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“People knew exactly what they were voting for!” Take the little Brexit test...


I have devised a little test to see whether the Brexiteers’ claim that “People knew exactly what they were voting for in 2016” is true.


“People knew exactly what they were voting for!”

Heard that lately? I am sure you have. If you didn’t catch Nigel Farage🗳️ chipping in with it on Good Morning Britain this week, then you will have heard Johnny Mercer🗳️ say it on the BBC, or Jacob Rees-Mogg🗳️ at the Indy Brexit Debate or any number of MPs, MEPs, Brexit backers and Twitter accounts repeat it. I’ve read it on Facebook, I’ve heard it on LBC and the BBC; I’ve seen it in letters to The Metro and been told it by Brexit backing family members and Brexit backing friends. And yet – two years on from the EU referendum currently the most Googled Brexit questions in Britain are: “What is Brexit” and “When is Brexit?”.


When you consider that the governing party itself is currently in open civil war about what sort of Brexit we are going to have and what it will actually mean, the idea that “people knew exactly what they were voting for” does seem to be – well – preposterous.


But surely Nigel Farage and that nice Jacob Rees-Mogg aren’t lying. They can’t have just made it up? There must be some basis of truth in the idea that ordinary Britons understood the multifaceted nature of our relationship with the EU and solemnly cast their votes carrying this weight of knowledge and the implications of leaving. I mean, wasn’t simply everybody talking about the Customs Union and the WTO for decades prior to June 2016?

My faith in both men is a matter of record on these pages and so to help prove Jacob and Nigel right I’ve devised a little test.


Fifteen fairly basic questions about the EU and our relationship (or possible) future relationship with it. Get more than 60% right and you can probably quite rightly claim that you knew what you were voting for in June 2016. Less than that and you should probably have stayed home with a nice mug of gin.


Let’s go:

1. Can you explain in one or two sentences what the Customs Union is – and what part Britain currently plays in it?

2. What is a common external tariff?

3. What are WTO rules?

4. What is the CAP? How does it work?

5. What proportion of our food is imported from the EU?

6. What does “the single market” mean?

7. How much – as a percentage of GDP – does membership of the EU cost the UK?

8. What percentage of our trade overall do we conduct with the EU?

9. True or False – the UK is a member of the Schengen agreement.

10. Is the ECHR part of the EU? What is the ECHR?

11. Which body decides on the design and shape of our passports?

12. What is a Norway style deal?

13. What is the EEA?

14. What is the EFTA?

15. Can EU nationals be barred from entering the UK if they have a criminal record?


Click here!!


Answers:

1. Can you explain in one or two sentences what the Customs Union is – and what part Britain currently plays in it?

The Customs Union removes barriers to free trade between EU countries (including the UK) by banning tariffs (taxes on imports and exports) making trade easier and keeping prices down. This benefits UK consumers as well as businesses importing and exporting to the rest of EU.


2. What is a common external tariff?

Imports from nations outside of the EU are subject to a common external tariff; 80% of the money raised goes to the Central EU budget. This tariff does not apply in all cases – many imports from Africa come into the EU tariff free for example.


3. What are WTO rules?

The WTO is a global body that governs international trade – setting default rules. The UK is currently a member of the WTO but trades on the terms set out as part of its membership of the EU. No major economy trades solely under WTO rules. WTO rules would require exports to be inspected for conformity with EU rules on product safety and specifications. This would be a disaster for exports and the roads leading to Dover. WTO rules also mean imposing tariffs on our exports which most experts estimate to be around 8.7%. Simply defaulting to WTO rules is not a viable option for a major island based economy. But it sounds good.


4. What is the CAP? How does it work?

CAP – is the Common Agricultural Policy responsible for those famed butter mountains and milk lakes caused by over-production – as well as the ‘dumping’ of cheap food on Africa causing all sorts of social and economic problems. In 1984 it made up a staggering 71% of the EEC budget but this has since been reduced to 39%. CAP currently provides £3 billion a year to British farmers – whose industry contributes just 0.7% to GDP – propping many up.


5. What proportion of our food is imported from the EU?

The UK imports around 30% of all of our food from the EU which isn’t a major problem – unless you like to eat. We in turn export 70% of our food and drink into the market – which grew by 8% in the first quarter of this year. Currently food in both directions is untaxed (tariff free) across a frictionless border.


6. What does “the single market” mean?

The single market removes barriers to trade and sets minimum and maximum standards for goods. These standards are generally judged to be among the very best in the world and govern everything from the noise a lawnmower can make to the safety of your car. In general these terms benefit both the manufacturer and the consumer and UK manufacturers wishing to export into the EU will remain subject to them after Brexit.


7. How much – as a percentage of GDP – does membership of the EU cost the UK?

After rebates, membership of the EU costs the UK £3.7 billion – or roughly 0.5% of all government spending (the red bit)

eu cost
The RED bit ladies and gentlemen – the RED bit!

8. What percentage of our trade overall do we conduct with the EU?

The EU as a whole is the UK’s largest trading partner. Exports to the EU accounted for 44% of all trade in 2017. 53% of all imports into the UK came from EU partners.


9. True or False – the UK is a member of the Schengen agreement.

FALSE. The UK is not a signatory to the Schengen agreement which opened borders between EU nations. That is why you are obliged to show your passport when you go on holiday to any other EU nation (with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.) We have full control of our borders.


10. Is the ECHR part of the EU? What is the ECHR?

The ECHR – European Convention of Human Rights and its court The European Court of Human Rights – have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. Both are the responsibility of the Council of Europe whose 47 members include non EU countries like Russia and Turkey.


11. Which body decides on the design and shape of our passports?

Passport size and standards are set by the International Civil Aviation Authority which has nothing to do with the EU. This is why most modern passports look the same. The colour and general layout of the EU passport was harmonised in the 1980s but they are recommendations not rules. Croatia has a blue passport and the UK did not need to leave the EU to change the colour of its travel documents.

croatian passport
Modern passports all look the same – EU ones can be blue.

12. What is a Norway style deal?

Norway is a member of both the EEA and EFTA (see below) Norway is a member of the single market but can pick and choose in other respects. If we went down the Norwegian route, the UK could leave the common fisheries policy and the CAP. The European Courts of Justice would no longer have jurisdiction. On the downside, the UK would still have to pay into the EU budget and while the UK would still have access to the Single Market it would have no say in the rules – rendering us a so called ‘Fax democracy.’


13. What is the EEA?

European Economic Area  (see this link)


14. What is the EFTA?

European Free Trade Association (see this link)


15. Can EU nationals be barred from entering the UK if they have a criminal record?

Yes, they can be denied entry and thousands often are. The UK retains full control of our borders and we are able to stop undesirables entering the country. Thousands of EU nationals are prevented from entering the UK every year. The EU’s 2004 citizenship directive states that free movement is not an unqualified right.




Score:

1 – 8: You have taken back control, but you don’t have a clue what it means.

8-12: Not bad, but did you really know all that in 2016?

12-15: Welcome to my blog, Mr Verhofstadt.


I’ll be honest. I would probably have failed to get 60% even in 2016 and so should most definitely not have been allowed to vote on something as complex as our membership of the European Union. How did you do?🔷




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