Our new Brexit rebuttal service

Ever since the 2016 EU referendum in 2016 and long before the proponents of Brexit have weaponised lies, half-truths, doctored statistics and the like to make (and win) the case for leaving the EU. Here, we launch a new service for members, activists, supporters and friends: an easy to find resource for responding to UKG propaganda whether in local press, social media or statements by MPs or MSPs. 

Democracy is about honouring the vote of the 17.4m

The idea that democracy stops once you’ve cast your ballot is dangerous. Democracy is about constant debate and scrutiny. It’s about having governments that accept accountability, and institutions – parliament, the media, the courts – who keep those leaders in check. It’s about serving all citizens, including minorities, and not just those who voted for the winning side. It’s about not being allowed, if you are in power, to get away with lying. Without those things, and with people in charge who don’t believe in those things, you end up with an elective dictatorship.

If No Deal is the only way to honour the votes of the 17.4m, then so be it 

At no point did any of the leading figures in the Vote Leave campaign, who are now in government, countenance failing to do a deal.  On the contrary, they assured us that it would be easy.  No Deal means probable food and medicine shortages; chaos at our ports; further job losses; and possible civil unrest.   

And yet, for the third time in eighteen months, the UK government is entertaining No Deal as a serious option. For the third time in eighteen months, they are causing millions of their own citizens untold stress. For the third time in eighteen months, British people are asking themselves whether they need to stockpile food and medicine, and whether they will be safe. These are not things that should be happening in a prosperous western democracy outside of wartime.  

We’ve freed ourselves from unelected Brussels bureaucrats

It is a myth that the UK was ever subject to laws made by unelected Brussels bureaucrats. When the UK was in the EU, British prime ministers and ministers – all of them elected MPs – played a leading role as members of the European Council in setting all policy direction and approving legislation. And all legislation was scrutinised and only passed if approved by directly elected MEPs.  

This is about reclaiming our sovereignty and bringing decision-making closer to home.

Under the UK system, it is the Westminster Parliament that is sovereign. And yet this government has done everything it can to neuter it: illegally trying to stop Parliament from sitting last summer; ensuring it has no say in future trade negotiations with other countries; and, since coronavirus, obstructing rather than facilitating measures to enable MPs to work and vote remotely.

It is also, through its UK internal market White Paper, launching an unprecedented power grab on the devolved administrations. And it is showing a worrying tendency to put former MPs and MSPs, even ones who have just lost their seats in an election, into the unelected House of Lords. It is hard to imagine what could be less democratic than that.

The UK has regained its independence

The UK never lost its independence. Are we honestly to believe that Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, among others, were not prime ministers of an independent UK? Are France and Germany not sovereign countries? 

We left the EU with an agreed deal on 31 January, so there is no such thing as “No Deal”  

This is misleading. The withdrawal agreement we left with on 31 January 2020 set out the terms of  our departure, and covered such issues as citizens’ rights, settlement of payments and the Irish/Northern Irish border.  The political declaration, which looks forward to our future relationship, has no legal footing and does not, in itself, set out the terms of our future trading relationship.  So we absolutely need a deal in the few months left to us before the transition period expires.

We’ll either go into 2021 with a Canada-style or an Australia-style agreement trading on WTO terms

The EU-Canada agreement took seven years to negotiate. It does not provide frictionless trade in goods. And it doesn’t even cover services, which amount to 45% of UK exports. It is totally unsuited to the nature of the UK’s economy.

The current EU–Australia relationship, while not a Free Trade Agreement, is based on a Partnership Agreement from 2008 which does reduce barriers to trade.  So a No Deal scenario with the EU would not be the same. And what is appropriate for Australia on the other side of the world and far less dependent on trade with the EU than the UK is would be a disaster for our economy and people’s jobs.

There is not a single WTO member that trades only on WTO rules.  In practice all have agreements with neighbouring countries. Without agreements in place, the UK would be obliged to apply equal treatment to all those it traded with, so that, for example, zero tariffs for EU countries would have to mean zero tariffs for all.  Little incentive then for those other countries to do free trade deals with us as they would have no tariff improvement to gain. Equally, the EU would have to apply the same tariffs to the UK as it does to other countries with whom it has no agreement.

The UK Government couldn’t have asked for an extension to the transition period because it’s a legal requirement that it must end on 31 December 2020

It’s only currently a legal requirement because the Government, using its majority in Parliament, passed a law to make it so. Had it wished to request an extension, it could have changed the law.  To suggest otherwise is to suggest that the Government has no power to effect change.

No Deal is better than a bad deal. In any negotiation, you have to be able to walk away

In a business situation, this is  true. But this is not a business situation. It’s a situation (for which it’s hard to find a parallel), in which the UK is dislocatingitself substantially from an arrangement of extremely close trading ties, while still seeking to retain some ties. If that arrangement ends abruptly and without agreement, it will cause huge disruption to people and businesses throughout the UK, interrupting food supply chains and threatening life-saving medicines. The government’s own papers recognise that this could lead to civil unrest. 

This is just Project Fear

“Project Fear” is just two words put together to avoid debating the issue. It’s a clever ruse, but it doesn’t tell you anything. The Government’s own recently published preparations make clear they know that real harm can be expected.

All EU nationals working in the UK will be able to stay in the country with the same rights they enjoyed when the UK was an EU member

All EU nationals living in the UK, some of whom have been here their whole lives, have had to apply to be allowed to hold on to their existing rights and stay in their own homes. There are countless tales of people whose applications have been wrongly rejected.  Others, who have been granted settled status, are nonetheless concerned that the government provides no physical documentation to prove it; concerns justified by stories of their being asked to provide such documentation at airports when they arrive back in the UK.  Many EU nationals, while being told they can stay, have been left feeling unwelcome.  

There’s no need to sign up to the EU’s environmental and social protections, because in many cases the UK already has higher standards. The PM has been clear that we will maintain those high standards

While it’s true that the UK currently has higher social, labour and environmental protections in some areas than many individual EU states, it’s misleading to say we have higher standards than the EU as a bloc. The EU sets minimum standards, which member states are free to exceed.

What the UK does now has no bearing on what it may do in the future.  A commitment by the Prime Minister is not the same as a legally-binding agreement. Indeed, the UK government’s unwillingness to commit legally to the EU’s minimum standards can only mean that it wants to retain the option to lower them in future trade agreements with other countries. We already see the pressure being brought to bear by the US for UK to accept lower food standards in order to secure a trade deal.