Thursday, 12 May 2016

UK Statistics Authority criticises 'Vote Leave' video

A YouTube video launched today by ‘Vote Leave’ campaigner, Douglas Carswell, MP, has been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority.

On the new video, Mr Carswell, UKIP’s only MP, and Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s ‘suspended’ spokesperson, insisted that Britain could save £350 million a week by leaving the EU. 

The sum had been ‘confirmed’ by the UK Statistics Authority, claimed Mr Carswell.

Added Ms Evans on the video, “Imagine we had £350 million more to do with as we wanted every week. Well that’s what we’re told we could save if we left the European Union. That’s a huge amount of money, enough to build and open a brand new hospital..”

But when I showed the video to the UK Statistics Authority this afternoon, they wrote back to express their disappointment.

A spokesman commented:
"The Authority has again concluded that there is a lack of clarity in the way the official statistics have been drawn on. It is disappointing that the £350 million figure continues to be used without appropriate explanation.”
On the video Mr Carswell, in front of a clip board, asserted that:
“It's a mathematical fact that every week we give control of £350 million to Brussels.. That is an indisputable mathematical fact!”
And holding a letter from the UK Statistics Authority, Mr Carswell added:
“I have here from the UK Statistics Authority no less, confirmation that the gross contribution to the EU in 2014 was £19.1 billion. There are of course 52 weeks in a year, so let’s divide that figure by 52.”
Mr Carswell wrote the numbers on his flip board before turning to the camera to remark, “I hope the Remain campaign doesn’t dispute the number of days in the week or weeks in the year!” Suzanne Evans gave a chuckle.

Continued Mr Carswell:
“It’s a mathematical fact that if you do that sum, and again I refer people to the UK Statistics Authority who have proven calculators, the total amount per week that we give control to the European Union is actually, if anything, slightly higher than the figure that the Leave campaign is using. It’s £367 million. That is an enormous amount of money and that is an indisputable mathematical fact.”
But the letter in the video that Mr Carswell was holding in his hand from the UK Statistics Authority was actually a criticism of Vote Leave’s claim that, “Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels”. Mr Carswell didn’t mention that in his video.

In the letter, Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, commented:
“I note the use of the £350 million figure, which appears to be a gross figure which does not take into account the rebate or other flows from the EU to the UK public sector (or flows to non-public sector bodies), alongside the suggestion that this could be spent elsewhere. 
“Without further explanation I consider these statements to be potentially misleading. Given the high level of public interest in this debate it is important that official statistics are used accurately, with important limitations or caveats clearly explained.”
Whilst the new video by Douglas Carswell explained that Britain receives a rebate and has funds returned for spending in the UK, the video didn’t make clear that Britain doesn’t actually send £350 million a week to the EU. 

That’s because Britain’s rebate is deducted at source, and so only the discounted amount is sent to the EU.

As Sir Andrew made clear in his letter, although the gross contribution to the EU in 2014 was £19.1 billion, after Britain’s rebate, the actual amount sent to the EU was £14.7 billion. That works out at £282 million a week.

However, confirmed Sir Andrew, deducted from that needs to be EU payments made to the UK Public Sector, which brought the annual amount for 2014 down to £9.9 billion. That’s a weekly amount of £190 million.

Then, as Sir Andrew and the Office for National Statistics clarified in his letter, taking into account EU contributions to non-Public Sector bodies, the net weekly cost of EU membership came down to an average of £7.1 billion a year for the period 2010 to 2014. 

That brought the weekly cost of EU membership to around £110 to £135 million a week, which according to the Office for National Statistics, represents “the net level of resources being transferred from the UK as a whole to the EU.” 

This of course is still a large sum of money. 

But what Vote Leave – and the new video – does not make clear are the significant benefits that Britain receives as a result of EU membership. Free trading access to the EU Single Market, for example, is worth billions more to the UK than the annual EU membership fee. 

Commented Steve Peers, Professor of Law at Essex University: 
"It's frankly astonishing that anyone would seek to defend the £350 million a week figure in light of the UK Statistics Authority letter, which said that using this figure was 'potentially misleading'
“That’s because the figure ignores the UK rebate and the EU money spent in the UK. In fact, the UKIP manifesto from the last election, which was independently audited, says that the payments are half this figure.”
On the claim by Mr Carswell that “we give control of £350m to Brussels”, Professor Peers responded, 
“The EU doesn't have 'control' of £350 million a week. First of all, the net amount sent to the EU in the first place is smaller, since the UK rebate is applied at source. And contrary to the claim in the video, Britain can spend the rebate money as it wishes, without any say or control from the EU.
"Secondly, the UK has a key role in deciding how EU money is spent, since it has a veto over the basic decisions on the multi-year EU financial framework.”
Professor Peers added:
“In light of this, who can believe anything else that the Leave side say?"

Other articles by Jon Danzig:


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