Falsehoods, Failures, Fibs & Fabrications

The 40 reasons to back the Brexit deal published by the Prime Minister to support her deal, are a frantic farrago of frequently fanciful falsehoods, failures, fibs or feeble fabrications.

They are listed below with my comments on each of them in red, explaining why this entire document is so disingenuous and should not be believed. Many of these issues I have raised and rebutted previously, and have linked to other articles where this is the case.

1. Free movement will come to an end, once and for all, with the introduction of a new skills-based immigration system.

Free movement is reciprocal – so ending it removes rights from nearly two million Brits currently living in other EU countries and from all Brits who might have wanted to benefit from this in the future, especially young people. The rights of UK citizens to live, work, and study in 27 other countries, are being dismissed at a stroke.

It’s also a misplaced target: if Theresa May wants to reduce migration to the UK, she should have the honesty to say that most migration to Britain comes from outside the EU, entirely under UK rules, which she controlled as Home Secretary for 6 years. And perhaps mention that EU freedom of movement is not an unconditional right, it comes with obligations (such as to find work or be self-sufficient) which she never enforced. Read more here.

2. We will take back full control of our money which we will be able to spend on our priorities such as the NHS. We will leave EU regional funding programmes – with the UK deciding how we spend this money in the future.

The two per cent of public spending that we carry out jointly at EU level often saves us money at national level by pooling resources or avoiding duplication. The cost of Brexit will be far higher than any savings from our EU contribution. May is echoing the notorious lies on the red bus.

3. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will end.

Except it won’t. As now, any disputed interpretation about what EU rules mean (including those EU rules which we will still need to follow) will be settled by the ECJ, which will no longer have a UK judge.

4. In the future we will make our own laws in our own Parliaments and Assemblies in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

As we do now. Only some 12%of our laws are ones we make jointly with our neighbours, after Westminster parliamentary scrutiny, which we do when there is an advantage to have the same rules, not least the single market regulations on product safety, consumer protection and environmental standards which make the sale of British products legal across Europe without further ado. Under the deal, we will anyway follow most of those rules, but we won’t have a say on them anymore. 

This is a big step back from the current arrangement.

5. We will leave the Common Agricultural Policy.

Taking our farmers out of the common agricultural market in Europe, to which the bulk of their exports go, is hazardous. The CAP currently provides the bulk of farmers’ incomes and means there are equivalent levels of subsidy across Europe. Are we going to subsidise less (and see our farmers unable to compete) or more (and see them excluded from European markets for unfair competition)? Is this the beginning of the end for some of our much loved landscapes, such as the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District, as their farms close down? Read more here.

6. We will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and become an independent coastal state again, with control over our waters.

Under international law (UN Law of the Sea), we will still have to negotiate with our neighbours on managing fish stocks, agreeing limits and quotas. And if we try to avoid that, other EU countries have already said they will reduce their take of our exports (we export most of the fish we catch). Read more here.

7. We will be able to strike trade deals with other countries around the world. Deals can be negotiated and ratified during the implementation period and put in place straight afterwards.

Only if and when we leave the Customs Union. And if we do that, we drop out of all our existing agreements with other countries around the world that we currently have via the EU (and those currently being negotiated, such as the EU- Australia agreement). We would have to re-negotiate them all, in a hurry, negotiating alone as Britain without the clout of the world’s largest market, as was the case when we negotiated as jointly as EU.

8. We will be an independent voice for free trade on the global stage, speaking for ourselves at the World Trade Organization, for the first time in decades.

As if we didn’t speak up now! We use the leverage of the EU speaking jointly to amplify our own voice and achieve much more in trade matters. This leverage will be lost.

9. We will be freed from the EU’s political commitment to ever closer union.

The agreed full text says: “ever closer union among the peoples [not the states!] of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity”. This text, far more nuanced than Theresa May wants to pretend, was negotiated by the Conservative government of John Major. Anyway, it’s a declaratory preamble which has no legal effect. A red herring!

10. We will be out of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, recognising the UK’s long track record in protecting human rights.

Leaving a mechanism for the legal enforcement of rights is a strange way of “recognising the UK’s long track record in protecting human rights”!

11. A fair settlement of our financial obligations, which will be less than half what was originally predicted.

And at least £40 billion more than Conservative ministers originally claimed.

12. Both the one million UK citizens living in the EU and the three million EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights legally guaranteed so they can carry on living their lives as before.

Not according to the organisations representing them such as British in Europe (of which there are actually more than one million) and the3million who represent EU citizens living in the EU.

13. We will have a free trade area with the EU, with no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, helping to protect UK jobs. We will be the only major economy with such a relationship with the EU.

But the government intends to leave the Customs Union (creating a customs border, even if there are no tariffs, in order to comply with WTO rules of origin requirements) and to leave the Single Market (turning the border into a regulatory border). Goodbye to frictionless trade! Indeed, the document makes no mention of frictionless trade, which was previously Theresa May’s prime objective, now abandoned.

14. We’ve agreed with the EU that we will be as ambitious as possible in easing the movement of goods between the UK and the EU as part of our free trade area.

What a lowering of ambition! The government originally promised frictionless trade. Now they’re reduced to saying it will be only as ambitious “as possible”.

15. We will have an implementation period after we leave the EU during which trade will continue much as it does now. This will allow government, businesses and citizens time to prepare for our new relationship.

This is the transition period (a term which Theresa May still refuses to use), now extendable to nearly 4 years, during which Britain will have to follow any changes to EU rules without having a say on them.

16. The deal will see a greater reduction in barriers to trade in services than in any previous trade deal.

Flagrant falsehood! Leaving does not reduce barriers.

17. There will be an agreement that means UK citizens can practice their profession in the EU.

Still to be negotiated. At best, it will simply maintain the current right for our citizens to do that. It is, however, more likely to result in less ability to do so, given the government’s intention to restrict freedom of movement.

18. A comprehensive deal that secures access to the EU market for our financial services sector meaning the EU cannot withdraw it on a whim. This will provide stability and certainty for the industry.

There will be worse access than have now, costing us jobs, income and therefore tax revenue. Even that level of access will now depend on the European Commission recognising UK rules as equivalent to EU rules. If granted, that recognition cannot be withdrawn “on a whim”, of course, but it can be withdrawn unilaterally if UK rules diverge in a way the EU doesn’t like.

19. A best in class agreement on digital, helping to facilitate e-commerce and reduce unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means.

A “best in class agreement” even if true, is still no substitute for jointly running the system, as we do now.

20. We have agreed that there will be arrangements that will let data continue to flow freely, vital across our economy and for our shared security.

“There will be” means they still have to be negotiated and agreed. Another thing for the “still to do” list.

21. Trade arrangements for gas and electricity will help to ease pressure on prices and keep supply secure.

Also still have to be negotiated and agreed. Another thing for the “still to do” list.

22. Strong rules will be in place to keep trade fair, so neither the UK nor EU can unfairly subsidise their industries against the other.

Another thing for the “still to do” list.

23. We will have a comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and comparable access for freight operators, buses and coaches.

Another thing for the “still to do” list. But it’s clear that Britain won’t be a full member of the European Air Safety Agency. Abandoning this means less influence, more red tape for our airlines and extra costs to set up a separate UK system, and potentially les safety.

24. We have agreed that there will be arrangements so we can take part in EU programmes like Horizon and Erasmus.

Another thing for the “still to do” list.

25. There will be a cooperation agreement with Euratom, covering all the key areas where we want to collaborate.

Another thing for the “still to do” list, after we pulled out of Euratom for no good reason. Read more here.

26. Visa-free travel to the EU for holidays and business trips will continue.

Subject to detailed agreement still to be reached.

27. Our new security partnership will mean sharing of data like DNA, passenger records and fingerprints to fight crime and terrorism, going beyond any previous agreement the EU has made with a third country.

Subject to detailed agreement still to be reached. The text says “the Parties should establish reciprocal arrangements”, not “will establish”, let alone “will continue” – because of course we already have this.

28. Our new security partnership will enable the efficient and swift surrender of suspected and wanted criminals.

Our participation in the European Arrest Warrant will end and be replaced by “streamlined procedures” yet to be negotiated.

29. Close cooperation for our police forces and other law enforcement bodies.

But less than we have now. The text refers to “cooperation” rather than “participation” in Europol and Eurojust.

30. We will continue to work together on sanctions against those who violate international rules.

Yes, we will be able to join any EU decided sanctions. EU trade sanctions are a powerful tool, as the EU is the world’s largest market. From outside, we will no longer have a say on how that tool is used.

31. We will work together on cyber-security threats and support international efforts to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Only as an outsider, and partially, losing the full involvement we currently enjoy.

32. Disputes between the UK and the EU on the agreement will be settled by an independent arbitrator, ensuring a fair outcome.

The arbitrator’s decisions will “be binding” and must defer to the Court of Justice of the EU, the “sole arbiter of Union law” (despite Theresa May’s previous red line), whenever it is a matter of interpreting the EU’s rules. So, we will still be subject to the Court’s judgements, but there will no longer be a British judge helping to make them.

33. We will meet our commitment to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

But, as the government intends to leave the customs union, customs controls will have to go somewhere…

And, as the government intends to leave the single market, regulatory checks will have to go somewhere…

34. We will keep the Common Travel Area between the United Kingdom and Ireland, ensuring everyday life continues as now.

As was never in doubt, in or out of the EU.

35. We will keep the Single Electricity Market between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which will help maintain a stable energy supply and keep prices down in Northern Ireland.

On this, Northern Ireland does effectively stay in the EU (but keep it quiet, the DUP doesn’t want to make a fuss on this one, in case the lights go off!)

36. Both sides will be legally committed, by the Withdrawal Agreement, to use “best endeavours” to get the future relationship in place by the end of the implementation period, helping to ensure the backstop is never used.

“Best endeavours” didn’t enable a solution over the last two years, so no reason to expect they will over the next two.

37. An agreement to consider alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, including all facilitative arrangements and technologies, and to begin preparatory work on this before we leave the EU, reflecting shared determination to replace the backstop.

Nice to know they’ll be “considered”. Again. And no doubt again and again.

38. In the unlikely event we do have to use the backstop, a UK-wide customs area will ensure there is no customs border in the Irish Sea.

So, we might get a long term customs union despite the government not wanting it. Good news, but an odd way to get there. And entirely dependent on EU agreement to terms. Meanwhile, UK has to follow rules with no say on them anymore.

39. Gibraltar’s British sovereignty will be protected.

Not exactly and not what Spain is saying as it looks ahead to the future negotiations. One of many points where Brexit places Britain in a vulnerable negotiating position.

40. The deal delivers on the referendum result. It takes back control of our money, borders and laws whilst protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Absolute rubbish on each one of these. I’ve explained why, here.

And there is no mention of:

  • the Galileo Satellite system, in which we benefit from sharing the huge costs among 28 countries. The UK will drop out of it. Instead, the text says merely that we “should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space”. Years of UK investment in Galileo thrown away, leaving us facing the costly option of setting up a separate system, as the government recently announced with apparent relish.
  • the fact that our access to the European market will depend on “level playing field” provisions covering “state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change and relevant tax matters”, on all of which the UK will in practice have to follow EU rules, while no longer having a say on them.
  • the fact that the text rules out continued UK participation in the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Air Safety Agency, allowing only for “the possibility of cooperation”. (This in contrast to the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, where the UK can be a “Participating State”).
  • that the text makes our insurance and banking sectors’ access to the European market dependent on the European Commission accepting that UK rules are “equivalent” to the EU’s rules. The same applies for data.
  • the fact that participation in any EU programmes we want to, will be “subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding Union [legal] instruments”, set by the EU, not jointly agreed ones.
  • the Digital Single Market and its advantages regarding roaming, portability etc.
  • the “Framework Participation Agreement” yet to be negotiated, on UK participation in civilian and military crisis management missions abroad. Another thing for the to-do list.
  • the mutual recognition of driving licences will end. There is merely a reference to “the Parties should consider complementary arrangements to address travel by private motorists.”
  • the costs of Brexit to the economy. A new report by the NIESR, an independent economic think tank, shows that by 2030, GDP will be around 4 per cent lower than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU (rising to 5.5 per cent, or £140 billion a year, in the event of a no-deal Brexit).


  1. Thank you so much for this, Richard. Huge respect for your diligence and expertise, as always. Very best wishes to you and the rest of the EPLP.

  2. Excellent exposure of the truth underlying May’s propaganda. Thanks to MEP Richard Corbett for his analysis of her inaccurate claims.

  3. . Thank you for doing this – it is a real tour de force.

    May I suggest A little addition to no 9, though – the deal Cameron did with the EU pre Referendum was that the U.K. would be specifically omitted from further moves towards “ever closer union” which seemed to me to stymie it for the rest of the EU as well, unless the U.K. were somehow to have a different sort of membership to the other member countries.

  4. At last someone explaining precisely and efficiently the terms of brexit. But having read them you can understand why this government wants the opposite to happen and keep us all in the dark.
    Thank you Richard

  5. Thank you very much for explaining it al so clearly. How can this be got across people, who really ought to know it and can make a difference? Has Corbyn read it yet?

  6. Very well put Richard, but it’s a pity the Labour party isn’t advocating a second referendum. That way we might get the best deal for Britain -i.e. staying in the EU!

  7. Thank you for such a clear and comprehensive rebuttal of her ridiculous document.

    The problem is that few people will see or read it. Mrs May is cynically pitching to the population, many of whom remain in the same state of uninformed ignorance which delivered Brexit in the first place. And now they have an added dose of apathy and boredom. She is showing the same contempt for Parliamentary democracy that her predecessor did. Many MPs will put party and their own interests before the good of the country as they have been doing for the last 2 years.

    We must take every opportunity to rebut her points. Thank you again.

  8. pt 37 – the technologies aren’t sufficiently robust or ubiquitous and politicians overlook the fact that people (and animals!) cross borders that are unmarked and unpoliced

    – research and innovation, education all deeply compromised

    – impact of de facto devaluation of, and betting against, sterling

  9. This is the sort of analysis that should have preceded the vote to leave or remain. It was also needed so the public at large knew more about the implications of leaving then it did then but is probably too late now. The problem will failing to plan is that you end up planning to fail. Sadly we have no politicians of stature in Parliament and Brexit is on course to be the biggest political catastrophe since Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement. Weakness, vacillation and a lack of leadership are recipes for disaster. We are nearly there.

  10. Actual information on the deal! Yay! It’s a cr*p deal, and clearly needs to be shot down at the earliest opportunity. Thank you for the info.

  11. Great. So the EU has bullied us into a crap deal. What a surprise. So we might as well just walk out at the end of March, keep the 39Bn, and then see what real negotiations look like.

    • We have not been bullied into anything. Our idiotic leaders interpreted the result of the referendum in an idiosyncratic way, they set “red lines” which severely limited the chances of getting a good deal and they have soured relations with the EU by infantile posturing. We are beating ourselves up rather than being bullied!

    • Just because someone doesn’t give you what you want, it doesn’t mean they are bullying you. It just means they’re saying no. Yours is a victim mentality. How can we be this proud nation that is going to strut the world stage, and at the same time whinge that we’re being bullied by the nasty EU? Grow up!

    • Not only have the EU not ‘bullied us into’ anything, you and people like you asked for this, demanded this and now you have got it are blaming everyone but yourselves for this utter omnishambles.

      Your solution “We’ll just walk away then…”, like some stroppy teenager whose argument has been called out by the adults and has no answer to offer, will only result in us having even LESS say than the dross deal that May’s clown car of incompetents have “negotiated”. Every single point above will still apply, we’d be subject to WTO rules and, best of all, we’d have zero credibility when it came to any negotiations with anyone in future as they’re already thinking “better watch this shower, they’ve got a history of just walking away…”

      We’re not negotiating the sale of an old second hand car, kicking the tyres and then walking off. We’re committing the single biggest act of self harm ever witnessed.

      And you asked for it,

  12. Excellent debunking of the barrage of lies that have got us into the mess we now find ourselves in. Maybot and company haven’t yet addressed our concerns in Scotland and under brexit we will be much worse off while we voted remain.

  13. Underpinning our current EU membership is participation in the EU Council of Ministers, appointment of Commissioners and, of course, accountability to the people in all areas of the UK through our MEPs.

  14. What baffles me is what on earth do they hope to get out of it themselves, personally.Are they all fitted with a’Manchurian’ chip;? Or is it an epidemic of sadomasochism

  15. Thank you. A great job, succinctly expressed. As one of the million Brits resident in another EU country, I and my friends have great concerns regarding freedom of movement. Many of us will have to change our lifestyles under the proposed arrangements, and we have no guarantees yet as to our healthcare and pension arrangements, which have been threatened. Any new arrangements will have collateral damage, and we feel that we will come under that heading.

  16. Before the “People’s Vote” every one eligible to vote should be given a handout on these facts, Tv programmes to spell out the truth, Radio programmes and the like to make people understand what they choosing. It should be a educated referendum, NOT a blind one like the last one.

    So fight for the “People’s Vote”

  17. Thank you Richard.
    This detailed rebuttal of Teresa May’s claims need to be seen by all and promoted by the Labour opposition now and in advance of a people’s vote. It cannot be left to that feeble PMQS process.

  18. Thank you for taking the time to disect fact from the smoke and mirrors. A very trenchant and succinct and useful analysis. You have an obvious talent for knowledge management .

    • If the UK leaves the EU, either into the transition period or without a deal, British MEPs mandates will end on 29th March 2019. The rest of Europe will of course continue to have democratically elected MEPs representing their interests and having a say in the rules, many of which the UK will have to follow anyway if it wants to trade with the EU.

  19. Of course, nothing can be negotiated legally until we leave the Eu in March.

    You seem to think that the ‘to do list’ somehow magically should have been negotiated already.

    • This is not what he’s “thinking” at all; merely pointing out that these are weasel words insinuating something is done and dusted when it isn’t.

  20. I am not a labour supporter, in fact I have a lot of admiration for Theresa May who has worked hard to negotiate a deal. Nevertheless I can also see the logic in much of what you haave explained, leaving the EU would be a serious mistake.

  21. A detailed analysis that lays bare the scale of misinformation by the Brexiters and the colossal risks inherent in Theresa May’s deal. Thank you!

  22. To leave the EU is clearly the stupidest decision this country has made in a long while. It was founded on lies told by the Tories as well as demonstrably illegal actions on their part during the referendum. We still can reverse this idiocy and should do so without any further hesitation. Our democracy is not predicated on referenda, but on the election of representatives acting through Parliament on our behalf. There should never have been a referendum, nor should there be another one to compound the damage already done to our Parliamentary democracy. Instead, we should bin Brexit altogether and return to Parliamentary rule via a general election

  23. Thanks Richard – a good summary – may I add a historical perspective >>> A number of BREXITERs seem more interested in citing WW2 than considering the world as it is today. Yet it was the victorious allies who created a range of economic structures to stop such carnage ever recurring. Of these the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) was the most significant, ensuring that nations cooperated in the post-war reconstruction of Europe. Today we know it as the EU, and if we do leave then the impact on our economy and society could well take the UK back to where it was in 1945.

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