Boris Johnson's claims in Newcastle shown to be wrong, misleading about EU

April 16, 2016 6:14 PM

Compare and Contrast

Boris Johnson wrote a piece for yesterday's Newcastle Journal (15 April) ahead of his visit to the city today to launch the Vote Leave campaign. Some of it was opinion, though highly tendentious, but there were also factual claims which can be checked for accuracy. If not plain wrong, they are often misleading. Here are some of them, alongside what other authoritative voices say about them.

Boris Johnson: We will be taking back control of the £350m a week [£18.2bn a year] that Brussels demands from us.

HM Treasury: UK net budget contributions to EU budget = £8.473bn.

Boris Johnson: The [EU] accounts are so riddled with waste and corruption that auditors have refused to sign them off for 20 years.

European Court of Auditors, EU Audit in Brief: The EU accounts for 2014 were correctly prepared in accordance with international public sector accounting standards, and present a true and fair view of the EU's financial results for the year and its assets and liabilities at the end of the year. We were therefore able to give a clean opinion on the reliability of the accounts ('signed off'), as we have done since 2007… Our estimate of the level of error [4.4%] is not a measure of fraud, inefficiency or waste.

Boris Johnson: The Europeans sell £60bn more to us than we export to them. They are not going to tell their best customer to push off.

Centre for European Reform: [T]he UK would be wrong to assume that it could dictate terms in any negotiation with the EU by virtue of the fact that it is running a trade deficit. First, the EU buys half of Britain's exports [now about 44%] whereas the UK accounts for little over 10 per cent of exports from the rest of the EU, so the UK would be in a weak position to negotiate access on its terms. Second, half of the EU's trade surplus with the UK is accounted for by just two member states: Germany and the Netherlands. Most EU member states do not run substantial trade surpluses with the UK, and some run deficits with it. Any agreement would require the assent of the remaining 27 members, some of whom buy more from Britain than they sell to it.

Boris Johnson: Already between a half and two-thirds of our laws are sent down from Brussels.

House of Commons Library: In the UK data suggest that from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU obligations… The British Government estimates that around 50% of UK legislation with a significant economic impact originates from EU legislation. file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/RP10-62%20(2).pdf

Boris Johnson: This thicket of [EU] red tape is a nightmare for SMEs, who have to follow Brussels rules even though fewer than one in 20 trade with Europe.

Centre for European Reform: Britain would not be able to engineer a boost to growth and employment by abolishing EU rules…A post-Brexit bonfire of EU rules would hardly be enough to warm a pot of tea.

Boris Johnson: The 100 most damaging EU rules are estimated to load £33bn of cost onto the economy nationally.

Open Europe (the source of the claim that the 100 top rules cost £33.3bn): 'According to [Government Impact Assessments] these regulations also provide a total benefit of £58.6bn a year'. The extent to which the benefits have ever materialised is open to question; Open Europe says as much as 95%. But the fact remains that Boris's £33bn figure is merely the cost side of a cost-benefit analysis.

CBI: Harmonisation of EU rules and standards has made it easier for businesses to enter new markets…The total cost of EU regulation is complex and contested. There are costs to EU regulation and these are not always popular with business. But these must be considered alongside the benefits of the regulation and the likelihood of comparable domestic regulation. Neither of these considerations is taken into account in the calculation of the Open Europe figure - which estimates the cost at £33.3 billion.