Oops! The £92.5bn black hole in Leave.eu’s sums

Anti-Europeans struggle when it comes to numbers. UKIP can’t decide whether it’s thousands, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of foreign nationals who are descending on Britain. Business for Britain’s boast that Brexit would make each of us £1.06 per day better off falls apart even under the mildest of scrutiny. And only last week Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames highlighted the £14bn black hole in Vote Leave’s back-of-an-envelope calculations.

But the clumsiness of Business for Britain and Vote Leave is as nothing compared to Leave.eu. If we pull out of Europe, Leave.eu’s chief executive Liz Bilney told Sky News, “we will be better off by £1,000 per person.” She then clarified exactly what she meant: “That’s real money in people’s pockets that they’d be getting back”.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But there’s a problem. With the population of the UK at 64.6 million, the cost of giving everyone £1,000 would be £64.6 billion. But the UK’s net contribution to the EU last year was much, much lower than that, at around £9.8bn, according to the Treasury (pdf – paragraph 3.7). Where’s the other £54,800,000,000 coming from?

Their fiscal incontinence doesn’t end there. This tweet from Leave.eu promises £10bn more for the NHS if we got out of Europe. Here they promise to triple spending on mental health, costing £11.7bn. Here we’re promised 37 new hospitals every year, at a cost of £12bn. And finally, in this tweet, Leave.eu find £4bn to avoid unpopular tax credit changes.

If you tot it all up, the price tag of Leave.eu’s promises comes to £102.3 billion, meaning the total shortfall in their sums actually comes to £92.5 billion – more than our entire education budget.

And even if their numbers did add up, the anti-European campaigners assume we get nothing in return for our contribution. They think of Europe as just money in and money out. But as Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder has been making clear, there is so much more to British membership.

Just one example of what we get that doesn’t feature in either the plus or minus columns of the outers’ dodgy spreadsheets is the freedom and opportunity to make a life for ourselves across our fantastic continent – whether it’s going to university in the Netherlands, starting a business in Berlin, retiring to the Mediterranean, or countless other opportunities.

Our membership isn’t simply a matter of money paid in and money paid out. We pay money in, sure, but in exchange we get more investment, more jobs, more prosperity – as well as the freedom and opportunity to study, live, work, start a business, trade freely and retire across Europe.

When the referendum comes, we will face a choice. On one side, the reckless promises, muddled maths and confusion of the Leave campaign; on the other, a positive campaign to Remain – a campaign not only for jobs and economic security but also for more opportunity and freedom for British people.

* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I don’t agree with your vision of the EU.

    The Eurozone is just waiting to disintegrate, Portugal may beat Greece in precipitating its demise. Shengen is in tatters. The migrant crisis is tearing the EU apart. The terrorist crisis exposes the complete uselessness of the EU.

    Europhilia was a major factor in the rejection of the Lib Dems at the Euro Election and the General Election. The refusal to learn from this may completely obliterate the Lib Dems at the next election. Is there no desire to learn from experience?

  • nigel hunter 24th Nov '15 - 11:28pm

    I hear that there is now a majority to leave the Eu. This may be fear of what is happening in Europe. ISIS winning the war through fear However the EU is in turmoil and needs to get its act together. Maybe now is time for the party to have a plan for the country if we do leave it. Also what we get out of the Eu should be widely published

  • Peter, it is a great pity that the Great British electorate saw fit to vote UKIP at the last EU election. Voting UKIP is a completely wasted vote, even for voters like yourself who want to leave the EU. The UKIP MEPs do not often turn up. When they do, they do not engage with parliament in a constructive way. While we remain in the EU, it is important for our MEPs to get the best out of the EU for the country. MEPs have been elected to represent their constituents. UKIP MEPs do not do this. They make stupid voting decisions, like voting against women getting equal pay for equal jobs. It also means that all the other MEPs have to work that much harder to take up the slack. UKIP MEPs are happy to take their expenses though. Which is yours and my membership fee, £55 million a day they keep reminding us.

  • Richard Underhill 11th May '19 - 9:15am

    “When the referendum comes, we will face a choice.”
    Yes, but first Parliament must decide what will be on the ballot paper.
    We can encourage the right decision by voting in the upcoming euro-elections.

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