Pro-Brexit group Vote Leave has been accused of deception for sending a ‘facts’ leaflet to millions without making clear it comes from the Eurosceptic organisation.
The leaflet, titled “The UK and the European Union: THE FACTS”, makes eight claims about the country’s relationship with Brussels.
These include that the EU has control over Britain’s borders and the UK has no trade deals with countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
The leaflet makes no mention of the fact it is produced by the anti-EU group – apart from one mention of ‘Vote Leave’ tucked away in tiny font on the back page.
Pro-EU group Britain Stronger In Europe accused its referendum rival of peddling myths and scaremongering.
Labour MP Chris Bryant has written to the Electoral Commission to ask them to investigate whether the leaflet breaks campaigning rules.
He said: “Vote Leave are actively seeking to deceive people by presenting campaign material as being independent when it is in fact campaign propaganda.
“They must make clear the true source of these materials, as other campaign groups are doing.”
James McGrory, Chief Campaign spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe, said: “Vote Leave are trying to pull a grand deception on the British people and using a ‘fact’ sheet that is remarkably short on facts to do so. This leaflet is nothing short of Project Fantasy.
“The Leave campaigns cannot even agree among themselves about what Out looks like. But the one thing we do know is that every different model out there would leave Britain weaker and worse off than we are in the EU.”
Vote Leave defended the leaflet, with a spokesperson telling the Huff Post UK: “People want to know the facts on the EU such as the fact that we send £350 million every week to Brussels that could go to the NHS if we vote leave and we are experimenting with different formats to see what is most effective.”
The Vote Leave leaflet has echoes of one distributed by Britain Stronger in Europe last month, which also posed as a fact sheet.
That leaflet claimed “jobs at risk, higher prices and your family worse off by at least £850 a year if we leave Europe.”
Responding to the claims at the time, McGrory said: “As with all our campaign literature, we make no secrets that this has been produced and distributed by Britain Stronger In Europe. So much so, that we included our return address on the leaflet itself.”
Claims vs Rebuttals:
1) Vote Leave claim: The EU has taken over more and more areas which don’t have anything to do with trade – such as our borders, our public services, and whether prisoners have the right to vote.
Stronger In rebuttal: Britain retains full control over its borders thanks to our opt-out from the EU’s borderless Schengen Area. The EU has absolutely no say over how we decide to manage our public services. The EU did not block the UK ban on prisoner voting.
2) Vote Leave claim: Five more countries are being considered for membership: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. If they are let in, they will have the same rights as other member states.
Stronger In rebuttal: The UK a veto over any of those countries joining the EU. Any country that will join the EU will be subject to transitional controls, meaning that Britain will be able to restrict immigration from those countries.
3) Vote Leave claim: While we’re in the EU, the UK cannot make trade deals on our own. This means we currently have no trade deals with key allies such as Australia, New Zealand or the USA.
Stronger in rebuttal: The EU is in the process negotiating deep and comprehensive free trade agreements with all of those countries.
4) Vote Leave claim: The EU costs us £350 million a week.
Stronger In rebuttal: The EU costs us only £263 per household annually, or 30p per person per day. Britain’s net contribution to the EU in 2014 was £5.7bn.
5) Vote Leave claim: You don’t have to be a member of the EU to trade with it.
Stronger In rebuttal: You have to be a member of the EU or the EEA in order enjoy full access to the single market.
6) Vote Leave claim: EU law overrules UK law
Stronger In rebuttal: The UK is an independent and sovereign nation state that is also a member state of the EU. Our Parliament in Westminster is a sovereign parliament that decides on the rules and laws that govern this country. Parliament could take the decision to leave the EU, if it voted that way.