The main group campaigning for a British exit from the EU has a £14bn “black hole” in the savings it claims the UK would make if it voted to leave, Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames has said.
The former defence minister, a pro-European, has called on Vote Leave to explain its calculations or remove from all its campaign literature a “misleading statistic” that a Brexit could save Britain £350m a week.
In one of its founding documents, Vote Leave indicated that the UK would be free to spend nearly £20bn on schools and other domestic priorities if it left the EU. Answering why the UK should leave the EU, the group said: “We stop sending £350m every week to Brussels and instead spend it on our priorities, like the NHS and science research.”
The £350m works out at £18.2bn a year – and was used to roughly equate the UK’s annual £19.23bn contributions to the EU as a condition of its membership. But Soames says this marks the UK’s gross contribution, whereas the figure dips to £9bn, according to Treasury figures, once the UK rebate and other EU grants are taken off.
This is precisely where we didn't want to be as a campaign. We don't want to be arguing the toss over how much we will have to spend on schools hospitals, teachers and nurses. As much as the ensuing debate then falls upon bickering over petty accountancy, it's a turn off to most who will not bother to follow the argument to see who is right. In the end it will be a matter of who gives off the most credible vibe, and whether it is reported that our side has a credible case.
As it happens "we" don't have a credible case at all. The truth is we don't know how much we will save to be precise, but it won't be nearly anything like as much as anybody expects. We are making promises of no disruption to trade by way of single market access. Be it the Norway option or the Swiss option, we still end up participating in EU programmes, and we still are still involved in the creation of single market rules - which is not an inexpensive activity.
Additionally, there will be many areas of administrative and technical cooperation which all parties will want to continue - including agricultural subsidies, even if we repatriate them. Some of the more high profile ones include Europol and Eurocontrol, the latter taking in the development of the Single European Sky.
There is a logical inconsistency here too. One recurring argument the Remain campaign makes is that Brexit leads to the disintegration of academic co-operation. We know this isn't true because Norway etc are participants in Erasmus and Horizon 2020 and Vote Leave Ltd have alluded to this. But that does not come without making some contribution to the EU budget.
Course, nobody can now dig Vote Leave Ltd out of their hole not least because they haven't got a Brexit plan, but also because we don't know what other absurd claims they will be making. All we can say is we told you so.
Meanwhile because Leave.EU are very poor at setting the agenda, they will follow in the wake of Vote Leave Ltd and continue to belch out meaningless statistics and running a reactive campaign in trying to reinforce failure. All of this has been predicted for some time and it demonstrates precisely why a Brexit plan is necessary - as your means and your destination very much have an impact on your referendum message.
Both Leave campaigns have no made fools of themselves and their lack of subject knowledge will lead them to compound their respective errors. We couldn't help them out now even if we were so inclined. They've walked into the traps we said they would and will continue to do so. This would be the great genius Dominic Cummings at work. Ho hum.