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Michael Burrage: Six claims of the Remain campaign that most annoy Leave

Guest Blogger, 22 June 2016

Michael Burrage

Both sides in the Brexit debate have made claims that particularly annoy the other, especially if they refer to issues where the evidence is, they think, overwhelmingly on their side, and unlike other issues, is beyond reasonable debate. In effect, they are being asked to debate what they consider to be no-brainers.

This is one Brexiteer’s short list of the more infuriating Remain claims.

1)That the Single Market has benefited UK exporters.  All the available evidence from the major databases of the IMF, OECD and UN Comtrade shows that the growth of the exports of goods and services of many non-member countries has exceeded that of the UK over the years from 1993 to 2015. Non-members have been its main beneficiaries, while for UK exporters, the Single Market has been an era of relentless decline. Since the EU consists of our 27 nearest neighbours, it is of course a very large market in aggregate, but the Single Market has done nothing to increase its growth. The European Commission has never been asked to explain this poor performance.

2)That the because the Single Market includes 500 million people it has ‘heft’ and ‘clout’ which enable it to conclude effective trade agreements more rapidly than independent countries.  WTO data shows that many small independent countries, such as Australia, Chile, Korea, Singapore and Switzerland have secured more trade agreements than the EU, with larger economies, and more of their agreements include services.  The European Commission has by contrast been a slow and incompetent trade negotiator over the 43 years that the UK and other members have entrusted it with the responsibility on their behalf, and neither it, or its trade commissioners, have ever been held accountable for its performance.

3)That UK researchers have received more research funds from the EU than the UK contributes and more than that received by other member countries. The financial statements issued with the EU budget for 2000 to 2014 leave no room for error or misperception on this matter, which makes the repetition of these false claims by some of the smartest brains in the county, including Nobel prizewinners, especially annoying, since they appear to have misled many of their students.

Germany has clearly been the largest recipient of funds over these 15 years, followed by the UK. However, much the largest recipient of funds per researcher has been Belgium, followed by the Netherlands. The UK ranks only in 8th place by this measure, and Germany 10th. The European Commission has never explained the scientific rationale behind these funding decisions.

4)That the EU should be considered a democratic form of government because it is subject to the rule of law embodied in its treaties, has a court committed to upholding these treaties, has an elected parliament, with civil servants appointed by elected representatives, and because all its member countries enjoy freedoms of speech, of the press and association.

The EU cannot be considered a democracy because it contradicts the primary legitimating principle of every known democracy, which is that those who excise authority and make and enforce rules and give orders must be co-cultural with those who are expected to obey them.

There has never been a democracy in which a majority of legislators, judges and civil servants are foreign to those subject to them. The EU hopes of course to be the first.

5)That if the post-Brexit UK were to seek a trade agreement with the U.S. it would go to the back of the queue. The WTO requires members to notify it, when they open discussions for a trade agreement. Its website currently shows that the U.S. is not currently engaged in any trade negotiations other than the TPP and T-TIP. There is no queue. It therefore seems likely that President Obama was prompted to  make his remarks about the back of the queue by the Prime Minister in the belief that it would discourage the Leave campaign.

6)The idea that the Brexit concern about immigration is prompted by xenophobia or racism is offensive, and contradicted by the careers and backgrounds of many Brexiteers.  Work has taken me by my own choice to Japan, US, Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Spain and currently to China, Vietnam and South East Asia. My wife is a mixed race Venezuelan immigrant to the UK.  We both think uncontrolled and unpredictable immigration is foolish, and makes the harmonious integration of immigrants much more difficult.

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