17 Sep 2015

Will TheKnow.EU up its game?

Back on 12 August TheKnow.EU published an infographic on their website asking how else the UK's £1.7 billion top up payment to the EU could have been used. However there wasn't ever a £1.7 billion top up.The actual amount was just over £850 million, to be paid in two installments. This is because the UK's famous rebate always applied to the headline figure. No more than the £850m was ever payable because of the rebate.

Despite claiming to provide people with 'the facts' TheKnow published a completely inaccurate figure. Mistakes can happen, but this was inexcusable because in November last year North wrote a detailed article explaining what was really going on. But even if they don't want to rely on a blog for their information, there is no reason why TheKnow failed to take on board this article in the Telegraph in February this year, which reported:
Mr Osborne emerged from an Ecofin meeting with fellow EU finance ministers to declare that Britain would pay just £850 million, telling reporters: “We have halved the bill ... it’s a result for Britain.”
However, MPs on the new Treasury select committee report has found that Mr Osborne’s claim was “not supported by the facts”, and the Treasury should have known “well in advance” of the November 7 meeting that the demand would automatically be cut in half by Britain’s regular EU rebate, negotiated by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
The article also included a comment from the committee chairman at the time, Andrew Tyrie, who said:
The terms of the UK's rebate calculation are set out in EU law. It should, therefore, have been clear that the rebate would apply.
The Government got a good deal for the UK by securing an interest-free delay to the EU bill. But by overstating its success on the rebate, it distracted attention from this achievement.
With this information in the public domain there is no excuse for TheKnow to be publishing inaccurate information five months later. Things like this when purporting to be dealing in facts undermines confidence and trust in what the campaign is saying. People will not 'be in the know' if they are fed false claims.

All this came to mind because of an article in the Daily Mail today, which reports the European Commission's confirmation that the £850m due has been paid in full by the British government. The Mail has lifted the story from Breitbart, which itself still refers to mythical £1.7 billion figure, with Breitbart having lifted the story from Bloomberg.

The most powerful argument that 'Leave' campaigners can take from the whole episode is that membership of the EU has required us to pay so much money with nothing extra in return. It's not so much the size of the payment as the principle behind it. Staying in the EU maintains these liabilities, paying handsomely for the privilege of having our voice removed, influence diluted and ability to represent ourselves on the world stage removed. Leaving the EU will enable us to restore these things.

There doesn't seem to be any attempt to ensure the accuracy of the statements being issued by TheKnow. Unless they want to damage the prospects of the Leave campaign they are going to have to make an effort to fact check and verify the claims they make. The question is, will they do so? For the sake of the Leave campaign we can only hope so.