Truth is the first casualty of EU referendum, experts say


Both sides in the Brexit battle are playing fast and loose with the truth, fact-checkers have warned.

The Leave and Remain camps vying for the upper hand in the referendum campaign have been putting out misleading and inaccurate statements, according to a study by academics from The UK in a Changing Europe, and fact checking organisation, Full Fact.

A key pro-Brexit assertion that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels is wrong, according to the survey because it does not take into account the rebate the UK receives on its contributions.

And pro-Remain claims by the CBI that membership of the EU is worth £3,000 a year to every household is "not credible", say the fact-checkers.

This is because the data used for the calculation is based on a selection of studies produced at different times - some more than a decade old -  with different methodologies, the study decided.

The pro-Brussels assertion that the EU is safer within Europe is questioned, because it already conducts bilateral agreements on security issues with other nations, such as the US,

The fact-checkers also take issue with the Brexit claim that withdrawal is the only way to secure UK borders against mass immigration.

The study points out that free movement of labour would still be binding if a nom-EU UK wanted to reach an agreement to remain part of the single market.

Claims by the Out camp that Europe needs the UK too much to play economic hard ball in post-Brexit negotiations are dismissed by the probe's analysis that while 44% of British exports go to the continent, only five per cent of the rest of the EU's exports come to Britain.

However, fact checkers state the share of of exports to Europe as a per centage of total British trade is declining.

Professor Anand Menon, UK in a Changing Europe director, said: "The public is being bombarded with conflicting claims about the costs and benefits of EU membership. Many of these are at best unsupported by evidence, and at worse simply untrue. Unsurprisingly, many people do not know what to believe or who to trust.

"This analyses provide some clarity for those confused by the competing claims and unsure which 'facts' to trust. With such a large decision to make, the British people deserve to be properly informed."

Full Fact director, Will Moy, said: "Our mission is to cut through the rhetoric and arm people with the facts, by providing impartial, independent analysis. Whichever side they end up on, it is very important that they are able to access reliable information from an impartial source."