Friday

26th Feb 2021

Leaflet wars mark UK referendum campaign

  • Every British household will get the pro-EU leaflet next week (Photo: kayugee)

The UK government is to highlight the economic benefits of EU membership in a £9 million (€11.2 million) leaflet campaign ahead of the 23 June referendum.

It will post a 16-page booklet to 27 million British households between 11 and 13 April urging people to stay in the union.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "HM Government" leaflet highlights economic benefits of EU (Photo: eureferendum.gov.uk)

The leaflet, published online on Wednesday (6 April), bears the royal crest and the legend HM Government. It is entitled: “Why the government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK.”

Its first page depicts EU relations in curiously negative terms.

It underlines that the UK will not join the euro, will not open borders, will not be part of further political integration and will impose “tough new restrictions” on “EU migrants”.

Its main message is that staying in the EU is good for the British economy and that to leave “creates uncertainty and risk”.

It indicates that 3 million UK jobs are tied to European exports. It also shows an image of a woman with a shopping basket and the caption: “If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would risk higher prices of some household goods.”

It warns that the UK would face a 10-year long period of “uncertainty and potential economic disruption” as it “unpicks our relationship with the EU”. It adds that getting a good deal on access to the single market would be “much harder” than people think.

It says EU membership is good for law enforcement because it gives the UK greater access to “intelligence from 27 EU countries” and because “EU cooperation makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK”.

It adds more broadly that the EU “exists to promote economic security, peace and stability”.

It also lists other benefits. It says the EU has helped to reduce phone roaming costs and air fares and that it “magnifies” Britain’s overseas influence, for instance on EU sanctions on Iran and EU climate change policy.

Backlash

Eurosceptic campaigners immediately attacked the project.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor who hails from the PM’s own Conservative Party, said: “It’s crazy to use quite so much taxpayers’ money on stuff that is basically intended to scare people.”

Nigel Farage, the head of the UK Independence Party, tweeted: “Government's pro-EU document full of lies.”

Other chatter on social media urged people to post the leaflet back to the prime minister's office.

The Vote Leave campaign group also said the timing of the online publication was designed to distract attention from the Panama Papers revelation that Cameron’s father had an offshore firm.

A government spokeswoman said the claim was "absolute nonsense".

Logos

Vote Leave also circulated a leaflet to households last week. It said, among other things, that the UK paid £350 million a week to the EU budget.

Chris Bryant, an MP for the opposition Labour Party, complained about it to the Electoral Commission.

Pro-EU campaigners said the leaflet masqueraded as a neutral document and tried to hide the Vote Leave logo in a tiny font on its back page.

They also said it contains false information - the real UK net contribution, after counting the UK rebate from the EU budget and EU payments to the UK, is £110 million a week.

But anti-EU campaigners noted that another recent leaflet by the Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE) group used a similar trick by referring to its source only via the initials BSIE in the return address.

Pro- and anti-EU campaign groups are allowed to spend £7 million each of public money, British daily The Telegraph reports. Political parties have separate allowances, giving the pro-EU side a net budget of £26.6 million and their adversaries £11.7 million.

EU-UK deal reached in marathon talks

EU leaders have reached a deal on new UK membership terms after marathon talks in Brussels. The UK won concessions on a eurozone "brake" and welfare curbs.

Tabloid says Queen wants UK to leave EU

Britain’s top-selling tabloid has said the Queen wants the UK to leave the EU, but the report is denied both by her office and the man to whom she's said to have spoken.

Column / Brexit Briefing

How Cameron's EU referendum silenced left-wing Britain

Most of the passion in an increasingly bitter campaign ahead of the 23 June vote comes from the Conservatives. Mobilisation on the left and by nationalists remains marginal.

EUobserved

The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them

Ideas that are attacked are actually being promulgated. That has been the case for centuries, at least as far back as Thomas Aquinas. And that is certainly the case today with Facebook and Twitter.

News in Brief

  1. Rights group exposes Ethiopia massacre
  2. US carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria
  3. Malta closes investigation into journalist murder
  4. Dutch parliament calls China treatment of Uighurs genocide
  5. Spain fined €15m by ECJ over data failures
  6. Belarus: Anti-government protester jailed for 10 years
  7. German charged with spying for Russia in Bundestag
  8. Heavy earthquakes in Iceland trigger volcanic activity

Coronavirus

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  2. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  3. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy
  4. Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency
  5. Is EU poised to solve child labour in 'green' batteries?
  6. The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them
  7. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  8. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us