LONDON: Britain’s campaign for the June 23 referendum on its membership in the European Union has descended into “lurid claims and bogus claims” and exaggerations on both sides, an influential committee of MPs has said, pointing out that the public is “fed up”.
The treasury select committee of parliament expressed its ennui at the claims and counter-claims being made at a time when the public wanted facts to arrive at a decision on whether Britain should remain in the 28-state bloc or leave.
“A recurring complaint in the debate… is the absence of ‘facts’,” the report titled “The economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK’s EU membership” said.
Senior Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the committee, said: “The arms race of ever more lurid claims and counter-claims made by both the Leave and Remain sides is not just confusing the public. It is impoverishing political debate.”
“The main campaign… needs to begin with an amnesty on misleading, and at times bogus, claims. The public are thoroughly fed up with them. The public are right,” he added, amid continuing rival claims made through television, tours of ‘battle-buses’ and in print.
The committee questioned the validity of several claims, including the Vote Leave camp’s main claim that Britain sends £350 million to Europe every week, which would be invested in health and other sectors if it exited the EU.
Claims that three million jobs are dependent on continued EU membership are, in the Committee’s view, “misleading”. Even the claim that the jobs are linked to EU trade might lead the public, as the Committee puts it, to “form the mistaken impression that all these jobs would be lost”.
It also concluded that “reaching high-quality trade agreements with countries like China, India and the US, while securing access to the agreements to which the UK is party by virtue of its EU membership, would be a considerable diplomatic challenge; it would take time, resources and the goodwill of other governments”.
The campaign is seen more as a contest among ruling Conservative politicians, including six ministers in the government and leading Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, who some believe is using the campaign to further his prime ministerial aims.