Thursday

21st Feb 2019

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.

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  • "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.

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