By Conor Holohan
The government have revealed that they spent £9 million on a pro-EU information leaflet which will be delivered to 27 million homes. David Lidington, Europe minister, said that the government had a duty to provide prospective voters with its own position and with ‘facts’. Others argue that it’s propaganda, millions of pounds worth of glossy propaganda.
The leaflet makes claims that crumble under casual scrutiny. It says that over three million jobs are linked to exports in the EU, a figure which the Treasury arrived at by working out the total income the country make from exports to the EU and then calculated that proportion of British workers. Furthermore they claim that the remaining in the EU will make it easier to catch criminals. Classic propaganda here, appealing to fears, especially those obviously xenophobic but still prevalent fears concerning the recent influx of migrants and the proportion of them who could be potential criminals. Regardless, this is not provable, but former MI6 bosses have claimed that they believe co-operation would not dissolve if the UK’s EU membership did.
The leaflet asserts the benefit of EU membership to the customers of air travel lines, especially the low cost carriers, insinuating that without the EU membership, flight prices would not be nearly as low. This is one of the more truthful claims as EU membership does keep prices low, but simultaneously we can’t be certain that without the EU there would be no low cost airliners – other countries seem to manage it. Next the leaflet boasts that next year roaming charges across the EU will be cut, and the UK caller will save close to 38p per minute. This one is also true but yet again it neglects the fact that this can still legally and logistically be achieved outside of the European Union.
It claims that a membership of the EU gives the UK citizen the right to cheaper or free public healthcare should they require treatment in another EU country. Like essentially all of these meaningless statements, this is basically true, but it can be true outside of the EU as well. Of course governments could make reciprocal agreements concerning healthcare, of course low cost airline deals could be made, of course the UK and EU will co-operate when it comes to security. But the leaflet insinuates that without the EU, these things vanish into thin air. The government’s factual case for staying in Europe is one thing – quite an acceptable notion – but delivering to 27 million homes, a string of dodgy figures and points that are of such little meaning is crass.
The most damaging part of it is that they claim it is a factual case for staying, making anyone who reads it for its intended use – to aid those with little knowledge in the area to make a more informed educated guess in June – very seriously misinformed about the implications that our membership of the EU actually involves. Cleverly leaving out the fact that most of these things they’re trying to get people to vote to stay for can be still there if we leave will safely scare the dimmer third of the public into voting to stay in the Union. Liam Fox, ex-cabinet Minister said it was full of ‘opinions, assertions and suspicions’ and ex-Welsh secretary John Redwood said it is ‘an abuse of public money, an insult to electors and… it’s going to drive many more people to vote to leave’.