Challenging lies and scare stories

The launch of UKIP’s European election campaign in Sheffield has given rise to many comments, not least because of the poster and billboard campaign they unveiled.

Most politicians are prone to exaggeration, but they normally shy away from blatant lies. Not so with UKIP. They seem to be of the same school as Joseph Goebbels: if you keep repeating a lie often enough, it will eventually be believed.

Such is the case with the poster claiming that 75% of our laws are decided in Brussels. They know perfectly well that this is not true: the House Commons library (a body free of political influence, and one well placed to check) has estimated that it’s just over 6% of Britain’s primary legislation and 14% of statutory instruments that have, in recent years, been of European origin. (Another independent body of researchers, FullFact UK, has investigated this in some detail too.)

Leaving to one side the centuries of accumulated national law, even the current rate of adoption of laws means that only a small minority of the laws we pass are those which we choose to adopt jointly with our EU partners, notably common rules for the common market.

The other UKIP posters, on migration, are simply scaremongering — trying to frighten people. Their constant refrain is that several million Romanians have the right to move to Britain, and implying that this somehow threatens our livelihoods. This is like saying that 5 million Scots have the right to move to Yorkshire, or that 5 million inhabitants of Yorkshire have the right to move to London. Of course they do, but it’s hardly likely to happen. In fact, there’s actually an almost equal balance between the number of people from other European countries in Britain and the number of Brits in other parts of Europe.

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