EURef: Excellent guide to referendum issues by Mike Biden

The European Movement has published this guide to issues in the referendum.  It contains a wealth of useful information when speaking to people about Europe.

It has been compiled by Lib Dem campaigner Mike Biden from Winchester, who has done a fantastic piece of work for us all.

Some of the facts in it ,include:

  • For every £1 the EU spends, the UK economy has grown by £10
  • The EU’s plans for growth will add 7% to the UK economy
  • Only 1% of government expenditure goes to the EU.  If you earn £30,000 pa, your contribution is just £51
  • Prices of cars, phone calls and flights are lower
  • Bringing new countries into the EU has made their political systems and values more like the UK
  • Acid rain in Europe has been cut by 90%

In my personal view, it is the best document of its type written.

It will be a useful ready source over the next three weeks (and beyond) as we talk to friends, neighbours, colleagues and other people about how they will vote.

Don’t forget to see other material on



* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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  • So membership of the EU costs those of us who pay the recommended subscription to the Lib Dems less than our party membership?

  • Stevan Rose 1st Jun '16 - 5:12pm

    What do you mean by plans for growth? If that’s Turkey joining then that’s not good, if not then we need more – what growth? In fact it’s a set of trade deals and investments to improve economic growth so let’s say that please.

    Prices of cars are lower because of the EU? Don’t buy that one and neither would a Dane. Why are cheap flights exclusively an EU benefit when they are a global phenomenon. Ryanair will fly me to Montenegro for £24 and Marrakech for £25 and Fez for £23. Phone calls rubbish – international cheap calls are again global not EU led. Mobile roaming is about it.

    Bringing new countries into the EU has made them more like us. Shoot me in the foot ridicule time. Stop doing this, pleeeease. It makes me want to vote Leave. It is absolute poppycock to suggest that the EU is responsible for the demise of dictatorships and the breakup of the Warsaw Pact in Europe. What an insult to the citizens of those countries who fought to break the shackles of totalitarianism.

    That’s £51 I could spend on something else then so I’ll leave then. It doesn’t add up either. £161m a week net contribution x 52 / 65m people is £129 each p.a. The CBI says it’s £116. Instead, how much better off is each family by virtue of being members. Not in that guide. But the CBI says the net benefits are around £950 per head, nearly £4,000 a year for a family of 4. Maybe I’ll stay.

    Why do acid rain levels in Europe mean I have to vote Remain? If we leave will it start raining acid in Slovenia again? Irrelevant to the arguments.

    2 out of 6. We need to be hitting 10/10 at this stage.

    I would commend the myth busters section of the European Movement site though.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 1st Jun '16 - 5:48pm

    @Caron good way to put it!

    @Steven the further detail you seek is inside. You suggest some further points but I am sorry you express them in the way you do, as criticisms of someone else’s work. Throw stones or lend a hand?

  • Antony Hook 1st Jun ’16 – 5:48pm…. You suggest some further points but I am sorry you express them in the way you do, as criticisms of someone else’s work. Throw stones or lend a hand?…
    Would you apply the same criteria to ‘Brexit’ claims? I doubt it…

  • Stevan Rose 1st Jun '16 - 6:39pm

    Antony, I did look inside and that’s why I said 2/6 not 1/6. In my view, making daft claims and highlighting “facts” that the Leave campaign would say backs up their arguments actually helps Leave not Remain. I make no apologies for being blunt.

    I have lent a hand. I went and looked up and highlighted what others should have done and been repeating over and over. That the EU provides a net benefit of £4,000 to every family according to the CBI. Yet senior campaigners want us to go around telling everyone the EU costs them all £51. I disagree strongly – if you want to see that as throwing stones so be it. But if I can pick holes in two thirds of your points, and I’m on your side, what could an astute Brexiteer do with them? Critical review should lead to stronger arguments and in that respect chucking stones could also be lending a hand.

  • “Acid rain in Europe has been cut by 90%”
    So it’s now a declared fact,..the European Movement (?) says,.. that acid rain reduction in Europe is as a direct benefit of our EU membership.? Hmmm….
    Acid rain and smog in Britain was a recurrent problem even into the late 1960’s. I remember some of those ‘pea soupers’ very well. From around the mid 1970’s Britain began [for economic reasons], to shut down much of our heavy [dirty] industries, and effectively we exported them to the East. During that period of industry shutdown, UK smog and acid rain levels dropped like a stone. [Obvious really,. Less smokestacks,. equals,. less smoke.]
    But here’s the thing. Have you not noticed the rise in severe air pollution levels in many Eastern cities, the likes of Beijing? Is it not more factual then, to conclude that China and the East, not only imported our European ‘dirty industries’ over the last 40 years, , but they also imported the smog and acid rain levels that went with it.?
    In short : The EU didn’t not solve [ by 90% ], our European acid rain and smog problems,… we simply exported 90% of our smog and acid rain to China and the East generally.?
    [ Memo to China :- Please send us the cheap TV’s, phones, cars and cut-price clothes, but keep the acid rain, smog, pollutants & general crap,… thank you very much.. ]
    Methinks m’lord that the EU defence counsel, has lost total control of its faculties,… for to suggest m’lord, that it is a fact that acid rain was solved by Brussels, is not just evidentially wrong,…and clearly avoids any historical industrial timeline,.. but is a conclusion,….might I suggest,.. that lies well beyond parody.?

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jun '16 - 6:48pm

    Miriam Gonzalez Durantez has written an article on page 11 of the Financial Times of 1/6/2016 on trade negotiations and negotiators, from first-hand experience.

  • Stevan Rose 1st Jun '16 - 7:31pm

    J Dunn, thank you for pointing out the flaw in that claim. I’ve crossed it off the list of discussion points to bring up when talking EU with wavering voters. I don’t want to be caught out exaggerating and risking my other arguments losing credibility.

    Now, can I interest you in a lifetime membership of an exclusive club where your family can benefit by £4,000 a year, possibly more if you take up farming? As a bonus you can live and work anywhere in 28 countries with no restrictions. And for a limited time only your teenage kids can get free university tuition in Denmark or much reduced fees and possible grants in the Netherlands.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jun '16 - 10:33pm

    Existing contracts negotiated by the EU with non-EU contracts would be broken by Brexit, a breach of contract.

  • @ Steven Rose “And for a limited time only your teenage kids can get free university tuition in Denmark or much reduced fees and possible grants in the Netherlands”.

    You can in Scotland too, unless you live in England & Wales.

  • Well, well, well. What a fuss some our correspondents kick up. I wondered who and where it would start – I take it as a mark of pride that this little booklet is having an impact.

    ALL the claims were carefully researched and are fully backed up by evidence. All the contents were independently checked and verified before we went to print. I can reassure my readers that they can refer to the book with confidence.

    I wrote a comment with some of the detailed rebuttals of their exaggerated and inaccurate criticisms but it was rejected as being too long. If Stevan & J Dunn would like to continue this dialogue directly then I am happy to do so and they and anyone else interested can contact me via [email protected]

    I shall be happy to justify the contents and rebut at length their criticisms – none of which are valid.

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Jun '16 - 10:13pm

    “detailed rebuttals of their exaggerated and inaccurate criticisms”

    There’s no point, you can’t. This is quick fire argument and rebuttal. In a conversation with a wavering voter you lose if you don’t convince them instantly. Your £51 doesn’t add up. I won’t repeat the maths above but I get it to £129 per person not taxpayer and the CBI says £116. How can your figure possibly be right? A Brexiteer would double that. So I follow your advice and tell my sceptical neighbour the EU only costs him £51 and he says how do you come up with that when Nigel says it’s nearer £300. Mike says so doesn’t cut it. In a sentence because that’s all I’ve got why is Mike right and the CBI and Leave wrong?

    Ditto with J Dunn’s convincing counter argument and my dismissal of the acid rain point. In a couple of sentences, why is the EU responsible for the reduction of acid rain, and if the UK leaves why will the acid rain return?

    “Well, well, well. What a fuss some our correspondents kick up. I wondered who and where it would start – I take it as a mark of pride that this little booklet is having an impact.”

    An odd reaction. Is that what you say when out campaigning and someone challenges the credibility of your claims? You are asking me to go out equipped with a set of “facts” that I can blow holes in myself, that would leave me exposed to ridicule by any Brexiteer, and you wonder why I am critical. I’m going to stick to my own tactics thanks – the CBI says every family benefits from membership by £4,000 a year.

  • Oh Steven Rose I think you have blown your cover as a troll!
    You raised car prices:- Car prices came down when the ECJ ruled the Block Exemption for motor vehicles illegal under EU rules. Suddenly it was possible to buy a right hand vehicle on the continent at their local prices – in 2002 I bought a Ford Galaxy in Sweden for less than £20,000 delivered to my door when the price in the UK was more than £27,000 – I still have the paperwork. Many others had a similar experience. Today the prces for right and left hand cars are the same across Europe.

    Acid rain – no-one is claiming it will come back!! Germany and Sweden in particular pressed the UK hard to reduce our SO2 emissions. After we tried to dodge the EU regulations on bathing beaches by pretending we hadn’t got any and only reluctantly started cleaning them up after the threat of action in the European Court of Justice by the Commission the UK agreed not only to clean up its beaches but its powers stations as well. There is not a shadow of a doubt that we would have continued to ignore these problem for many more years if we had not been a member of the EU – so Yes, the EU did make us clean our act up.
    And no we haven’t just exported that to China – that is theirs, we are turning to renewables – my all electric car is supplied off my solar panels – so yah boo to you! The booklet does not claim that the amount collected through your income tax is the full cost of our membership of the EU. Read what it says. Your numbers are broadly correct as added to the income tax take is the revenue from a share of VAT etc, But the sending percentage is correct – the EU budget is only 1% of the total GDP of the EU. Governments each spend 40 – 50%!! The EU is tiny.

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Jun '16 - 1:00am

    Mike, I have criticised your ideas and approach not your integrity. I believe that is legitimate in political debate. Personal insults are not.

  • I’m not sure what point the European Movement Guide is trying to make by telling people that there are 35,000 working for the EU Commission. Wouldn’t it be more of a benefit to tell us how many people are actually employed by the EU in total? The last report I saw said they employed 55,000 civil servants and I suppose there are other staff who are not civil servants. I think an overall figure would be more helpful.

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Jun '16 - 1:45am

    Ford Focus Germany – €16,450 = £12,750 LHD EU
    Ford Focus Australia – $27,234 = £13,600 RHD non-EU
    Ford Focus Cyprus – €14,900 = £11,550 RHD EU
    Ford Focus UK = £16,240

    The booklet says “how much does the EU cost me? ” And under “Your Contribution” it says £51. Implying that’s the your total contribution but it’s not, it’s just the element from direct taxation, so at best it’s intended to mislead, particularly if quoting the headline, and is caught on first challenge. Which is completely unnecessary since you can just quote the CBI net benefits and be armour plated. I cannot use your £51 as I would feel dishonest, sorry.

  • Stevan Rose
    “I would commend the myth busters section of the European Movement site though.”

    I wouldn’t. The very first bit I checked contained that out-of-date-and-long-discredited claim that the number of EU nationals living in the UK is about the same as the number of British people living in the EU. Worse than that, the whole thing is presented in “fact-check” style as if it’s some kind of objective truth, when it isn’t.

    There’s another example in this article, where we’re told it’s a “fact” that “The EU’s plans for growth will add 7% to the UK economy”. An estimate of a future economic statistic is not a “fact” in any sense of the word.

  • @Stevan Rose -re: car prices
    Mike Biden is right about the EU impact on UK car prices, namely they did come down because they legalised what were previously regarded by manufacturers as ‘grey’ imports, although not to parity. This is because what became clear was that your typical UK Ford Focus for example, had a higher specification, warranties etc. than the standard European version. Additionally, purchasing a car from Europe was not without effort and cost, even with the assistance of companies specialising in this market. So manufacturers simply lowered their prices to a point where in the majority of cases UK customers would continue to purchase from their local dealerships.

    Your list of prices indicates that what I had deduced a few years back, was a difference of circa £3,500 (in 2016 money) in the showroom asking price on a typical car sufficient to warrant the effort etc. whereas in Mike’s case the difference was over £10,000 in today’s money.

    With respect to other areas (unrelated to the above) that the EU is influencing or pushing the UK:
    1. Open Access to publicly funded research papers and data.
    ( )
    2. Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech
    ( )

    What these show, is that by working together we can achieve more than we can achieve alone. So to me part of the EU debate is about whether we wish to be a team member, in some respects Brexit is analogous to a star centre forward deciding that he doesn’t need to a member of a specific team, as he is so good that teams will be queuing up to buy his talents on the terms he demands…

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Jun '16 - 6:20pm


    The detail doesn’t really matter. This is about leave or remain now in 2016. What happened in 2002 really is totally irrelevant. The claim is that car prices are lower (because we are in the EU) and Mike said “Today the prices for right and left hand cars are the same across Europe”. Yet the first car I picked at random (ad on my phone browser when I opened it) is 40% more here than in Cyprus for the RHD base model. And nearly 20% more expensive than our non-EU Australian cousins. If my Leave/Remain decision was based on car prices then I would say the EU has failed us, and I want the Australian price so I’ll take Leave. Everything we say, everything we publish, a few weeks before the referendum must be totally Brexit-proof or just do not mention it. Being “technically right” because of small print (I was only talking about the income tax element) or because the claim actually refers to a situation 15 to 20 years ago and is quite irrelevant today, makes us look disingenuous and underhand, like Brexit really, except we don’t need to.

    I cannot, will not, make statements to friends, colleagues, family, strangers at a bus stop, that I know to be intentionally misleading in order to trick them into thinking that staying in the EU is better than it is. When I’m challenged and found out I’ve just recruited one more to Leave.

    I must say I’m thinking seriously of researching a trip to Cyprus.

  • Stevan – Actually the detail does matter for the very reason you give: The claim is that car prices are lower (because we are in the EU) and Mike said “Today the prices for right and left hand cars are the same across Europe”.

    I agree that Mike’s all encompassing handwave is misleading, because of the detail and reasons you give, however, the evidence is that car prices in the UK are lower because of the action of the ECJ, so the claim is valid.

    The problem as you note, is that once you get into the real detail, you may be able to show that being in the EU has been beneficial, but you are likely to also bring up evidence that not being in the EU could potentially be even better!

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Jun '16 - 10:19pm

    You make a good point Roland and I do usually like details. However, when I say it doesn’t matter here it is in the context of the purpose of Mike’s booklet. If you’re in conversation with an undecided voter and have to resort to the intricacies of an historical ECJ judgement to squirm out of a challenge you have lost the arguments and all credibility.

    This evening I tried out some arguments on a group of 8 assorted family, friends and acquaintances. All undecideds. Just 5 minutes on a sunny evening. The quickest one that had the best impact was Gove. Do you trust a word he says. No, whatever he says I’ll do the opposite. He is our best friend.

  • Stevan

    Below is a comment from a Daily Mail reader after Gove finish his TV interview, it received 2852 likes and 94 dislikes:

    “Top man handles the pressure well and I have absolute confidence that a Vote LEAVE is the best decision for this country.”

    I know lots of Lib Dem supporters will say it’s only daily mail readers, who cares what they think. However, the remain camp need the support of some of these people or they will lose this referendum. Do not underestimate people like Gove, I think the vast majority would rather have him on their side than someone like Corbyn.

  • malc 4th Jun ’16 – 12:40am
    …..Below is a comment from a Daily Mail reader after Gove finish his TV interview, it received 2852 likes and 94 dislikes:“Top man handles the pressure well and I have absolute confidence that a Vote LEAVE is the best decision for this country.”….

    I’m with ‘Stevan’ on this…Most ‘professionals’ I know abhor Gove and all he represents…

    As for Corbyn…Did you listen to his recent speech? Factual, calm and reasoned…Of course with our media it’s very hard to find…
    Gove’s utterings, in contrast, consisted mainly of debunking Cameron and repeating “Let’s take back control/sovereignty”, ad nauseam…

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