Sun, May 29, 2016 - Page 5 News List

‘Brexit’ debate an ‘arms race’ of ‘lurid claims’: UK officials

AFP, LONDON

A cross-party parliamentary committee on Friday condemned the “arms race of ever more lurid claims” on both sides of Britain’s EU referendum debate, saying it was confusing the public.

Lawmakers on the British Treasury committee highlighted the “highly misleading” claim by the “Vote Leave” campaign that Britain could save £350 million (US$511.77 million) per week by leaving the bloc.

They also criticized the “Remain” camp for suggesting that 3 million jobs depended on continued membership of the EU, and that households could be up to £4,300 per year worse off in the event of a so-called Brexit.

“The arms race of ever more lurid claims and counter-claims made by both the leave and remain sides is not just confusing the public. It is impoverishing political debate,” said committee chairman Andrew Tyrie, of the Conservative Party.

In a statement, he conceded that “a few grains of truth accompany the mountain of exaggeration,” notably that there would be a “short-term economic cost” to a vote to leave the EU in the referendum on June 23.

In the longer-term, trade with the EU would likely fall, the committee found, but there were potential benefits in improving Britain’s regulatory framework and in striking new and better trade deals.

“Vote Leave,” the campaign supported by former London mayor Boris Johnson, has made the £350 million claim a central part of its bid to woo voters, splashing it across the side of its campaign bus.

It implies the money — Britain’s weekly gross contribution to the EU budget — could be spent instead on hospitals and schools.

However, it does not include the rebate worth £85 million per week, and the MPs said that even after a Brexit, the government might continue to contribute some money to the EU budget in return for access to the single market.

The committee also queried the “misleading” claim that the top 100 most “burdensome” EU regulations cost £600 million per week.

On the “Remain” side, the MPs said the 3 million jobs associated with EU trade should not be presented as at risk from a Brexit.

They also criticized the “tendentious” claim that a Brexit could increase the cost of imports by at least £11 billion.

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