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newsSummary of the lies, misrepresentations and misleading statements made by Vote Leave in their campaign document “The EU immigration system is immoral and unfair”


Immigration was a key issue in the EU referendum campaign, with an IPSOS Mori poll  of the 16th June highlighting that this was the top issue for people voting in the EU referendum. The poll by Lord Ashcroft called “Leave to Remain ” also found that amongst potential Leave voters this was the number one issue.

Given the high feelings raised by this topic, it was particularly important for the electorate to be given clear facts on this issue.

As part of their EU referendum campaign, Vote Leave created a document called “The EU immigration system is immoral and unfair”.  The quotes highlighted in red below are taken from this Vote Leave document, and then examined for accuracy (written in black ink) underneath.

“A quarter of a million migrants come here every year – a city the size of Newcastle”. –

Whilst it is true that 270,000 EU migrants came here in 2015, this is still misleading as the figure that should be quoted is the NET EU migration figure, which is reached by taking the number of people who come to the UK, and taking away the number of people who leave the UK, which gives you the total or net migration figure.

Net migration is 145,000 per year, a town the size of Birkenhead, and the majority of this immigration settles in London and the SouthEast.  Net EU migration (not including UK migration to and from the EU) comes to 185,000 people in 2015, but when UK population movement is taken into account, the total net EU inward migration for the year was 145,000. Either way, the actual net figures are substantially lower than Vote Leave indicated: Newcastle has a population of 300,000 people, so net EU migration is half of that figure. This is misleading to the electorate and gives an over-exaggerated sense of the scale of EU migration.

Immigration (people coming into UK) Figures for 2015 Emigration (people leaving the UK) Figures for 2015 Final figures
British citizens coming home 83,000 British citizens leaving the UK 123,000 -40,000
EU citizens coming to the UK 270,000 EU citizens leaving the UK 85,000 185,000
Non EU citizens coming to the UK 277,000 Non EU citizens leaving the UK 89,000 188,000
Total 630,000   330,000  

 These figures are drawn from the ONS Quarterly report on migration: May 2016


Figure 4: Immigration to the UK by citizenship, 2006 to 2015 (YE December 2015)

Immigration to the UK by citizenship, 2006 to 2015 (YE December 2015)

Source: Office for National Statistics, Long-Term International Migration
1.    Figures for 2015 are provisional. In this chart provisional estimates are represented by a cross.
2.    This chart is not consistent with the total revised net migration estimates as shown in Figures 1 and 2.


Figure 12: Emigration from the UK by citizenship, 2006 to 2015 (YE December 2015)
Emigration from the UK by citizenship, 2006 to 2015 

Source: Office for National Statistics, Long-Term International Migration
1.    Figures for 2015 are provisional. In this chart provisional estimates are represented by a cross.
2.    This chart is not consistent with the total revised net migration estimates as shown in Figures 1 and 2. Please see guidance note for further information
Vote Leave have consistently used the immigration figures into the UK rather than the net migration figures, which is highly misleading and misrepresents the scale of migration in the UK.  

Population growth in the UK since we joined the EU is as follows:

United Kingdom population mid year estimate

The total net migration is 333,000. Of those, 188,000 are non EU citizens and therefore the UK Government has complete control over the number of non EU citizens that come into the UK. This 188,000 are completely irrelevant when deciding on the question of EU membership. Net EU migration is approximately 180,000 a year. However, 43,000 British nationals leave the UK each year and therefore EU net migration (excluding British migration)  comes to 145,000. On a population of 65,000000, this comes to 0.22% of the population.

Birth growth

Vote Leave also said that there were 475,000 live births from other EU countries between 2005-2014, the equivalent of adding a city the size of Manchester to the population.  Manchester has a population of 2.5 million, so this statement is highly misleading and again appears designed to give the electorate an over-exaggerated sense of EU migration.

EU membership stops us controlling who comes into our country, on what terms and who can be removed –

No. Under EU law, you can only exercise your free movement rights if you are working, have a job lined up, are a student or jobseeker, and have enough money to support yourself so you are not a drain on State finances. Under EU law you cannot just move to another Member State simply to claim benefits.  The requirements for removing people are found in Directive 2004/38/EC under Chapter VI (p37)

We cannot stop criminals entering Britain from Europe –

Yes we can, if they present a ‘genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society’.

So, if a person is a genuine threat to the UK, and the personal conduct of the person concerned is a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat, then they can be sent home or have their right to free movement withdrawn.

Also, the UK has access to the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS ) which enables full and up to date details of a person’s criminal convictions to be shared by all Member States.

If we vote remain we will lose more and more control of our borders to the EU and European court –

Factually incorrect. The UK is in charge of its borders, and has sole responsibility for defence and security, which remain matters of Member State concern. The European Court of Justice does not control UK borders. If they are referring to the European Court of Justice then this is nothing to do with the EU so therefore irrelevant in the context of the EU referendum.

The former head of Interpol, Ronald K Noble has said that: Europe’s open-border arrangement… is effectively an international passport-free zone for terrorists” and that it was like “hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe.

Whilst Ronald K Noble did make this comment, he wasn’t talking about the UK – he was talking about Schengen countries and the UK is not part of Schengen. Further on, in the same article , Ronald K Noble made the following comments about the UK situation:

Among the European countries that are not parties to the Schengen Agreement is the United Kingdom, which began screening passports against Interpol’s database following the 2005 terrorist attacks there that killed 52 people and injured more than 700. The U.K. now screens about 150 million passports a year, more than all other European Union nations combined, and catches more than 10,000 people a year trying to cross its borders using invalid travel documents”.

This is one of the most scaremongering, misleading and untrue statements made in the Vote Leave literature. As Ronald K Noble makes clear, the UK now screens 150 million passports a year, more than all other EU countries combined, and catches more than 10,000 people a year trying to cross its borders using invalid travel documents. The UK is therefore fully in control of its borders, and has the highest level of protection against terrorists trying to come into the UK on false papers.

We have to pay benefits to everyone that comes here, even if they can’t or won’t contribute to the economy.

Untrue. Under EU law you don’t have to pay benefits if someone has just moved over here to claim benefits and has no intention of working. In that situation they can be kicked back home, as they are not meeting the criteria that you have to meet in order to invoke your free movement rights.

The EU courts are attacking our border controls –

No they are not. The cases that Vote Leave quoted in their literature don’t say that at all if you read them.

According to Vote Leave, the Charter of Fundamental Rights has all sorts of horrible implications for the UK, including

-    It prevents us deporting violent criminals
-    It gives the EU court power over almost any security issue.
-    The Charter stops us removing foreign criminals and terrorist suspects from the UK if it would violate their ‘private or family life’.
-    the Charter also removes from the UK the power to interpret the vital 1951 UN Convention ourselves.
-    Under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, EU judges now decide what powers our intelligence agencies and police are allowed to have.
-    The Charter of Fundamental Rights gives the ECJ more power over EU members than the Supreme Court has over US states. Police and intelligence services are increasingly having to second-guess operations because of Whitehall legal advice on what the ECJ might say in the future. This will get worse.
-    If we vote 'remain' we will lose more vital powers over our security every year. EU judges will use the Charter to weaken our borders and hamstring our security services. It is safer to Vote Leave and take back control.
-    The Charter adds more dangers to the UK.
-    Under the Charter of Fundamental Rights ECJ judges decide what powers the police and intelligence services have to protect us.

Vote Leave make these points in a number of their leaflets, and it is a key theme in the Vote Leave campaign literature.

None of the above claims are actually true. The Charter does not extend the powers of the European Court of Justice, nor does it apply to the UK as per Protocol 30  of the Lisbon Treaty, which states that

"Article 1

1.    The Charter does not extend the ability of the Court of Justice of the European Union, or any court or tribunal of Poland or of the United Kingdom, to find that the laws, regulations or administrative provisions, practices or action of Poland or of the United Kingdom are inconsistent with the fundamental rights, freedoms and principles that it reaffirms.

2.    In particular, and for the avoidance of doubt, nothing in Title IV of the Charter creates justiciable rights applicable to Poland or the United Kingdom except in so far as Poland or the United Kingdom has provided for such rights in its national law.

Article 2

To the extent that a provision of the Charter refers to national laws and practices, it shall only apply to Poland or the United Kingdom to the extent that the rights or principles that it contains are recognised in the law or practices of Poland or of the United Kingdom".

The Status, scope and legal effects of the Charter were discussed in a House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee paper called “The application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the UK: a state of confusion”. On p41 of the report, the Government gave their view on Protocol 30 and the legal effect of the Charter, and said the following:

"The Secretary of State agreed that it was the current legal position that the Charter did not   create   new   EU   fundamental rights,   but   consolidated existing   EU   and   non-EU obligations  in  a  more  prominent  form.  The  Minister  said  that  “It  is  designed  to  apply  purely to European law and European law matters and not designed to allow the creation of  new  rights  in  European  law  nor  in  UK  law.”

The  Charter  applied  “in  the  law  of  the  UK” where “EU law is applied in the British courts” but “not in UK law”. This, he said, was an important difference.

Therefore, the above statements relating to the Charter are misrepresentations of the law. The Charter does not give the European Court of Justice additional powers over our police, intelligence or security services, and in fact the European Court of Justice is prevented under the Protocol from creating new powers for itself. The European Court of Justice and the Charter are no threat to the UK at all.

Vote Leave repeatedly refer to the European Court of Human Rights as a “European Court”.

It isn’t anything to do with the EU. The European Court of Human Rights forms part of international law not EU law. It was created by the Council of Europe which is not part of the EU.

If we vote to remain, EU judges will take control of British citizenship. The ECJ has declared that ‘Union citizenship is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States’.

The ECJ does not control British citizenship. In the case of Janko Rottman v Freistaat Bayern, which Vote Leave mention in their leaflet on security when discussing the same point, Vote Leave claimed that this case proved that the ECJ now decides if a person possesses British citizenship, not the UK Parliament or courts. In fact, the ECJ said no such thing. In the judgement, the ECJ stated that

The  provisions  of  Part  Two  of  the  Treaty  establishing  the  European  Community  relating  to  citizenship  of  the  Union  give  nationals  of  the  Member  States  additional  rights and protection as specified in that Part. They do not in any way take the place of national citizenship. The question whether an individual possesses the nationality of a Member State will be settled solely by reference to the national law of the Member State concerned.’

The court held that “it is not contrary to European Union law, in particular to Article 17 EC, for a Member State to withdraw from a citizen of the Union the nationality of that State acquired by naturalisation when that nationality has been obtained by deception, on condition that the decision to withdraw observes the principle of proportionality.”

National citizenship is a matter for the UK, and the ECJ has no control over that. EU citizenship is a complement to UK citizenship – it doesn’t replace it.

If we vote leave, we can stop sending £350m to the EU every week and instead spend it on our priorities. £350m is enough to build a brand new, fully staffed hospital every week.”

The cost of building an NHS hospital is, according to Vote Leave, £350m. On the basis that the UK net contribution to the EU budget is £110million a week (not £350m), we could build 3 hospitals over the course of a year from money that we hadn’t spent on EU budget contributions. We could only do this if we did not spend any of that contribution on anything else.

Furthermore, in February and March 2015, the European Investment Bank announced that it was loaning

£46 million for the new 310 bed Papworth Hospital
£109m for the construction of a new District and General Hospital in Dumfries
£83 million support for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children

Therefore, European Investment Bank funding for UK hospitals came to 238m in 2015, and Vote Leave failed to disclose this material fact to the electorate during the EU referendum campaign.

Proof that the electorate were misled

These figures put out by Vote Leave during the EU referendum campaign on the issue of hospitals, and the cost of EU membership, are both misleading and untrue, and since the EU referendum result was announced they have gone back on their promise to pay £350m to the NHS each week.   

Since the EU referendum result, Leave campaigners have also rowed back on the claim that we could control immigration if we left the EU, with Tory MEP Daniel Hannan saying that free movement could result in similar levels of immigration after Brexit.

Hannan said: “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed.”

The point is that a significant majority of people did think that was what they were voting for if they voted to leave. An ORB poll  in June 2016 read out the statement “We will control immigration better” and asked people to describe if that was a statement attributable to the Leave campaign or the Remain campaign. 58% of people attributed this statement to the Leave campaign, so the electorate were clearly misled on this issue.