Last week I attended a public meeting in Chichester organised by the Vote Leave campaign and the Grassroots organisation, both of which advocate leaving the European Union.
At that meeting, the speakers made a number of claims that I believe were seriously flawed.
They stated that the weekly contribution that the UK makes to the EU budget is £350million.
However, upon questioning, they conceded that the true figure, after rebates and grant monies received from the EU, is actually £160m a week.
This may still sound like a large figure, but at £8billion a year actually only represents one per cent of UK government public expenditure and 0.4 per cent of the UK’s GDP.
A modest price to pay for the clear economic benefits that access to the European Single Market brings.
It is interesting that one speaker from the Vote Leave campaign said that he would accept Britain being poorer in exchange for ‘freedom’ from the EU.
Another speaker made much of the advantages of the Norwegian model, but after questioning conceded that, although Norway has
secured unfettered access to the Single Market without being a member of the EU, it still has to accept the free movement of European citizens across its borders
and has to make a contribution to the EU’s budget.
A so-called ‘The Facts’ document handed out at the meeting claimed that from June this year Turkish citizens would be able to travel freely across Europe, including to the UK.
Upon questioning, the organisers of the meeting conceded that this claim
was false. The UK is not part of the recent agreement with Turkey on migration; it is not part of the so called ‘Schengen’ zone and never needs to be.
A lot was spoken about sovereignty and freedom from European regulations. However, many of the important areas of the UK’s sovereignty are hardly affected by EU membership: foreign policy, defence, national budgets, taxation and public expenditure on health, education, pensions and welfare.
It is true that there are voices in Europe calling for a federal state but there are other visions for the future of the EU within its 28 member states. It is surely better that we work with people of like mind in Europe (there are many) with the aim of securing a better future for us all.