Mumsnet's Brexit webchats, fact-checked

Full Fact, the independent fact-checking charity, casts a careful eye over the Referendum webchats of Alan Johnson (Remain) and Andrea Leadsom (Leave)


Andrea Leadsom and Alan Johnson


Andrea Leadsom on the economic effect of leaving the EU

"In the short term, I believe voting to leave will have little effect on our economy, but I would give a massive health warning here that NOBODY can predict the future!"

Full Fact: "Most economists agree that leaving the EU would slow down the growth of the UK economy. There is particular agreement that voting to leave would have a negative impact in the short-term, when people are uncertain about what will happen next.

"Leaving the EU would make it harder for the government to achieve a budget surplus by 2019/20, collecting more in taxes than it spends, even if you take into account the savings on the membership fee. There's less agreement about exactly how much less the economy would grow in the long-term, or the precise cost to public finances in the next five years."



Alan Johnson on open borders 

"Firstly, we do not have open borders. We are outside Schengen which means nobody enters this country without having their passport checked, and we reject those who have a criminal record."

Full Fact: "Alan Johnson is right to say that the UK isn't part of the Schengen area, the EU's border free zone. The UK performs passport checks at its borders and refuses entry to travellers who do not travel with valid identity documents, even if they are from another EU member state.

"But the UK can't control the overall level of immigration from the EU, because its citizens generally have the right to live and work in any other EU country. EU law says that EU citizens can only be refused entry on 'public policy, public security and public health grounds'. The UK can't set targets for the number of EU immigrants, or put controls in place which violate the right to free movement established in EU treaties."


Migration EU
Source: Fullfact.org


Andrea Leadsom on what the EU costs Britain

"The Office for National Statistics says that the UK's contribution to the EU last year was £19.1bn. That's £367m a week. The point is that this is a gross sum. The EU has agreed to give us a rebate of £4.8bn and the EU also gives us some subsidies for farmers, universities, space science and to our poorer areas."

Full Fact: "It's not correct to suggest that the UK contributes £367 million a week to the EU. The ONS says that the UK's gross contribution to the EU budget in 2014 was £19.1 billion - or £367 million a week - but makes clear that 'this amount of money was never actually transferred to the EU'. That's because the UK gets a discount on its contributions - the rebate - which is applied straight away. The rebate can't be changed in future without the UK's agreement. Using more up-to-date figures for 2015 from the Treasury, the actual payments in 2015 were an estimated £250 million a week. Some of that (roughly £85 million a week) comes back in EU grants and spending."


EU membership fee


Alan Johnson on Turkey joining the EU

"I'm afraid that the Leave side are engaged in the biggest scare story of all, by producing a poster which says that Turkey will join the EU, when that can only happen if Britain votes for them to join. At best, it will take 30-40 years to even get to that point."

Full Fact: "Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, but it's is unlikely to join any time soon. There are unresolved tensions over Cyprus, and the EU has concerns over Turkey's human rights record.

"If and when the negotiations finish, Turkey's membership must be approved by every EU member. Some are opposed to Turkish membership, or plan to hold a referendum on it. At the moment, UK government policy supports Turkey joining."



Andrea Leadsom on employment rights

"Workers' rights are totally safe in this country. We championed equality and equal pay even before the EU existed and shared parental leave, tax-free childcare, minimum wage and now the national living wage, are all UK Government initiatives."

Full Fact: "It's correct that the national minimum wage and the national living wage are both products of UK law and not part of EU law.The same can be said for shared parental leave and tax-free childcare. Equal pay has been part of UK law since 1970, before the UK joined the EU, but it is also an EU law and was at the time we became a member. As an EU member, the UK couldn't now abolish that law. The same goes for lots of other employment rights: the UK may have chosen to have them anyway, but the EU means we can't choose in future to get rid of them."



Alan Johnson on Brits in the EU

"2.2 million Brits live and work in other EU countries."

Full Fact: "This figure is out of date. This estimate was produced before all the census data used by the UN was available, so the researchers filled in the gaps using various assumptions. The IPPR itself no longer uses it, and now says that the figure is 1.2 million."


Brits abroad


Andrea Leadsom on trade

"They [the EU] sell us a lot more than we sell them."

Full Fact: "The rest of the EU sells about £70 billion more to us in goods and services than we sell to them - what's known as the 'trade deficit' - according to UK data. Exports of goods and services to other EU countries were worth £220 billion in 2015, while exports from the rest of the EU to the UK were worth about £290 billion.

"Those figures differ if you look at EU data, as EU countries collect data about services in different ways. For example, EU data suggests goods and services exports from the rest of the EU to the UK could have valued up to £360 billion in 2014 higher than the £290 billion the UK data shows for 2014 and 2015. Either way, the rest of the EU as a whole sells more to us than we sell to it, and that is the case for the majority of EU countries."


EU trade


Alan Johnson on bureaucrats 

"It's true that so-called bureaucrats propose legislation in exactly the same way that civil servants do in Whitehall. For those proposals to become EU law, they have to be agreed by the ministers of elected governments and in most cases, by an elected Parliament."

Full Fact: "The role of the European Commission in law making is actually quite different from the role of civil servants in UK law making. Generally, the EU system is different enough from the UK system that direct comparisons aren't very helpful."



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Last updated: 6 months ago