Vote Leave: latest dodgy EU dossier is devoid of credibility

Vote Leave has today criticised the Government’s release of its second taxpayer-funded report into the EU referendum. The first report, promoting the ‘success’ of  the EU renegotiation, was described in the media as a ‘dodgy dossier’ after it made a number of misleading or inaccurate claims. This second report, this time on the process of leaving, has no more credibility than the last. 

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Vote Leave, said:

 “The Government’s dodgy EU dossier has no credibility given the errors and wrong assumptions that litter the document. The Prime Minister is using taxpayers' money for a dishonest scare campaign. When we Vote Leave we will negotiate a new UK-EU deal based on free trade and friendly co-operation, but not the supremacy of EU law, and we’ll spend our money on our priorities. The Government’s claim that sorting this out will take twice as long as World War Two is silly.”


Notes to editors

The Government today published a document entitled ‘The process for withdrawing from the European Union’. It can be read here. The document contains a series of errors and mistaken assumptions which render it devoid of credibility. These include:


‘The British people would expect the UK Government to notify the European Council straight away that it wished to leave under the terms of Article 50.’ (p.21)

  • There is no legal obligation in the European Union Referendum Act 2015 for the Government to trigger article 50 immediately after the vote. This is based on pure assertion and does not reflect the view or material produced by those advocating a ‘leave’ vote.
  • The British people will expect the Government to maximise its flexibility during negotiations to get the best deal for Britain, not to arbitrarily commit to one exit mechanism on an arbitrary date.


Article 50 is ‘the only lawful route available to withdraw from the EU.’ (p.7)  

  • If this were true, Greenland could not have withdrawn from the then European Economic Community in 1985, but it did.
  • The document admits that Greenland (and Algeria) were both able to leave the EU without Article 50 (p.13n.3) stating: ‘These withdrawals took place before the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, and were therefore not conducted under Article 50.’
  • Greenland left the EU by what is now article 48(2) of the Treaty of European Union. This allows any amendment to EU law to be made (including ending the application of the EU Treaties to the UK). This could be used again and is a tried and tested method.
  • In addition, article 54(b) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides that a party to a treaty may withdraw ‘at any time by consent of all the parties after consultation with the other contracting States’ (Vienna Convention, May 1969, art. 54(b), link).


‘Our vote to leave, and the withdrawal negotiations themselves, would have an impact on our ability to affect the EU’s decision-making.’ (p.20)

  • Even if article 50 were triggered, the UK would only be excluded from the European Council and Council of Ministers (and no other EU institution) only when those bodies were discussing the EU’s negotiating position with the UK in exit negotiations. The UK would retain membership of those bodies for all other purposes, such as setting economic regulations, until the date it left the EU.
  • Over the past 20 years there have been 72 occasions in the EU Council of Ministers on which the United Kingdom has opposed and a measure. The UK lost on all counts (Vote Leave, October 2015, link). The UK has no influence now.
  • The Government document admits British MEPs would even be able to vote on the withdrawal agreement, stating: ‘MEPs from the departing Member State would probably be allowed to vote, because at this stage it would still formally be part of the EU’ (p.9).


‘While these negotiations continued, we would be constrained in our ability to negotiate and conclude new trade agreements with countries outside the EU.’ (p.8)

  • This is based on assertion rather than evidence. The UK could begin trade negotiations with third countries the moment after it voted to leave, provided these were negotiated on the basis that they came into force after the UK left the EU and its common commercial policy.
  • The UK already conducts informal trade negotiations with third countries. The Prime Minister has visited several countries to scope out trade deals, but has only been able to recommend an EU trade deal at the end of the discussions (a recommendation that the EU has inevitably ignored) (EurActiv, December 2013, link).
  • The Government document itself admits ‘Trade agreements can be applied provisionally, before national ratification’ (p.13n4).


‘It could lead to up to a decade or more of uncertainty’ (p.22)

  • The Government is making the absurd claim that it would take nearly twice as long to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU than it did to win the Second World War.
  • It took almost six years after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 to end of the Second World War in August 1945 with victory against Japan.
  • A trade deal with the Ukraine took just one month to renegotiate. The Commission proposed a temporary tariff cut in March 2014 (European Commission, 11 March 2014, link). The deal was adopted in April 2014 (European Commission, 14 April 2014, link).


‘Many of our non-EU trading partners are already negotiating with the EU, and before they started negotiations with the UK they would be likely to want those deals to conclude’ (p.16)

  • There is no evidence to support this assertion. Other countries are perfectly capable of negotiating multiple trade agreements at the same time. The United States has spent the last few years negotiating two major trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
  • Political leaders from around the world have made clear that they would be willing to strike a free trade deal with the UK after we Vote Leave. As New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has made clear, outside the EU the UK would be able to renew its trade deals with other countries. He said ‘we would want to preserve both our existing position with Great Britain and continue to grow that relationship. We would need to find a way through that. The reality is there are a number of mechanisms where that would be possible.’ (Daily Telegraph, October 2015, link).


‘This would include the status and entitlements of the approximately 2 million UK citizens…  They all currently enjoy a range of specific rights to live… that are only guaranteed because of EU law. There would be no requirement under EU law for these rights to be maintained if the UK left the EU.’

  • The suggestion that the rights of residence of UK citizens currently lawfully resident in the EU would end if the UK left the EU is baseless scaremongering.
  • Article 39(2) of the EU’s own Charter of Fundamental Rights states that ‘collective expulsions are prohibited’ (EUR-Lex, 26 October 2012, link).


‘Car manufacturing where the UK enjoys a trading surplus’ (p.17)

  • It is wrong to claim that the UK enjoys a trade surplus in road vehicles with the EU.
  • In 2014, the UK had a £26.6 billion trade deficit in road vehicles with the remaining 27 members of the EU (EU-27) (Source: OECD, 2015, link; HMRC, 2015, link).


‘If the UK left the EU, there would be no certainty that the border would remain open’ at Gibraltar

  • There is no certainty that the border will remain open in the event of a vote to remain in the EU. In August 2013, the European Commission stated that Spain was ‘obliged to carry out checks on persons and on goods’ when crossing the frontier (BBC News, 5 August 2013, link).
  • De facto the Schengen area currently includes a number of microstates. There are no border checks between the EU and Monaco, San Marino or Liechtenstein. Gibraltar can expect similar treatment if it so chooses.


‘Questions would also need to be answered about the Common Travel Area which covers the movement of people’ (p.19)

  • There has been a Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland since 1923. It has nothing to do with the EU. It depends on legislation passed before the UK entered the EU.
  • The Immigration Act 1971 provides that: ‘Arrival in and departure from the United Kingdom on a local journey from or to... the Republic of Ireland shall not be subject to control under this Act, nor shall a person require leave to enter the United Kingdom on so arriving... in this Act the United Kingdom and [the Republic of Ireland] are collectively referred to as “the common travel area”.’
  • The Common Travel Area would only be questioned if a future Parliament chose to repeal this legislation (of if the Irish Government chose to end the agreement, which it could do even if we remained in the EU).


The Government also exposes how shallow are its promises of a ‘legally-binding commitment’ to change the Treaties at a later date.

  • Since a Treaty change would have to be ratified by all member states, the Government’s new report admits that such agreements ‘would require ratification, in some cases by National Parliaments such as the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag and all seven Belgian Parliamentary Chambers. This would give every Member State a further opportunity to block the agreement for any reason’ (p.14).
  • Just last week, the Government argued that parts of its renegotiation ‘will be incorporated into the Treaties when they are next revised’ (HM Government, February 2016, link). It argued that this was a certainty, despite today’s admissions.
  • By contrast, as today’s document admits, a new trade agreement could be negotiated much more easily: ‘an agreement focused solely on trade would need to be approved by the European Parliament and a qualified majority of the Council’ (p.14n.5).


The Government has even misnamed the document on its website.

  • The title of the PDF file uploaded onto the Government's website is ‘National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015’.
  • This level of attention to care and detail may go some way towards explaining the extremely poor quality of the renegotiation package. 
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