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Focus on the facts in the Euro debate

07 November, 2019

• I’M just going to focus on some of the factual errors rather than the rhetoric in Martin Kennedy’s letter, (There’s nothing democratic about the EU, October 31).

But one general point first. Everyone can look up facts. The European Union’s website describes its workings.

Sites like BBC News Reality Check or the independent charity Full Fact provide a balanced assessment of the position on many stories about the EU that circulate.

Even if you distrust those sources the more respectable pro-leave newspapers like the Daily Telegraph have some accurate factual descriptions.

Interpretation and judgment may vary, but there is no justification for believing and disseminating factual information that is not true.

Democracy: the standard legislative procedure for the EU is that to come into effect laws have to be passed by both the directly elected parliament and the Council of Ministers (representatives of the governments of member states).

Net contributors: in 2017 there were 10 countries who were net contributors, not two as claimed by Mr Kennedy (EU budget: Who pays most in and who gets most back?).

Accounts: the accounts have been audited every year. Where there are significant issues the accounts may be – and have been – qualified. Since 2007 the accounts have been given unqualified opinions for representing expenditure fairly.

However, the auditors have continued to find a level of error which means that the accounts cannot be given a completely clean sign-off. The position is similar for several United Kingdom public agencies (Is the EU’s budget ‘signed off’ by auditors?).

Protectionism: the EU is not protectionist. Just looking at tariffs the EU average of 3 per cent is in line with the USA (2.3 per cent) and Australia (4 per cent). Protection for some industries, in particular farming, is much higher.

For about 70 poor countries the EU has various schemes that enable tariff-free and reduced-tariff imports.

But let’s be clear: leaving the EU single market and the EU customs union – that is, erecting big barriers to trade with the EU – would be above all a protectionist measure by the UK (Is the European Union a ‘protectionist racket’?).

I would encourage readers to check out the truth of factual statements about the EU so that they can cast their votes in a well-informed way.

Tottenham Street, W1


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