Throughout the campaign leading up to the referendum, the Leave camp spread many lies and misinformation to the public to get people to vote Leave. Here are the Top 8:


1. Lie:The UK sends 350 million pounds per week to the European Union. This money would go back to the NHS.

Debunk: The Leave campaign put the claim on the side of a red bus and aimed it at swing voters. The former boss of the Vote Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, admits that Remain would have won without the claim that the 350 million would go back to the NHS. The UK Statistics Authority wrote to Vote Leave during the campaign stating the claim was, ‘misleading and undermines trust in official statistics’. The claim excluded the UK’s rebate, as well as payments received by the UK from the EU. It also fails to take into account the contribution to the Treasury from trade and business that would not be present without the EU single market. The government also has shown no sign of spending the £350m extra a week on the NHS if the UK leaves the EU. 

2. Lie: Migrants are stealing Briton’s jobs and the UK would have control over its borders.

Debunk: Britain has taken in thousands of immigrants from Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in recent years. In many poorer areas of the UK, there is a lot of resentment towards these immigrants. They are viewed as competitors for jobs and government-provided services, such as education, health care, and welfare. The Office of National Statistics says that while the numbers of EU workers in Britain has risen by 700,000 since 2013, EU workers are outnumbered by one million Britons who have gone into employment in the same period. The number of British citizens working in the UK labour force is now at the near-record level of 28 million, compared with 3 million foreign nationals. Also, the UK already controls its borders. EU workers can legally be required to leave after three months if they do not have a job or fulfil other conditions, such as being able to support themselves financially. The Schengen Agreement allows passport-free travel within certain EU countries, but the UK is not part of this agreement. The free movement of workers within the EU is essential to the single market.

3. Lie: UK Sovereignty is at stake.

Debunk: On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft’s polling team questioned 12,369 people who voted, which revealed that 49 per cent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was ‘the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’, implying that decisions should be on behalf of 66 million UK citizens, not 508 million EU residents. Leaving the EU cannot prevent external influences from shaping what happens inside the country’s borders. The UK will still need to work with other European countries; something that is likely to substantially influence the government’s domestic and foreign policy.

4. Lie: The EU is undemocratic and resembles Nazi Germany. Boris Johnson made the statement that Hitler and Napoleon both failed to unify Europe, and the EU has done the same.

Debunk: The EU has more democratic controls than any other typical international organization. It was founded on treaties between its member states. The political leaders of those countries decide on the EU’s overall direction and political agenda, and national ministers are the main decision-makers when it comes to policies.

5. Lie: Poverty in the North has nothing to do with austerity, it’s the European bureaucrats’ fault.

Debunk: Areas with poor economic and social fundamentals voted to leave. British working-class people used the referendum to voice their anger over funds being sent to the EU.  Some of the most deprived parts of the UK, such as Wales and Cornwall receive £2.1 billion in funds from the EU to support development. The North-East, Northern Ireland and the East Midlands would be hardest hit by any increased barriers to trade with the EU if the UK leaves.

6. Lie: EU forbids the UK from forming trade deals with other countries. Leaving the EU would allow the UK to form trade deals with the rest of the world.

Debunk: The British Government would have no say over trade deals if it were to remain in a customs union with the EU — as some have insisted. One year after the referendum Liam Fox said on BBC Radio: ‘The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history’.  So far, it has not been easy.

7. Lie: The European Army creation

Debunk: Some people would like to see a full-blown European army to compete with other nations. But the chances of that happening anytime in the near future are slim. In practice, the EU currently runs six military missions, plus 11 civilian operations, mostly in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa. But the troops serving in these missions are not under the banner of an EU army, but national forces. EU defence policy remains in the hands of European governments, not the EU executive. There are currently no plans to create an EU army.

8. Lie: Lisbon Treaty Conspiracy Theory. This involved many lies in one document that spread around on different social media channels. Many of the tweets started with, ‘I have been reading the Lisbon Treaty’. This misinformation campaign began in March 2019 when it looked like the UK may not leave the EU.

Debunk:

  1. ‘The UK and all other EU members would lose their veto power by 2020’. The Lisbon Treaty did make changes to how EU law gets passed which reduced the scope of states’ veto ability, but it did not abolish veto powers. These changes are already in effect, rather than beginning in 2020. 
  2. ‘All member nations will become states of the new federal nation of the EU by 2022 as clearly laid out in the Lisbon treaty with no exceptions or vetoes’. This is not something contained in the Lisbon Treaty or any other EU agreements. It was a false claim that was made. 
  3. ‘All member states must adopt the Euro by 2022, and any member state that joins after that must adopt the Euro within 2 years of joining the EU’. At the moment, 19 of the 28 EU members are part of the ‘Euro area’. Both the UK and Denmark have ‘opt-outs’ to joining. The UK’s opt-out says that the UK is under no obligation to adopt the Euro — explicitly referenced in the Lisbon Treaty. The treaty does reference the ultimate goal of ‘the euro becoming the currency of all Member States of the Union’, but that doesn’t override the UK’s opt-out, and it does not set a time limit on that goal.
  4. ‘The London stock exchange will move to Frankfurt in 2020 and be integrated into the EU stock exchange resulting in a loss of 200,000 plus jobs in the UK because of the relocation’. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Deutsche Börse (its German equivalent) announced in February 2016 that they had proposed a merger to combine their activities. This merger was not set out in the Lisbon Treaty. The merger was blocked by the EU in March 2017, since it risked creating a monopoly. The two businesses would have continued to operate under their existing brand names and would not have merged into an ‘EU stock exchange’.