Her Majesty’s Government is to spend £9.3m of your money campaigning for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced last night that the British Government will spend £9.3m of taxpayers’ money on a targeted campaign to win June’s referendum on EU membership.
In a clear example of a broken promise, the Government is to spend £6m on a 16-page glossy brochure which will be sent to every household in the UK warning:
If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices of some household goods and damage living standards. Losing our full access to the EU single market would make exporting to Europe harder and increase costs.
Last June, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stood in the House of Commons and said:
It will be for the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ campaigns to lead the debate in the weeks preceding the poll . . . I can assure the House that the government has no intention of undermining those campaigns
It seems the Government’s idea of not undermining the Leave campaign is to also spend £500k on design and a further £3m on producing a website and promoting it via social media. Facebook adverts have already appeared on some users’ News Feeds.
Given the strict spending limits (imposed by the Government) on both campaigns, the use of taxpayers’ money to campaign to remain in the EU gives the status-quo supporters a significant financial advantage. The Times claims that Remain’s total spending power will, therefore, be in the region of £33m, while the Leave campaign will only be able to spend £18m. The group which receives the official designation for each campaign will have their spending limit capped at £7m – over £2m less than the Government is spending on their own campaign.
Chairman of the Public Administration Committee Bernard Jenkin (a Tory MP) said:
Of course this is completely outrageous. In this one act, the government is going to be spending more than the official Leave campaign will be allowed to spend. It’s not as though the government isn’t already influencing the debate. This is not about a level playing field . . . and there’s a whiff of panic about it.
Meanwhile, one of the co-founders of the Grassroots Out campaign (which is hoping to be awarded the Electoral Commission’s designation as the official Leave campaign) Peter Bone (another Tory MP) said:
[This is] immoral, undemocratic and against what the government has promised. Many recent polls have shown that the majority of the UK public are actually in favour of leaving the EU so to spend their money on a pro-EU propaganda exercise is an inexcusable waste. The prime minister promised parliament that no taxpayers’ money would be spent promoting remain or leave. If this is not reversed it will seriously damage the prime minister’s reputation.
Despite promising that the Government would not interfere in the campaign in an official capacity, we have already seen that pro-EU cabinet ministers have been allowed to be briefed on pro-EU matters by their (taxpayer-funded) civil servants, while pro-Brexit cabinet ministers’ (taxpayer-funded) civil servants are not permitted to assist their political masters in preparing arguments for Brexit. This pro-EU propaganda, however, is on an entirely different level.
Whether you agree with Remaining in or Leaving the EU, you must surely agree that there are many, many better ways the Government could have spent £9m of our money. British voters were promised a free and fair in/out referendum, the result of which would be legally-binding. Free it may be, but, if the Government is using taxpayers’ money to favour one side over the other, then it is certainly not a fair fight.
And, if they can go back on their word with the Government now undermining one side of the debate, how can anyone trust them to honour the wishes of the British people if they vote to Leave the EU on 23 June?