15 Oct 2015

Brexiteers: Europhiles at play, so be precise in what you say

In the months ahead, the referendum debate will see claims and counter claims made by both sides of the Brexit campaign. Not only will this turn off people who aren't political anoraks, but it could lead to the loss of credibility if incorrect 'facts' are used and debunked.

Brexiteers should avoid churning out figures and claims that are disputable. They may look impressive on graphics fired out on Twitter and other digital media, but most data are compiled using different methodologies, or make false assumptions that can be challenged and make a nonsense of those figures. Also, the Leave side must resist the temptation to call in aid long standing prominent opponents when they make highly qualified statements, such as the comment by Lord Blackwell, who will almost certainly vote to remain in the EU when the day comes.

However, setting those things aside, the message I want to convey in this post is that it's vital to be precise in what you say.

An anecdotal example of why this is so important can be seen on my Twitter feed today. A Europhile made a comment regarding my post about the Netherlands referendum. Keen to make the Dutch Eurosceptics look irrational and give the impression they are wrong to believe the EU-Ukraine association agreement will lead to full Ukrainian membership of the EU, he said they had 'swallowed hysteria' and that:
Ukraine's Association Agreement with EU does not open door to EU membership. End of
The problem is, his assertion as written is wrong. It's not just me that says this, the Ukrainians says so too. On their official website on Ukraine-EU relations, they say that in specific reference to the association agreement that:
In order to maintain stable relations with the EU, Ukraine shall conclude an Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the implementation of which shall become the first step towards its association and, later, full membership in this organization.
This destroyed his original assertion. The Ukrainians themselves make clear the association agreement is a step in the process to becoming a full member of the EU. The Dutch eurosceptics are therefore not being hysterical, instead they have correctly identified what is happening, this is part of the journey to full membership.

When this was pointed out to the excitable Europhile, he sought to shift his position to say that Ukraine will not become a candidate country by concluding the Association Agreement (emphasis mine). Even if that's what he meant, that wasn't his initial point, and I had never claimed the agreement made Ukraine a candidate country. That, after all, is a different step in the process. The Europhile had got it wrong and had to resort to constructing a strawman in an effort to save face.

He was imprecise in what he said, or he had made a claim in ignorance of the facts. He has been discredited as a result. This is why all Brexiteers need to be careful, because the Europhiles are at play and if we are imprecise or make ignorant claims, they will pounce on us in an effort to discredit us in the same way.

Stick to hard facts rather than mere opinion and be precise in what you say, and you will maintain your credibility for the time when undecided voters start to look at the arguments and claims just before the referendum. They won't support people who have been exposed as inaccurate and unreliable.