It is time to nail another lie: Britain is not ruled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
So when Michael Gove says he wants voters to take back control from organisations that are ‘distant, unaccountable and elitist’, he is deliberately perpetuating the lie.
When Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom say, as they did repeatedly during the ITV referendum debate last night, that ‘we can take back control’, they are deliberately perpetuating the lie.
And when Brendan Chilton of the campaign group Labour Leave says that one of the biggest reasons to vote Leave is that ‘we must be able to elect our lawmakers’, he too is perpetuating the lie.
The Leave campaigners are clearly convinced that ‘Take back control’ is a nice, snappy slogan that voters understand and that resonates with those who are still undecided. And they are clearly perfectly happy to run with it, even though they know that it is built on a Big Fat Lie.
The people who make the EU’s laws in Brussels are not unelected bureaucrats; they are elected politicians, accountable to the people who elected them.
Virtually every law made in Brussels must be approved by two sets of democratically-elected politicians: the Council of the European Union, which is made up of government ministers from each member state, and the European Parliament, every member of which has been elected.
These are not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats; they are elected, accountable politicians. (There may be occasional exceptions: the government of the UK, for example, includes 24 members who have not been elected by anyone – they are members of the House of Lords, unaccountable to anyone except the prime minister of the day. In any other country, the arrangement would be regarded as profoundly undemocratic.)
Ah, say the Leave campaigners, but the UK can easily be outvoted, can’t we? We can be forced to adopt laws that our elected representatives have not approved. They are right, so let us look at some figures.
Between 1999 and March 2016, the UK was indeed outvoted in the Council 57 times. It abstained 70 times, and voted with the majority – wait for it – 2,474 times. In other words, over a roughly 15-year period, the UK’s elected representatives, members of a government that has to face the electorate every five years, voted in favour of 95% of the laws passed in Brussels.
(The figures have been calculated, by the way, by Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics, who is part of a group of academics called The UK in a Changing Europe, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and based at King’s College, London. He is one of the expert speakers in the sovereignty and national identity podcast in my EUTheJury series.)
I imagine these figures might come as a bit of a shock to you. They certainly paint a very different picture from the one favoured by Leave campaigners. Their great strength, of course, is that they are empirically verifiable; they are, in other words, what so many people say they still need in this debate. Facts.
Imagine you are a member of a sports club, or an amateur choral society. New club rules are needed, and they are voted on by members of an elected club committee. If 2.2% of the new rules were not to your liking, would you regard that as reason enough to leave? I’m pretty sure that I would not.
And while we’re in the business of debunking myths, what about that bloated Brussels bureaucracy, living off the fat of the land on our hard-earned taxes, that we hear so much about? Do you know how many bureaucrats work for the EU? Fifty-five thousand. Do you know how many work for the UK government? Four hundred thousand.
If you’re after some more facts, here are some recommendations: the EU’s own website is here; the Full Fact website is here, and the BBC Reality Check website is here. Just don’t make the mistake of believing anything that the politicians say between now and 23 June.
And if you’re still undecided, perhaps this statement from the Cornish Pasty Association will swing it for you: ‘After working so hard for so many years to gain recognition for the Cornish pasty through the EU Protected Food Names scheme, it would be wholly inappropriate for it to support anything that could potentially impact on that status …the CPA supports Britain remaining in the EU and being able to participate in that system.’