Separating the facts from the fiction in the EU Referendum debate

Voters have been bombarded by facts and figures, claims and counter claims by both sides in this referendum campaign.

We separate the maths from the myths using research from the UK’s independent fact-checking organisation, Full Fact, to examine some of the big claims made during the campaign…


‘The UK would need to find somewhere between £20billion ­to £40billion to fill the gap through lost tax receipts’ – ­Institute for Fiscal Studies

FACTS : Most economists predict that leaving the EU would be bad for the economy.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has used these predictions to work out how the Government’s finances might be affected by an Out vote.

Nick Wright £1 pound coins

Would leaving the EU be bad for the economy?

The Government is aiming for a £10billion surplus by 2020. If it sticks to its plans for spending, borrowing and tax, it will fall £20­-40billion short of this target a​ccording to this analysis.​

Read more: The A – Z of who wants us to Remain and who is backing Brexit

This includes the saving we would make on the EU membership fee.

The Government may choose not to hit the target and borrow more instead. Or it might make extra cuts or raise taxes.


Brexit would make us worse off to the tune of £4,300 for every household in Britain by 2030’ – George Osborne

FACT : The £4,300 figure comes from Government research on how leaving the EU would affect the size of our economy.

Getty Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne holds his ministerial red box

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne says every household would be worse off

It’s not very helpful as a reliable prediction of the loss families would face if we left the EU. The figures are too uncertain and the research is about the overall size of the economy, not household incomes.


‘More than three million UK jobs are linked to exports to the EU. That’s one in every 10 jobs’ – HM Treasury claim, used in Stronger In leaflet

FACTS : We don’t know how these exports, and so the associated jobs, would be affected if the UK were no longer an EU member.

That depends on the trading and other economic arrangements made in negotiations after a vote to leave.

The three million figure is a statement about the economy as it is, not about what might happen if we remain in or out.


‘Being in Europe means lower prices in UK shops , saving the average UK household over £350 a year.

If we left Europe, your weekly shop could cost more’ – cited in Stronger In, official campaign leaflet

Getty Woman in supermarket with basket of fruit and vegetables

Leaving the EU would lead to a fall of the pound

FACTS : There is much more to the impact on prices of this decision than free trade agreements.

It’s widely expected, including by the Governor of the Bank of England, that the short term impact of leaving the EU would include a fall in the Pound.


‘For every £1 we put into the EU, we get back almost £10 in lower prices, more jobs and more investment’ – cited on Stronger In page of Electoral Commission leaflet

FACTS : The £1 to £10 ratio comes from comparing our net contribution to the EU to an estimate by the Confederation for British Industry (CBI) of the financial impact of being in the EU. This is like comparing apples to a basket of veg.


‘The European Arrest Warrant allows us to deport criminals from the UK and catch those fleeing justice across Europe’ – cited on Stronger In page of Electoral Commission leaflet

London News Pictures Passengers squeeze into the passport checking area of Heathrow's Terminal 5

Passengers squeeze into the passport checking area of Heathrow’s Terminal 5

FACTS : In some cases the EAW does not apply if a suspect is in a country which doesn’t recognise the crime they are charged with.

The EAW doesn’t apply to non-EU member countries. Other non-EU member states, such as Norway, have negotiated similar arrangements.


“Over 200,000 UK businesses trade with EU countries and it’s home to almost half our exports” – cited on Stronger In page of Electoral Commission leaflet

EU Referendum countdown

Britain will vote in

FACTS : HMRC has previously estimated that almost 200,000 VAT-registered traders in the UK were importers or exporters of goods to other EU member states.

That was in 2012, when there were 2.15million businesses registered for VAT or PAYE. It’s now 2.45million.

It’s not clear what would happen to this trade if the UK votes to leave the EU.

This is how some of the claims made by the Leave campaign stack up:


‘More than half of net migration to the UK comes from the EU. More than 250,000 came from the EU in the year to September 2015, equal to a city the size of Plymouth’ – cited in Vote Leave official campaign leaflet

Facts: The first part is wrong. Net EU migration was 172,000 in that period. Net migration from the rest of the world was 191,000. So the EU doesn’t make up more than half. Overall net migration was 323,000, because at the same time 40,000 more British citizens left than came in.

The second part is correct. Over a quarter of a million came from the rest of the EU, official estimates say.


Christopher Furlong/Getty

The Brexit battle bus makes a lot of the membership fee

‘The EU costs us £350million a week. That’s enough to build a new NHS hospital every week of the year. We get less than half of this money back and we have no control over the way it’s spent, that’s decided by politicians and officials in Brussels, rather than the people we elect here’ – Vote Leave leaflet

Facts: The £350million claim is wrong. This figure does not include a rebate on what the UK has to pay. In 2014 the UK would have paid £18.8billion without the rebate but ended up paying £14.4billion.

The estimate for 2015 is £12.9billion – £248million a week, £35million a day.The UK then gets money back in grants and payments from the EU. Some flow through the public sector and mainly go to support farmers and poorer areas of the country.

In 2015 this was estimated at £4.4billion, or £85million per week.

Even so, the UK does get back less than half what it pays to the EU in most years.


‘When the five new countries in the process of joining the EU join, they will have the same rights as other members’ – Vote Leave leaflet

Facts: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey are all candidate countries “on the road to EU membership”.

It’s likely there would be some transitional arrangements, such as optional restrictions on workers from new countries in the years after they join. This happened when new members joined before.

For any country to join requires a new treaty, requiring unanimous agreement of all existing members.

So the UK has a veto over any of the candidate countries.


‘Over the past 43 years, the EU has taken control over more and more areas which don’t have anything to do with trade, such as our borders, our public services and whether prisoners have the right to vote’ – Vote Leave leaflet

Facts: The EU doesn’t control UK borders, but does control important things about them. The biggest effect is the free movement of citizens of any EU country into any other.

The EU doesn’t control whether prisoners vote. That argument has mostly been with the European Court of Human Rights, based in the separate Council of Europe which has 47 member countries including Azerbaijan and Russia.

The EU doesn’t control public services.


‘While we’re in the EU, the UK can’t make trade deals on our own. This means we currently have no trade deals with key allies such as Australia, New Zealand or the USA – or important growing economies like India, China or Brazil. Instead of making a deal which is best for the UK, we have to wait for 27 other countries to agree to it. You don’t have to be a member of the EU to trade with it. Facts: Switzerland is not in the EU and it exports more per person to the EU than we do’ – Vote Leave leaflet.

Facts: The EU has responsibility for trade agreements, so the UK can’t
negotiate its own.

The EU does not currently have trade deals with Australia, New Zealand, the USA, India, China or Brazil. The European Commission has a list of trade deals it has negotiated with “some 50 partners” around the world.

If we leave our trade will be controlled by the agreements we have or make with other countries, including our World Trade Organisation membership.

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