This article was first published on Huffington Post.
On Monday 9th May, Parliament debated Get Britain Out’s petition to ‘STOP CAMERON spending British taxpayers’ money on pro-EU Referendum leaflets’ after the Government spent £9.3 million of British taxpayers’ money sending out pro-EU propaganda. The Petitions’ Committee agreed to a debate on the petition after it received over 100,000 signatures – it now has over 221,000 signatures.
In December last year rumours of the Government’s plans to send out pro-EU propaganda in the run up to the referendum arose and our Director decided to start this petition. At the time a Government spokesperson hit out at the claims, saying: “It is absolute nonsense to suggest the Government is working up a pro-EU pamphlet to send to families to discourage them from voting No in a referendum.”
On the 6th April the Prime Minister confirmed the Government would in fact go ahead and produce a leaflet to be sent to every home in the country, as well as a website designed to convince voters to vote to ‘Remain’ in the EU. David Cameron justified this by saying the voters needed “all the information at their fingertips”. Unfortunately, as you will now know, the leaflet does not fulfil this objective. It gives handpicked biased pro-EU arguments without any opposing view, and therefore the objective of the leaflet has not been fulfilled.
The Government’s leaflet goes hand in hand with an online campaign – revealed to have cost £9.3 million in total – paid for by British taxpayers. This is a huge boost to the ‘Remain’ campaign’s coffers, which is supposed to have a legal spending limit of £7 million in total. As a result the Remain campaign is spending more than the £7 million ‘Vote Leave’ – the designated ‘Leave’ campaign is legally allowed to spend on their entire campaign activities – and this money must be raised by donations, not raided from taxpayers’ pockets.
The debate in Parliament was well attended by Eurosceptic MPs, with excellent contributions from across the House. Unfortunately, the only ‘Remain’ campaign attendees were those who were required to be there, the Government’s Europe Minister, Labour’s Shadow Europe Minister and the SNP’s Europe Spokesperson. In fairness, two further SNP ‘Remain’ supporters did attend, but they could only be bothered to turn up halfway through the debate. One of them, Peter Grant, the SNP MP for Glenrothes, spent the vast majority of his time browsing ‘Twitter’ rather than paying attention to the debate itself!
The Europe Minister, David Lidington MP, was castigated throughout the debate by his fellow Conservative MPs. This included David Jones MP who said “I find it highly regrettable that my party’s Government has conducted itself in that way. I would go so far as to say that I am deeply ashamed.” As a result, David Lidington kept his head down, and refused to make any eye contact throughout the entire sitting. He couldn’t have looked more miserable if he tried, after several hours of unmitigated abuse.
One of the stars of the debate was unquestionably Pat Glass MP, Labour’s Shadow Europe Minister, who was so feckless the entire room erupted with laughter after she made one of the most ironic observations of all time. She said “about the ‘Great British Public’. If we want to get this right, we must talk about the UK, not Britain.” This is true. However as Labour’s Kate Hoey MP pointed out “her campaign to remain is called ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’?” Still undeterred Glass retorted (after the laughter died down) “It is not. It is called ‘Labour In’”, this is even more ironic as her campaign is in fact called ‘Labour in for Britain’, which completely destroyed the point she was making. Glass now joins Lord Rose in the unenviable club of ‘Remain’ campaigners who can’t remember their own organisation’s name.
Sammy Wilson of the DUP shed some light on the ridiculous claims of the ‘Remain’ campaigners – one claim has been that the peace process in Northern Ireland will be destabilised after Brexit. He countered this with: “I lived in Northern Ireland right through the troubles, and I never, ever heard any IRA spokesman say that he was determined to bomb the life out of people in Northern Ireland to stay in the EU”.
This is not the only attempt the Government has made to try and skew the debate by peddling fictions. We have recently seen two Treasury reports which have been debunked by almost everyone. The first used an inappropriate hypothetical model which isn’t even linked to the UK, without any reasoning for doing this. It bases economic productivity on the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) – putting the horse before the cart as increased productivity increases FDI, not the other way around. One of many other errors it makes is the fact it doesn’t even factor in our £10 billion saving in membership fees or possible reduced regulations. The latest report is so ridiculous ‘The Times’ newspaper ran a feature ‘Ten reasons for scepticism over the Treasury report’. George Osborne and Cameron are clearly desperate.
‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ has also been playing this misinformation game, sending another leaflet around the country including a quote from Martin Lewis – the leading ‘Consumer Champion’, who was outraged at being included in the mailing. His comments have been taken completely out of context and he is currently undecided on the referendum issue. He has responded by saying “On its own it isn’t actually a glowing endorsement – just in the context of the leaflet it seems more.”
We at Get Britain Out believe the ‘Remain’ campaign has been underhand from start to finish. It has tried to stack the deck against the ‘Leave’ side, and if it continues in this manner, this great constitutional question will not be settled for a generation. We don’t believe the Great British Public is stupid. So, please tell the establishment exactly what you think of them on June 23rd. Tell them you’re not happy with politicians swerving responsibility by saying there’s nothing they can help with because of the EU – do so by voting to Get Britain Out.