Examining the case for Leave, Why Vote Leave

I was trying to write a blog post comparing what leave.eu, the highly populist, Farage led, campaign said vs what the mainstream Vote Leave said. This would be an important comparison, since it identifies which claims the next leaders of this country can most easily disassociate themselves from. In the process I needed to ensure I had solid references, and this led me to reading an awful lot of both leave campaign's material.

So, instead of that useful post, I'm just going to pick on the Vote Leave campaign, specifically their headline "Why Vote Leave" presentation. Vote Leave's major figures are likely to be the ones at the helm of this country for the immediate future, so lets see what their most visible campaign document had to say.

It's pretty much impossible to stay impartial on this topic, and I've not checked some of the claims and counter claims as thoroughly as I should have done. Sorry, I have a day job and this post has eaten too much time already. Corrections, references, etc in the comments would be very, very welcome.

This is Why Vote Leave, by the Vote Leave campaign:

The PM’s deal leaves the EU in charge of the same things after his negotiation as before

True, but what exactly are they in charge of and is it a good/bad thing?

It is not legally binding - the European Court can tear it up the day after the referendum

Yes, maybe, perhaps, but unlikely. Keeping up appearances in international politics are quite important, and beside, we'd be able to try again later and such backstabbing would likely swing the next vote.

This is dangerous. We will keep sending at least £350 million a week abroad

We don't, it's closer to £260 million since the "rebate" is a discount to make up for the UK not participating in certain things. Yes, that's still a large number, so why quote £350m when it's just not true?

While some of that £260m then flows back to then UK, the UK government doesn't get a say in what it goes to, which is why it ends up paid to farmers, fishermen, science, and villages in Wales to desperately try and find some way to stop them being unemployed. You can make your own mind up as to whether or not that's the right thing to do with the cash, but you certainly can't claim there's a £350 million saving from leaving.

A lot of the rest of that funding flows to other areas of the EU that are in need of development. There's a good case that well developed, non-corrupt, trading partners with good infrastructure are more profitable trading partners. But, much like spending money on Welsh villages, it's up to you if you think this is money well spent.

At the end of the day, the financial benefits that we receive from trade probably pay for this cost many times over.

Immigration will continue out of control putting public services like the NHS under strain

For starters, do you mean EU immigration or immigration from outside the EU? The NHS disagrees with this point quite strongly: the numbers of people aren't high enough that they should be a problem, 10% of the NHS front line staff is made up of immigrants from the EU and we rather want to keep them, and immigrants pay taxes too. Those who aren't paying NI, have EHICs which mean their home service provider pays up: this is why the NHS sent some £558m to Spain between 2007 and 2011 to pay for the healthcare of British visitors, expats, and the elderly who have retired there. There is a question to ask about whether or not the NHS is correctly billing other EU countries, it's quite likely that it's not, and that needs correcting (for example, the NHS doesn't bill for A&E, while others do.)

The European Court will be in charge of our borders, immigration, asylum and even our intelligence services

Err, "in charge of"? I don't think that's really what you mean... Anyway, which court did you have in mind? I have a nasty feeling this is referring to the European Court of Human Rights, which isn't part of the EU, and is something we signed up to a long time ago. Based on what little detail's given, I suspect the complaint here's surrounding annoying stuff like how it's generally frowned upon to detain someone without charging them for long periods of time, and how deporting someone to a country where they face the death penalty just isn't cricket (if they're a threat to the UK they're clearly going to have broken some laws here, so why aren't you charging them with crimes in the UK?)

If we Vote Leave, we will take back control and can spend our money on our priorities

OK, control of what, and what are our priorities. I'm guessing not villages in Wales, Scotland, farmers or fishermen.

Since 1973, we have sent over half a trillion pounds to the EU

We haven't. This number was calculated by Vote Leave, and not based on what the UK has actually sent to the EU. It therefore ignores things like the rebate. The real number is nearer £380bn, which is still a big number. As per my comment on the weekly figure, we have had a fair bit of it back over the years too, just with little control over where it gets sent: It's intended to prop up critical but struggling industries (farming), and incredibly deprived areas (so what we get depends on how deprived bits of Wales are vs bits of Spain or Poland.)

The EU costs us over £350 million a week

No, no it doesn't. It's at most £260 million even if you ignore the rest that comes back to funding projects in the UK.

Enough to build a brand new, fully-staffed NHS hospital every week

Staff are now a capital cost? Awesome! How did you intend to run this hospital? Also, what size of hospital? The building work on the Royal London Hospital was budgeted at £1 billion back in 2005, and that wasn't even building a new one! In the US they consider managing to build a hospital for less than $1 million per bed to be a good deal. That said, Cramlington appears to have only cost the trust £90 million a few years ago (for the building work only as far as I can tell.)

This is almost £20 billion a year

Multiplying the incorrect number by 12 does indeed give you £18.3bn, which is almost 20. Multiplying the after rebate figure by 12 gives you £13bn, which I'm going to call only a little over £10bn :p Yes, this is a big number still, but why do you keep using the made up number?

It's also of note that the Department of International Development, the UK's own "doing nice things for people overseas" agency, has a budget of £11.1bn!

Half the entire English schools budget, or four times the annual Scottish schools budget and four times the science budget

This isn't really a useful comparison, though interesting that you mention science since some of that money comes back as science funding. You can't really say you'll take that £260m and put it into schools or the NHS or whatever, since that means taking large chunks of it away from farmers, fishermen, science, and Wales. Once that's taken into account you've currently got about £160m a week to play with.
The Science budget has been pretty much gutted since the recession, most of the UK's Science funding is from £7bn provided by the EU.

We send 60 times more money to Brussels than we spend on the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund

There are only so many cases of cancer we need to treat in a year! Yes, we could spend 60 times more on cancer drugs (actually we couldn't because this is based on the made up number again), but are you proposing we buy 60 times more than we need to treat the available patients, or that we pay 60 times more than we currently pay for them? You've picked something you know gets people emotional to make a meaningless comparison to.

A quarter of a million EU migrants come here every year – a city the size of Newcastle

In 2015 it was 270,000 people, however 85,000 people left. That gives us a net migration of 185,000 EU citizens, not quarter of a million. That still looks like a big number. For comparison there were around 670,000 live births (which is quite low) in the UK in 2014. Before anyone points out that immigrants have babies too: 27% of them were to non UK mothers, of which only 64,000 were to mothers of EU origin.

This puts a big strain on public services like the NHS and schools

Many of the EU migrants are adults of working age, they have already been born and grew up in their country of origin. Yes, some of the migrants are children and will require schooling, and yes, some of them have babies here. Fortunately most of them have jobs, pay taxes, and the EHIC allows us to bill the country of origin for treatment on the NHS.

The EU Court means we can’t stop violent convicted criminals coming here from Europe

Ahha, an evil bad guy, that evil court! Yes, indeed we can't stop people who have been convicted of a crime from coming here from the EU. The general view is that once you've completed your sentence, you've done your time.

The EU Court also stops us from deporting dangerous terror suspects

So this one's that pesky European Convention on Human Rights wot we signed up to in 1953, which isn't an EU thing (hell, even Russia signed up to it!) Yes, we cannot deport someone to a country where we have good reason to believe that they will be tortured or killed. Since we kinda don't believe that either of those things are nice things to do to people, right? Also they're only a suspect, which means that they haven't been convicted of anything, so packing them off to certain death is rather harsh. If we're so sure that they're plotting some terrible harm to the UK that we're willing to condemn them to death, then we should be able to find them guilty of a crime in our own courts.

The euro is permanently on the brink of crisis – and we will be forced to pay to bail it out again

As we're not in the Eurozone, we didn't have to do anything. I also feel calling it "permanently on the brink of crisis" is a bit harsh, you may as well say the pound's permanently on the brink of crisis after that rather bad thing wot happened in 1992 (or, Friday, for that matter.)

The EU’s migrant crisis is out of control

I think this is talking about the refugee crisis, but it sounds much less like we're being heartless bastards if you call it a migrant crisis. The Schengen area does indeed have something of a crisis. But we're not in that, so those refugees get stopped at UK border control (they aren't EU citizens, so no free movement for them.) Thanks to the Le Touquet Treaty, the easiest routes into the UK have UK border control on French soil, so the refugee camps in Calais rather than in the UK, further isolating the UK from the crisis.

The real crisis is the general treatment of those refugees, fleeing from conflicts we've played a huge part in starting and fuelling.

EU Judges are using the Charter of Fundamental Rights to take away more power from our police and security services

Ah, this is that damn Convention on Human Rights again. I really don't think that we actually want our security services to be able to detain people without charge for extended periods of time, it smells a lot of a police state. And lets not get started on widespread monitoring of the population, that's a bit too East Germany.

The former head of Interpol, Ronald K Noble, has said that: “Europe’s open-border arrangement… is effectively an international passport-free zone for terrorists” and that it
was like “hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe”

He did indeed say that, in the NYT. However, he makes it very clear in the first paragraph that he's talking about the Schengen zone, which the UK isn't a member of (but various non EU states are.)

The EU is letting in more and more countries

OK, so this needs some more detail.

The EU started as 9 countries – it’s now 28

Depending on where you measure the start of the EU from, it could be considered as starting as 6, and the UK wasn't one of them (France kept vetoing us joining.)

Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria have joined since 2007

That is true, and compared to the predictions of basically their entire populations coming to the UK, what happened?

The EU will continue to grow. The next countries set to join are: ... Turkey!

Ah this, an awful lot was made of this. Turkey has had ambitions to join since pretty much forever, however it has made few if any of the reforms it needs to in order to meet the entry requirements. Hell, if anything it's gone backwards on civil rights and similar. The current government don't have the slightest interest in joining, and even if it did, there's no way in hell it's happening any time soon. Also, as noted, it's completely possible to keep countries out. You may as well claim China's about to join.

Over half our laws are made by unelected EU bureaucrats in Brussels who we never voted for

The claim of half is questionable to start with. Also you what? You want to vote for the heads of the civil service and the various secretaries? Next you'll be wanting to vote for the members of the House of Lords ;-) You seriously don't think that your elected representatives in the UK system write up our laws, or negotiate trade treaties, right? They have a completely unelected staff, and the civil service for that. The EU commissioners are appointed by the member governments (one each), and are required to swear impartiality. This is much the same as our own civil service.

The major oddity of the Commission is that it has the ability to initiate (but NOT pass) legislation, while the Council and Parliament can only suggest that new legislation is required (there are protections in place to make that quite a strong "suggestion".) This, however, makes some sense considering that part of their mandate is seeking out areas in which harmonised standardisation is important for breaking down trade barriers. This allows them to autonomously draft common electrical safety standards, and the definition of a class 1 banana, based on the existing legislation in the member states.

The EU Parliament is made up MEPs who are directly elected. They tend to group into voting blocks, effectively super political parties that span the EU. The Council of the EU is made up of the member states, represented by whichever elected minister(s) from the national governments are appropriate for the discussion at hand. They get to vote to pass/reject/amend/etc the legislation drafted by the Commission (that impartial civil service-alike.)

The Eurozone has a permanent majority in the EU voting system – this means we’re always outvoted

Countries with only one word in their name have a permanent majority in the EU voting system - this means we're always outvoted.
Seriously, this isn't relevant. The Eurozone is not a voting block. This claim comes from a paper commissioned by Vote Leave that theorised that a Eurozone voting block might be a thing.

Since the minority against doesn't need that many votes (at least 4 according to that paper) to block legislation, any group that manages to lose a vote is likely to be quite small. It's therefore quite possible for it to consist only of non-Eurozone members: Most obviously in the case when the UK is the only vote against. This cannot be used as evidence of a Eurozone voting block. If we start regularly seeing votes where everyone in the Eurozone is for, and everyone not in is against, then we start to worry.

It's also worth noting that we don't get a vote on matters affecting the single currency, since we're not in it. (Denmark gets to vote on even less, as they opt out of a whole heap more than the UK.)

The UK has been outvoted every single time it has voted against EU laws

It's a lot more complicated than that. In the council things are rarely voted on, rather decisions are made by consensus: agreeing on something that everyone's happy to accept. It doesn't go to an actual vote very often, but when it does, however, the UK has only been on the "winning" side 86.7% of the time since 2009, which doesn't look great against the other members. Of course, it's worth noting that the Vote Leave paper picks a period where the number's as bad as possible, but still, they might have a point.

But, hey, it's still more complex than! How important are those things the UK loses on? Are other countries more likely than the UK to vote abstain when they know they're going to lose? What happens in the Parliament: Does the UK vote against, but the UK MEPs get the amendments we want? (btw, this hasn't been helped by us electing MEPs who just don't show up to Parliament.)

Well, entertainingly, it's not uncommon for the UK's Council member to vote against something that the majority of UK MEPs (including the government's own MEPs) then vote in favour of. In part this may be because a regulation that's bad for one area of the UK might be good for another.

So what exactly did the UK vote against in the Council?

These laws have cost British taxpayers £2.4 billion

Ah, this. This is from that Vote Leave commissioned paper again. It's based on things from 1996-2015 with a clear cost, where the UK was on the losing side. So, what do we have... well it's mostly setting budgets for various things. This 2.4bn figure has been reached by summing these budgets together. This is a questionable technique since the UK presumably wouldn't have been demanding them all to be set to 0. The UK could even have been voting because it wanted some of them increased (some of them are funds that the UK benefits from.) Also those budgets are regularly adjusted during that 1996-2015 period, getting added into this total every time an adjustment is voted on.

A typical example is "Setting the budget for the EU Refugee fund for the period 2008-2013", with the largest ones being those setting the overall budget of the EU (which, interestingly, we don't vote against that often!)

The icing on the cake, however, is that this money is paid out of EU funds, so it's what that £250m a week of membership goes towards! Yes, this 2.4bn figure is plain double counting!

Only 5% of British businesses export to the EU but 100% suffer the burden of EU red tape

I haven't looked at this number in detail, but it doesn't ring true. I think they might have done something like take the total number of registered companies in the UK or something, and then sampled them to find out who exports to the EU. This doesn't take into account the size of the business (how important it is the UK economy and employment.) Yes, most minicab firms and sandwich shops do indeed not export to the EU. However, many of those businesses that don't directly export to the EU are almost certainly in the supply chain for businesses (or their hungry staff) that do export to the EU.

Much of the "red tape" surrounds standards of goods and services. All these will still need to exist if we leave. There will be British standards for things like food and electrical safety, the British standards from prior to our EU membership have been used to define those EU standards. Even if we leave, since anything we export to the EU is going to need to meet EU standards, all of those business all the way down the supply chain will still have to meet those exact same requirements too.

EU regulations are highly damaging to our economy, costing small businesses millions every week

Citation needed, and see above: standards will still be needed and still be enforced if we leave.

EU energy regulations cost families and small businesses millions

Most of those regulations would still need to be in force after the UK leaves, since the UK is bound by various international treaties around climate change that those EU regulations apply.

EU rules delay building schools and hospitals - and add millions to the cost

Citation needed. Standards in construction, safety (which the UK has always been more zealous in than most of the rest of the EU) and labour laws will still be needed if we leave. Besides, isn't one of the complaints of the leave.eu campaign that the EU provides us with lots of cheap construction labour from Poland? ;-)

We have no power to make free trade deals with fast growing economies like India and China – unlike non-EU Iceland and
Switzerland

That is, to some extent, true. But would we want to do those deals? The EU is a massive trading block with significant influence. I'd bet China would like to do a deal with the EU, if the EU wanted to do a deal with China, however it would need to be a treaty between equals. This is exactly why the EU-US negotiations over TTIP are still grinding on, the EU wont accept a deal with the US that doesn't treat the EU as an equal. An independent UK, however, is just going to have to accept what it's given from such powers.

We are the 5th biggest economy in the world

Not as of Friday we're not, we just dropped below France in the league tables. Our EU membership is a significant driver for our economy.

We are the 4th largest military power in the world

We're the 4th biggest spender on our military in the world, but our military isn't that large or well equipped compared to others spending less than us (go figure.) I'm also not sure how this is relevant to the EU, unless our great leave plan is to rebuild the empire.

We are one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council and a leading member of NATO

Which we are regardless of whether we're in the EU or not. At present we, and France, effectively represent the EU on the Security council and that gives us a heap more influence than we'd otherwise have.

Our security and intelligence services are recognised as the best in the world

Citation needed. Though yes, through their collaborations with the US, and the Five Eyes, they probably are one of the best. Not really relevant to the EU membership though.

The ‘In’ campaign claim that we can’t be a normal democracy which stands on our own two feet - they are doing Britain down

No one "stands on their own two feet", trade and collaboration are everything. Your own talk of trade deals makes that clear! Of the points above, the only relevant one's our economy which is heavily coupled to the EU. Spending a lot on the military and intelligence service isn't relevant unless the post-EU economic plan is to go and build a new empire.

There is a free trade zone from Iceland to Turkey and the Russian border and we will be part of it

That is true, however we will need to accept pretty much all of the EU regulation you've so strongly argued against to be part of it, and free movement of people. You can't have one of the pillars of the EU without the others. The countries in that zone but not in the EU are all in the Schengen zone too...

We don’t need to accept the control of the EU Court to trade with Europe

If you mean the Court of Justice of the EU, then they get to interpret the EU regulations, so yes, we will have to if we want to be part of that trade zone. It's really useful to have a single arbitrator to decide the interpretation of regulations (which is one of the reasons I dislike TTIP.) If you mean the European Court of Human Rights, that's not related to the EU.

Countries around the world trade with the EU without accepting the ultimate control of the EU court

Their goods (and some services) need to meet EU standards, and the EU gets to decide what does or doesn't (and reject/seize goods that don't.) There are also annoying things like import duties, and extended customs checks, which don't apply if you're in the EU.

Yes, they don't have to manufacture things for their domestic markets that meet EU standards (but they do have to meet their equivalent domestic standards!), however they then can't export them to the EU on a large scale. (This where agreements like TTIP come from: Trying to agree that both parties domestic standards are equivalent, but negotiations there aren't going well.)

Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden stop - we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before
we start any legal process to leave

That's not really our choice, and the people whose choice it is have made their position rather clear on the matter. What they had to lose they've lost by Britain deciding to leave at all, while we have all to play for. It's gonna be fun.

We might not get another vote on this for forty years – let’s use our chance

We're far less likely to get another vote to remain, so by that logic we should have voted for remain, right?