (yet) fed up with him. Ideally, he wants to start campaigning next month — and many of his allies are at it already. Opinion polls show a large number of undecided voters. So this may very well be a campaign where a great many are open to persuasion and hoping for a high-quality debate. They will have been disappointed so far.

The ‘in’ campaign has been up and running for months, and recently secured large donations from Goldman Sachs and other American megabanks. With such resources, we should be hearing fresh, high-quality arguments delivered with passion and elan. Instead, we have had the likes of David Lammy, a former London mayoral hopeful, telling us that a million Indians died during the second world war ‘fighting for the European project’. There certainly was a project to integrate Europe at the time, but it is one that Indians (and others) helped to thwart.

Then we have the tragicomic figure of Stuart Rose, who fronts the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign. He seems unable even to remember its name, bizarrely calling it the ‘Better Stay in Britain’ campaign. It was shocking, but not surprising, to hear that he had not bothered to marshal even the most basic facts. What’s worse is to find out that BSE (to use its unfortunate acronym) had not bothered to carry out proper research itself.

It has been making two main claims: that EU membership is worth £3,000 a year per household and saves the average person £450 a year through lower prices. One source is supposedly a 2013 ‘study’ by the Confederation of British Industry — which turns out not to be a study, but an exercise in cherry-picking other pieces of research. The £450 figure can be traced to a European Commission publication, which, in turn, came from a American paper called ‘Globalisation and the Gains from Variety’ — an attempt to quantify the benefits of -globalisation to American, not European, consumers.

How can a well-funded campaign like Britain Stronger in Europe have resorted to such a cavalier use of statistics? Disregard for the facts is, alas, a character trait of many of the most fervent pro-Europeans. In 2011, Nick Clegg, then deputy prime minister, made another claim which has been parroted by the pro-EU camp: ‘There are three million of our fellow citizens, men and women, in this country whose jobs rely directly on our participation [in the EU].’ This figure was derived from a ten-year-old study which simply totted up jobs in businesses that export to the EU. Is anyone supposed to believe that all trade between us and EU states would cease if we voted to leave?

But this is what the ‘in’ campaign is suggesting: contrasting EU membership with a made-up world in which Britain would suddenly mean nothing to anyone on the Continent. This scenario only serves to insult voters’ intelligence. If we vote to leave, the rules are clear: nothing would change for at least two years while a new trade deal was negotiated. This would hardly mean all trade ceasing. Far from it. The rest of the EU would have an even stronger incentive to negotiate a deal than we do, given that they export more to us than we export to them — £19.2 billion worth of goods against £11.1 billion in November last year, for example.

The choice facing Britain isn’t -whether or not to trade with Europe. It is a question of how we trade with Europe. Do we continue with the status quo, under EU rules and with all of its notorious frustrations? Or do we try to negotiate another trade deal, as Norway and Iceland have done? If we do the latter, then the jobs reliant on European trade will still exist.

The question — and it’s a tough one for the ‘out’ campaign — is whether the new deal with Europe would be much better. Would we pursue an expensive Norway-style relationship, or a Swiss one that doesn’t include free trade in services? It would depend on -whoever leads our exit negotiations, which would depend on who succeeds David -Cameron — he is expected to resign if Britain votes to leave.

The problem is that many of those involved in Britain Stronger in Europe also once campaigned for Britain to join the euro. They made all manner of claims that have since been disproven. It was easier to bluff back then. In the digital age, dishonest figures can be rumbled quickly. This is why this time last year George Osborne had to abandon his false claim of having halved the deficit.

Until recently it seemed unlikely that Britain would vote to leave the EU. But then, for a long time, nobody thought Scotland would vote for independence. In that referendum, the ‘no’ campaign was caught napping, and the vote turned out to be much closer than expected. This year, the ‘in’ campaign has made a similarly lazy and unconvincing start.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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  • sandy winder

    The argument of whether to stay in the EU is not all about the economic benefits. It is about the safety of our women and children, the terrorism threat, coping with the infrastructure problems of unlimited migration and our cultural heritage, etc.

    • Martin

      And how are those related to the EU? I don’t remember Pakistan being a member of the EU. Good luck on your own Little England, you still live in a fantasy world.

  • polidorisghost

    Just a little thing: Every time I read “EU” a picture of Sepp Blatter pops into my head.
    The unconscious is a strange state but there is a logic to its workings.

    • tim rogers

      That is odd given Blatter is Swiss and Switzerland are not part of the EU at all .

      • polidorisghost

        I know.
        Like I said the unconscious is a strange place

  • “This figure was derived from a ten-year-old study which simply totted up jobs in businesses that export to the EU.”

    Interesting nobody ever tots up the jobs in UK businesses that are *suppressed* due to economic imports from the EU.

    Since we import more than we export from the EU, using this logic must mean there are at least four million jobs that don’t exist in the UK because of the EU.

    And of course those businesses that are suppressed can’t contribute lobby funding to the propaganda campaign.

  • The EU is, always has been and always will be solely a political question. Do we want to be part of a United States of Europe, ruled from Brussels with taxes raised federally in Brussels. Or do we want to do what we did in the Georgian Period and refuse to be a mere backwater of the Hanoverian empire.

    The latter decision led to the industrial revolution in the UK, massive advances in technology and the UK being the pre-eminent trading force on the planet for a century.

    • JJD

      That’s the way I see things too, Neil. I like how you reference the recent past. As Charles Moore has said, leaving the EU would be a “step into the known”.

      However, I fear that many citizens of the UK will decide on a very limited set of questions. Will I be better or worse off? How will this impact on my wages, my family, my cost of living, in the short term?

      In answer to this kind of question, scare stories can be very effective.

    • Brimstone52

      I agree with your thinking, but I’d like to be a bit picky over the detail.

      The industrial revolution started with Abraham Darby smelting iron with coke in 1709 whilst Anne was still Queen (she died in 1714). Much of the rise in industrialisation was undertaken by Quakers (of which Darby was one) as they were prohibited from activity in other areas of life. Later, it was Quakers who created the Stockton & Darlington Railway when George IV was on the throne.

    • Martin

      This time your decision will break-up the UK and you will finally become Little England which lives in cloud cuckoo land.

      • polidorisghost

        You seem to have a “Little England” obsession

        • Martin

          No, just sorry to see that once a great country is taking such a self destructive and inward looking path. Quitting EU will put the final nail in the coffin.

          • Michael

            Britain as i remember it was great long before the EU existed. We can be more outward looking with the rest of the world as an independant trading nation, doing our own deals and being governed by the Westminster parliament which we directly elect.

          • Martin

            What Britain, The United Kingdom of England and Cornwall? Insignificant little country which becomes a laughing stock of the world.

          • Michael

            With comments like that i’m not sure if you’re even a Brit yourself. We’re top of the world even today on ‘ soft power ‘. Check it out.

            Do you want us to keep on forking out £billions per year in net contributions to a remote institution that perpetually stymies and overules us ?

            I dont.

          • Martin

            “Brit” is an invented term to keep a fragile union together under a pseudo identity.

          • celtthedog

            If “Brit” is an “invented” term, what do you think “Europe” and “European” are?

            Logic’s not your strong point, is it?

          • DarrenSH

            Brit, or Briton has been around long before Scot or English came about as ideas that divide us Britons.

          • jbat001

            Insignificant? Even without Scotland, we would still be the sixth biggest economy in the world. Add to that that we would remain permanent UN Security Council members (there is no mechanism to remove us), the fifth biggest military budget in the world, the global centre of finance (even New York does less business than London), and I reckon we’d be just fine.
            Sounds like you have a delusion of weakness.

          • You wont mind then if we vote to sod off then will you Martin?

          • polidorisghost

            The EU is sinking under the weight of its own corruption, incompetence, cowardice and lack of democratic accountabilty.
            I vote that we abandon ship. Other nations will eventually do the same

      • jbat001

        The probability of Scotland voting to leave the UK when oil is under $50 a barrel is nil. It would be economic suicide.

        • Martin

          Oh when it comes to leaving the EU it is all about the independence not the economic argument. But with Scotland you play the economy card. Is this a typical English hypocrisy or what?

          • jbat001

            It’s not hypocrisy – it is rooted in fact.

            Scotland’s economy is not highly diversified. It is heavily reliant on oil and gas, and the banking sector. The UK as a whole has a highly diversified economy, and a functional fiscal union to redistribute funds. When the price of oil falls by 75%, as we have seen happen, Scotland’s income falls considerably. For an independent Scotland, this would mean a fall in overall revenue of perhaps 20%, maybe more. No country can absorb such a big variation in income without either going into debt, or heavily cutting back on services. The SNP has made a name for itself opposing austerity, so it could not cut – all it could do would be to issue new debt. Running a deficit of 20% of GDP a year is not just risky – it’s insane.

            The UK and Scotland are one country. The EU is not a country, no matter how much it wants to be. It is a treaty organisation, like NATO or the UN. Scotland gave democratic ratification to the UK union in 2014 when it voted ‘No’ to independence by a sizeable margin. Most people are very happy to trade with Europe, but have no wish to be governed as part of a European State, which is where the EU is headed.

  • “The question — and it’s a tough one for the ‘out’ campaign — is whether the new deal with Europe would be much better.”

    Of course it would be much better. A UK freed from Europe doesn’t actually need its trade that much. We are free to stimulate our own domestic economy in the way the Chinese are doing. We are free to drop the trade barriers with China and get cheap solar panels amongst other things. We are free to talk to the Russians about mutually beneficial arrangements.

    Europe is becoming a backwater with a stagnant economy brought about by the ideological obsession with the Euro and integration.

    Ultimately they need us more than we need them. We have to take the Trump approach and be prepared to walk away. We have to take the lead again – by offering those countries in Europe that want a fresh start freedom from the EU and a pass to a Commonwealth of independent trading nations based on the British model.

    • xIRONFISTx

      “We have to take the Trump approach and be prepared to walk away. We have to take the lead again – by offering those countries in Europe that want a fresh start freedom from the EU and a pass to a Commonwealth of independent trading nations based on the British model.”

      You’ve nailed it right on the head.

      This is EXACTLY the kind of stance our PM should be taking, rather than the impotent, feckless waffling we’ve seen thus far.

    • WFB56

      The UK benefits from trade with Europe and it would be foolish to suggest that we don’t want them as customers. Similarly, citing Trump reveals the paucity of your arguments as there are no examples where Trump has actually done a successful deal involving public policy because he’s never been elected to anything.
      Reagan never took Trump’s approach and he negotiated big deals and delivered big change. In the unlikel event that Trump got elected he will prove to be the “mother of all disappointments” to his supporters; just as Obama was to his.

      • There is a significant difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. If the EU wants to play silly buggers and shoot themselves in the foot, then that would be unfortunate for the Europeans, but a UK free of EU rules can maintain its own economy for as long as necessary.

        For the same reasons Canada, Australia and New Zealand can maintain their own economy for as long as is necessary. They look outwards to the wider world.

  • BigRed

    The in ‘mob’ also has the over bloated pompous Kenneth Clarke as one of their spokespersons. This must be a plus factor for the out campaign.
    Vote BREXIT it isthe only way forward. Te Battle of Britain so ably fought by our airforce during the period 10th July to 31st October 1940 needs to be fought again in memory of those courageous men.
    There is no doubt about it, Germany wants to subdue us in the Fourth Reich under the guise of the EU.
    Vote for freedom, vote for peace and safety for our women and children, vote for border control, vote to stop overcrowding of NHS & our schools, vote for freedom of trade, vote for our fishing industry to be revived afer being destroyed by EU regulation, vote for our steel industry to stop Chinese dumping of steel on our shores, the list goes on and on and on, there is only one way – VOTE BREXIT.

    • groovydad

      All correct except one..Germany and Spain are Dumping more of their cheap steel here as they make it cheaper because they have Coal fired Power stations that we are being Forced by The EU to get rid of!..Hence making Our steel industry uneconomical!!

  • gerronwithit

    Only the Europhile, metro-centric, bubble inhabitors are convinced that the IN campaign has it to lose. The IN campaign has yet to develop one coherent argument that anyone down at street level would happily agree with. If they ctually came out and said that many politicians future prospects will go down the Swanny, along with armies of useless bureaucrats, which is their primary concern, then the OUT campaign just need to turn out on referendum day and point the real people to the ballot boxes.

  • Frank

    Cameron leaving if the Referendum votes to leave? Has Farage taken this on board? Wonderful news, perhaps we will get a Prime Minister with some backbone!
    Credit to Hollande, he refused to entertain the Iranian President because his staff demanded that the meal be composed of halal meat and that no wine should be served – so the Iranian President is apparently having no welcoming meal in France.
    As for the repeated tortured suggestion that after an exit we have to make a choice between a Norway approach or that of Switzerland, this is (a) lazy and (b) erroneous – in addition, since Brexit would seem almost certain to precipitate a collapse of the EU in its current format, everything would be under new rules.

    • jeremy Morfey

      It is a courtesy to offer specially-prepared food to those with special dietary requirements.

      By all means serve the smiling Iranian president with halal doner kebab and Perrier water, and he can watch the French tucking into something far more delicious.

      P.S. How do you halal butcher a snail?

      • WFB56

        That wasn’t the choice, the “supreme leader” insists that he cannot be at a meal where wine or other alcohol is served.

    • dramocles

      As for the repeated tortured suggestion that after an exit we have to make a choice between a Norway approach or that of Switzerland, this is (a) lazy and (b) erroneous

      You are so right Frank. The relationship we would have after leaving the EU would be neither the Norwegian, the Swiss or the Canadian. It would be unique to us.

      Any competent negotiator ought to be able to get a favourable deal given that they export more to us than us to them. Plus there will be 27 countries to involved in the negotiation (I know there will be people who insist it will be done with the EU Commission – but everyone knows that when push comes to shove the individual EU nations pull the strings) and if we can’t play one off against the other (like the French do) then our negotiators aren’t worth toffee.

  • JJD

    Given the present hatred of the “establishment”, when people see these establishment figures lining up behind the EU, that can only be a good thing for the out campaign, right?

    • Gilbert White

      You would think so?

  • Grimsby resident

    Iv’e never ben convinced by Stuart Rose in any capacity. A sharp suit and weary soundbites is all he seems to have. Regarding the EU, he looks totally disinterested, almost as if it could be the toss of a coin which side he would campaign for; nor does he seem to appreciate what the level of immigration is doing to the country or the people in it. All this is great news for the leave campaign. I do hope the leave campaign can really start to hammer home their obvious advantages with enthusiasm and well researched facts, as well as the obvious emotional issues about making Britain a stronger independent country again.

  • horserider

    Stuart Rose spent more time at a recent fundraiser I attended trying to chat up a thirty year old woman, rather than bother to actually try and raise funds. Will Straw is dull and ineffective. Not sure who is pulling the strings in this campaign but they better sort it out..

    • WFB56

      Hopefully, they don’t sort anything out and Mr. Rose’s attentions stay where you suggest they may be better suited.

  • Andrew

    All they have to do is fill soundbites for very thick and lazy un-managed and effectively unregulated BBC news readers and editors. Their press review guests are overwhelmingly anti English internationalists who only understand one side of the debate if that. The independent and Guardian never check the facts behind their quotes. Most independent local radio thinks EU funding is not financed by UK tax payers and are a waste of space. The standard set in the debate is so low that most of the time Straw, Johnson and Rose can get away with it.

  • LostLeonardo

    “The choice facing Britain isn’t -whether or not to trade with Europe. It is a question of how we trade with Europe.”

    The usual BS from the tame Tory media. The EU is not all about trade. EU membership is about supranational governance.

    The question is: Who governs Britain?

    • big

      The question is who will govern Britain when we leave?

  • LewisDuckworth

    So many of Remain’s Big Names were also Big Names arguing that Britain should join The Euro.

    • jbat001

      Absolutely spot on! Many of the CBI fools who are predicting a Brexit disaster are the same muppets who argued we would become irrelevant if we did not join the euro.
      They have no authority to comment at all, given their track record.

  • WFB56

    “This scenario only serves to insult voters’ intelligence.” Dave and George have been insulting their own voters’ intelligence for a decade now and they seem to be getting away with it. Of course, getting 37% of the vote last year when 36.5% simply couldn’t stomach the alternative, shouldn’t make them think that they can get 50.0001% in a referendum.

  • Michael990

    The most amusing item today, confirming that they have no sane reason for us to remain within the EU, has to be this one in the DT, stating how football will suffer if we leave!!

    “Baroness Brady: British football teams could find it harder to sign top European stars if the UK votes for Brexit”

    • licjjs

      They might then sign up more actual British hopefuls who are legion.

  • Cllr. Robert H. Brown

    Question is … Do you want to be a slave dictated and controlled by 27 unelected commissioners … Or would you rather be free and choose those you want to serve you in Westminster to govern Great Britain to restore true democracy. I choose the latter and Vote to Leave the EU. And I’m not afraid to post this with my name & photo unlike all the others who are afraid to put their name & face behind their comments. Let’s be proud to reclaim our country and take back control of our nation.

  • licjjs

    Why doesn’t the BSE campaign explain exactly how Britain will be stronger as the ‘ever closer Union’ becomes more and more of a reality. In actual fact, I think what “Britain Stronger in Europe” means is “Europe stronger with Britain”. It is all to do with millionaires and banks and spivs.

  • yohodi

    I honestly do not know how anyone can objectively
    defend/promote the EU without telling barefaced whoppers…The facts are out
    there on the internet for anyone who can be bothered to check…….We pay in
    far more than we get in return and that alone is economic madness , on top of
    that we put up with two layers of treacherous greedy London centric indolent
    arsehats ( HoC.HoL) ..Pay for another layer of Brussels Arsehattery?…The
    whole effing EU thing is insane….

  • 4194

    Well, the UK can check out of the EU, but not actually leave however permed – trade treaty, EFTA, EEA or just fly a kite. All are more costly than the biggest customs union in the world, which is about to join up with NAFTA, and has other FTAs galore. That’s most of UK world trade and its pretty much in the hands of foreign corporations, and they’ll decide what’s next . Brexit would be just a tortured renegotiation about reshuffling the pieces.

  • Tom Cullem

    The IN side’s problem is that it is entirely the side of the oligarchs, and trying to hide that is nearly impossible. Cameron’s so far virtually empty “deal” bulletins from Brussels, the latest being the laughable “brake” that absolutely everyone recognises for what it is (meaningless and totally dependent on the agreement of other EU member states who will shoot it down before you can blink) has drawn nothing but derision. The practical if not technical death of Schengen will deal a lethal blow to the IN campaign as it is the centerpiece of their argument for remaining.

    As borders are closed in an effort to shore up security and stop millions more Muslim migrants coming in as the expected onslaught of said migrants begins come spring, the EU’s “deals” with Turkey on the backs of EU taxpayers including one now in the pipeline that exchanges deportations back to Turkey of arriving migrants, for taking 250,000 migrants per year for the foreseeable future out of Turkey’s camps, to be shared out among 10 or so “willing” partners in Europe, and who if Schengen remains will be roaming freely throughout the EU in a few years . . . basically, the EU leadership shoving in four years another million Muslim migrants into Europe . . .

    Leaving the EU will reduce net migration by 100,000 nearly immediately, and ensure that the UK does not have to play the migrant game any longer with Brussels. The UK will not have to ask anyone’s permission to slow migration into our overcrowded heavily service-pressured county any longer, and what is more, would probably see EU referenda coming down the pike in countries like Denmark – which is what the EU is particularly frightened of.

    Without Schengen operating – anyone else catch the “forged passports epidemic” article in politico.eu earlier this week? – without protections about being forced to take in more migrants either formally or by default as they head to the UK in six years or so when those settled in less comfy places get their EU passports, with an EU that handled one of Europe’s major crises so abysmally that it has placed Turkey’s hands around Europe’s windpipe . . . one or two more terrorist attacks in Europe by IS operatives whose entry was facilitated by Merkel’s and Brussels’ folly . . .

    Why in God’s name would anyone vote IN?

    • 4194

      Delusional. The UK government has not controlled immigration since the 1940s, they just react to the business lobby demands for labour, let alone the students and families aspect

  • mikewaller

    A more nuanced critique would recognise that telling lies seems to be central to all referendum campaigns. The anti-AV voting one was perhaps the pinnacle in this regard. Shot through with lies and distortions (details on application) and then capped off with the crudest of crude character assassinations, it triumphantly carried the day. Hardly surprising if others have drawn the obvious conclusion. Trouble is most of our scum-bag press have their own dogs in the fight and the BBC is being cowed by very well orchestrated cries of bias. It seems that truth is not just the first casualty of war; it also gets a damned good kicking when the political stakes are high. If only there were some kind of punishment system that would not be a godsend to a future dictator. Branding a big L for liar on an offender’s forehead might be a good start.

  • FF42

    Given that referendums are zero sum things, is the “Out” campaign any less shockingly bad, is their data any less dodgy, are they any better on the facts and are their leaders any less lazy?

    I ask out of curiosity. I support continued membership of the EU so I want the “In” campaign to do the best job it can, and better than the “Out” one.

    • Having see the working and costings of the EU since the Common Market vote and looking at the future of being “in” I will happily vote “out”…. People were conned by a Common Market and now its grown into a money eating monster will lots and lots of its own civil servants, pariiaments, law courts, constant moving of offices, more and more laws, additinal charges of billions of pounds every December…. need I say more?

  • Jac

    They’re wasting their time, and ours. LEAVE.EU campaign has a very well organised set-up with many business leaders, and, if the truth dare be uttered, half of the government ministers, also. Their Facebook campaign has been running for ar least the last 6 months and has many, many followers. Most people want OUT, so stop pretending we don’t, and get it done and dusted; then we can start having a proper government with our own laws, using our money that we won’t have to give away for EU officials to waste.

  • Correct me if Im wrong but…. isnt that EU commissioner type (Junk?) the same geyser that cameron was opposing actually getting the job? camoron better hope he doesnt hold a grudge, then again it wouldnt bother me if he really gets his revenge on “call me dave”.


    Don’t worry Big Dave and his mate Gideon will scare you all to death before the referendum. Then the gravy train will speed on.

  • I A Reid

    Personally it’s not about our economy, the prime reason I want to get out is so we are not ruled by unelected Brussels commissioners who answer to nobody. MEPs can’t overrule their directives and we have to obey. That and the vast and profligate bureaucracy that is the EU.

  • Zapece

    What has the EU ever done for us?