British people deserve better than this nonsense

I have a feeling David Campbell Bannerman MEP is making a bid to seize the coveted title of ‘Most Dishonest Tory Eurosceptic’ from his colleague Dan Hannan. His opinion piece in the Telegraph yesterday is truly virtuosic. In the first half of the piece, where he lists his complaints about our current EU membership, it’s no exaggeration to say that there’s a lie in every single sentence.

Normally I wouldn’t give this kind of nonsense the time of day, but this particular piece achieves such dizzying heights of mendacity that it seems only fair to highlight it on my own modest blog. More worryingly, it could indicate the tactic the Brexit brigade intend to follow: a fact-free campaign, where truth goes out the window.

So — here are all Campbell Bannerman’s lies in today’s Telegraph, neatly arranged, dear reader, for your delight and delectation.

Remain will mean an unreformed EU

Nonsense. The EU is a constant process of reform. For a quick survey of some recent major EU reforms over just the last couple of years, see my summary here — and this is before taking into account Cameron’s proposals, some of which at least are significant and reasonable, not to mention other reforms that are currently underway.

free to steamroller forward its plans for an EU Army

There are no such plans. People have talked loosely about an EU army since the 1950s, but it’s never come to anything. Even if there were proposals put on the table one day, they would require the agreement of the countries concerned. They couldn’t be imposed by the EU or by other countries.

common welfare and pensions

There are no plans for common welfare or pensions. (Indeed, the lack of such a thing is supposedly one reason Cameron keeps banging on about his desire to impede freedom of movement.)

harmonised taxes

Agreement on tax rates require unanimous consent of every member country.

European countries have long agreed a common floor for some indirect taxes like VAT, to prevent a race to the bottom among different countries. But this agreement is decades old, it hasn’t stopped us varying our VAT rate, and it has never affected direct taxation. Even if we wanted to adopt or modify common tax rules in future, that would require the agreement of every single country, meaning nothing could ever be forced on Britain that it didn’t want.

and all the other trappings of a superstate. We will have a single European country.

In fact, the EU’s constitutional setup, laid down in treaties that can only be changed if all countries agree, is specifically designed to make it impossible to develop into a superstate. One of its most fundamental rules is that decisions should always be taken in as decentralised a manner as possible.

The treaties (art 4 TEU) also specify that the EU must respect national identities and the essential State functions of member countries including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.

nor is [Cameron’s deal] legally enforceable

Yes, it is.

the deal is no more than an IOU

Yes, it is.

The other option is Leave – meaning the UK secures a trade deal with the EU which allows it to escape the political chains of the fast approaching EU Superstate

Like religious fundamentalists who proclaim that THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH, eurosceptics have been warning of the”fast approaching” absorption of Britain into a European superstate for literally decades. Yet somehow they they never seem to wake up and notice that it still hasn’t happened.

Incomprehensibly, for them, we still appear to have 28 European nations. And the challenges of getting us all to work together to solve our common problems have hardly dissolved.

The Remain campaign is entirely negative

No, it isn’t. (Also, this claim is absolutely breathtaking given that every single word in Campbell Bannerman’s piece up till now has been pure negative campaigning!)

But the scaremongering won’t work for Brexit and the UK, because the reality is that up to five million EU jobs depend on access to the UK market, with an annual UK deficit in goods with the EU larger than some economies

This is sneaky. In fact, what’s relevant here (as Campbell Bannerman surely knows) is not the trade ratio but the relative importance of that trade to each side — meaning that the true picture is exactly the opposite of what he claims.

Also, for the record, the reason he tries so hard to focus narrowly on our trade in goods (not, as you might expect, in goods and services) is because he knows that Britain actually running a substantial services trade surplus. When you look at the full facts, Campbell Bannerman’s argument collapses.

The UK is the EU’s single largest trading partner

You can only make this ‘fact’ turn out true by counting the EU as a single monolith rather than counting individual countries (and then not counting the UK, of course).

In fact, the largest trading partners of nearly all EU countries are other EU countries. And that applies to Britain too.

After this dazzling initial salvo, the piece meanders off into blithe speculation about the kind of one-sided trade deal he imagines we might be able to get if we quit the EU — “the good life”, as the headline rather blithely puts it.

Plenty has been said recently about the dangers underlying the Leave campaign’s various competing pipe dreams about post-EU Britain, so I won’t rehash them here.

But it wouldn’t be a proper eurosceptic diatribe if there wasn’t space for one last lie, and it’s an old, old favourite:

Westminster would be sovereign again instead of being a rubber stamp for nearly two thirds of our laws coming from the EU

The real figure, as most of us can mouth in our sleep now, is about 13%. And, far from rubber-stamping EU agreements, the UK is an active partner in shaping them. If you want to see genuine rubber-stamping in action, take a look across the North Sea at what happens in Norway.

The British people deserve better than this endless stream of nonsense.

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