We are now less than 4 weeks from the referendum on June 23rd. This is a once in a generation vote; and it is irreversible. This is a decision for your children’s lifetime and your children’s future. There will be no second referendum, no second chance.
I firmly believe that the UK will be safer, more secure and better off remaining in a reformed European Union. I have been speaking at debates across the region putting the Conservative case for remaining inside the Union and I will continue to do so until polling day.
I also firmly believe that it is of the utmost importance that as many people as possible turn out to vote for this referendum. Postal votes are already being sent out. But we have to make sure that all who are eligible to vote, from first time voters to those who voted in 1975, turn out and make their voices heard on Thursday 23rd June.
This month includes a fact check on the most common myths as well as news items for May. I have also included a handy ‘Your Questions Answered’ booklet.
If you have any questions, please get in touch via email
All the best,
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This booklet addresses the top issues about the European Union. It is not specifically aimed at the referendum campaign but is helpful for information purposes.
EU: TOP 8 MYTHS
1) “We send the EU £350 million a week”
This figure is inaccurate (UK Statistics Authority). The Office for National Statistics says that each week it is £190 million net, which is 1.2% of Government expenditure. To compare, the UK Government spends 14 times as much on healthcare (£2.71 billion per week or £141 billion p.a.) as it does on EU membership.
2) “We can negotiate a free trade deal”
The best possible free trade agreement would not come close to giving British companies the full tariff-free and quota-free access they currently have to the world’s largest free trade area. Here are the alternatives:
- Norway style agreement which includes tariffs, quotas, acceptance of laws made by the EU and acceptance of free movement.
- Canada style agreement which took seven years to agree and it includes tariffs, quotas and non-tariff barriers.
- The WTO option which also includes tariffs, 10% on cars, and customs checks, which add 2-24% to the cost.
3) “It’s NATO that keeps the peace”
NATO is a war-fighting organisation, which has successfully delivered military hard power and a proven defence shield for over 60 years. The EU cannot make decisions that override the UK Government as ‘national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State,’ which is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. But the EU builds peace through opening up free markets, enhancing prosperity for millions and sharing democratic values. The EU has ensured that the former Communist states of Eastern Europe have kept to the path of democracy and market economics, uniting a continent formally divided.
4) “We can’t control our borders”
The UK is not part of the Schengen border-free zone, which means the UK can check who is entering our country and stop anyone, including European nationals, who pose a risk at the border. Since 2010, we have refused entry to over 6,500 EU nationals – nearly 5,000 of these were stopped at our juxtaposed border in Calais. Leaving the EU would not necessarily mean the end of freedom of movement; alternative models such as Norway and Switzerland require free movement in exchange for full access to the single market. Both of these countries have higher numbers of EU nationals per head than the UK.
5) “We have no influence”
The UK has been able to work with our partners to block proposals that are not in our interest. We have the joint highest number of votes at the EU Council, and the LSE has shown that we are on the winning side 87% of the time since 2009. This figure does not take into account that most laws are agreed on consensus so the wins are much higher than 87%. If we left, we would have to accept all the rules with no say at the table if we wanted access to the Single Market.
6) “We are giving away our sovereignty”
The UK is a member of NATO, WTO, IMF and World Bank and is a signatory to some 700 international treaties. All of these bind our sovereignty in some way. For example, our membership of NATO binds us to declare war to defend a follow member if it is attacked. If sovereignty means no outside interference or participation in international treaties then the most “sovereign” country in the world is North Korea. So, what really matters is our practical ability to influence and have power over rules that affect us. Norway has less sovereignty than the UK does because EU measures are imposed on their national laws without any say at the table.
7) “The European Court forces us to give votes for prisoners”
The European Court of Human Rights is not an institution of the European Union. It is part of the Council of Europe which was set up in 1949 - Churchill was a key founder - and the Court enforces the Convention on Human Rights. However, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is the judicial arm of the EU, ensures that EU treaties are upheld. The ECJ has said that the ban on votes for prisoners is proportionate and in accordance with EU law.
8) “Turkey will join anyway”
Turkey’s membership will not happen for decades, as our Prime Minister has confirmedand for the next 5 years there will be no enlargement of the EU. Accession to the EU requires unanimous agreement of each of the 28 Member States and the European Parliament’s consent, so Britain can veto Turkey’s membership. It also requires demonstrable capability to meet human rights standards, the rule of law, democracy and a market economy. The proposed visa-liberalisation for Turkish citizens in return for the refugee package only applies to members of the Schengen zone and will never apply to the UK.
Richard Ashworth MEP, Conservative Agriculture spokesman, called upon the Commission for mandatory country of origin labelling to be extended to lightly processed dairy and meat products to restore consumer confidence when buying food. Mr Ashworth has argued that there is demand from both consumers and producers for more information on food packaging labels.
Innovative UK Small and Medium sized enterprises are now eligible to receive loans of up to £2 million to support the development of new products and processes, stimulate research and innovation and help businesses target new export markets, thanks to an agreement between the European Investment Fund and the UK Government owned British Business Bank. The total funding available is £30 million.
Richard Ashworth MEP has welcomed an expanded role for Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, to strengthen police and security cooperation across the EU. Mr Ashworth said 'Terrorism and organised crime doesn't stop at borders, so cooperation and intelligence ensures our police and intelligence agencies are best equipped to protect us.'
UK trade with the world.
The EU accounts for 44% and 53% of UK exports and imports. It is the single most important trading partner for the UK.
Myth-buster on the democratic legitimacy of the European Union.
"Refused to sign off EU accounts"
The Court of Auditors do sign off the EU accounts on an annual basis.
To vote in the EU referendum on 23 June, you must register by 7 June.