EU Referendum

EU Referendum: to perpetuate a lie


Despite numerous and constant pleas, even from high-ranking MPs and donors, to remove or tone done the false claim on the £350 million weekly payments to Brussels, the Vote Leave brass have been unmoving in their obduracy, sticking to the figure like excrement to the virtual blanket.

With complaints flooding in about how the organisation is failing to service grass root campaigners, we now begin to see why there is such a determination to perpetrate the lie, with the emergence of the final phase of the Vote Leave campaign.

The campaign, under the direction of Dominic Cummings, is offering a £50 million prize to anyone who can predict the result of every game at Euro 2016 – with a £50,000 consolation prize to the closest punter, in the event that no one wins.

To frame the competition, Cummings is quoted as saying: "Every day we spend at least £50 million on the EU - that's £350 million a week which is enough to build an NHS hospital".

He adds: "We want as many people as possible to know that we are sending life hanging sums to the EU every single day so we're giving them a chance to win it. It's a bigger prize than any one person has ever won on the national lottery".

However, with the chances of winning being put at eight billion to one, Vote Leave's money is pretty safe, and the consolation prize cost is seen as good value for what is in effect a high volume data mining exercise.

Organisers hope that, by enticing people onto their site in exchange for an e-mail, a valid phone number and full residential address, they will be able to build a unique database which can be used in the last weeks of the campaign. Effectively, though, the whole campaign is being reduced to a reliance on a single factoid, itself a demonstrable lie, in order to pave the way for last-minute mailshots, telephone canvassing and electronic communications.

The tactic, though, reactivates suspicions that Matthew Elliott and his business associates are using the "leave" campaign as a commercial opportunity to capture data which they can then launder through offshore companies, and sell to political and other groups.

Certainly, it means that the campaign is now even more closely dependent on a demonstrable lie, the essence of which is made abundantly clear by Council Regulation (EU) 609/2014 (see Article 10).

This makes it clear that Member States are required to remit contributions to Brussels monthly, with one twelfth of the overall sum due sent on the first day of each month, "taking into account the … the correction granted to the United Kingdom for budgetary imbalances". Specifically, "Corrections… shall be added to or subtracted from the total amount of established entitlements".

With the legal base of the rebate fully protected, it cannot be changed without the agreement of the UK and the unanimous assent of the Council. This means there is not the slightest justification for claiming that the UK sends £350 million a week (of £50 million a day) to Brussels. It doesn't, and to claim so is not "misleading". It is a straight lie.

This is certainly a new style of campaigning, to base the core message – and now the entire strategy – on perpetrating a lie, but then this can hardly be surprising for campaign which is using a serial liar for its lead spokesman.

To my view, though, it is not and never can be good (or acceptable) strategy to rely on a deliberate lie. And this is what Vote Leave is doing, perpetuating its existing lie. Such a stance cannot be endorsed, and its latest stunt is simply unacceptable.