Clegg v. Farage: The numbers behind the words


The two EU debates have left us with a brain-frazzling amount of facts and figures. Both leaders called for the facts, but both made false claims, from the wilfully misleading to straight up lies.

1. Farage: The EU costs us £55m per day

The contributions made by businesses and government tot up to £20bn. But when you include what they get back, the final balance comes in at £8.6bn per year, or £24 million a day.

Verdict: Misleading

2. Farage thinks you’ll vote differently to ‘their’ view, and get Britain out of the EU.

Not so fast. Assuming he thinks the other major parties want the UK to stay ‘in’, he would, at this moment, be wrong.

Verdict: FALSE (It’s closer than he thinks).

3. Clegg: Many people believe that we should have a referendum when we have an important question to answer, when new powers are being transferred from our country to the European Union.

Well no, not quite. The British public hasn’t been asked for a while, but according to a Populus poll published in June 2012, people were pretty keen – 82% wanted a vote ‘now’ or ‘in the next few years’.

Verdict: FALSE (But the poll was 2 years ago).

4. Farage: Only 1 in 3 UKIP voters are former conservatives.

Not far off, but 45% of the UKIP support base voted Conservative in 2010, according to a series of YouGov polls. This is considerably more than Lib Dem voters who have switched, who make up 15% of UKIP supporters.

Verdict: FALSE. 

5. Clegg: 1.5m Brits live elsewhere in the EU

He’s right, in fact it’s even more than this – 1.8m Brits live in Europe, and Spain has more than a million of them. This means that we have around 540,000 more Europeans living here than we have Britons abroad.

Verdict: TRUE.

6. Farage: We’ve had a massive oversupply of labour, and you’ve seen your wages go down over the last ten years as the cost of living has gone up.

Real wages, that’s wage increase minus inflation, have fallen by about 2.2% a year since the recession, but Farage’s claim that they’ve been falling for ten years is wide of the mark. Wages rose every year all the way back to 1996.

Verdict: FALSE.

7. Clegg: 9/10 of new jobs (in last year or two) have gone to British workers

Official figures show net employment rather than new jobs, so analysis is tricky (for example, people can hold more than one job). The estimates range from 23 new jobs per 100 taken by immigrants, to ‘virtually nil’.

We don’t know if those jobs would have existed without immigration, and we left Europe Britain wouldn’t stop accept working migrants.

Verdict: We can’t tell.

8. Clegg: Since 2004 about 2m people from elsewhere in the EU have come to our country, and half of them have returned.

Clegg’s about right with this figure, but the sharp rise in February of this year, shown in the graph below, does back up Farage’s view that the UK won’t be able to do anything if more  decide to come.

9. Farage: the majority of long term immigrants to the UK come from Europe.

Clegg’s about right with this figure, but the sharp rise in February of this year, shown in the graph below, does back up Farage’s view that the UK won’t be able to do anything if more  decide to come.

Verdict: TRUE.

10. Farage: the majority of long term immigrants to the UK come from Europe.

Wrong. Although net immigration has clearly fallen in recent years, compare this graph to the one above and historically more non-EU migrants have settled in the UK. If Farage means from now on he may have a point, but it would be pure speculation.

Verdict: FALSE.

11. Farage: We need to build a house every 7 minutes just to cope with immigration into this country.

Migration Watch figures say over the next twenty years five million of the projected eight million rise in population will come from immigrants.

Their sums say: 130,000 (EU) + 140,000 (non-EU) – 70,000 emigrants = net immigration of 200,000 per year.

Times is by 20 and you get 4m. The extra 1m they’ve added uses the ONS fertility rate figure, for non-EU born citizens, of 2.21%.

Verdict: Misleading (We could do with more houses though).

12. Farage: 75% of our laws come from Brussels / Clegg: No, it’s only 7%

They’re both wrong. Farage’s figure is reportedly based on the words of an EU commissioner, Viviane Reding, who later admitted she was mistaken. As Clegg repeated yesterday, he is using House of Commons briefing papers. The paper actually says, “It is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts.”

13. Farage: 45,000 children from Eastern European were on British child benefit. Clegg retorted that it was a “very small” proportion of total child benefit.

They’re both right. The £55m paid abroad  represents just 0.45% of the £12bn child benefit bill.

Verdict: TRUE.

14. Farage: FDI is coming into Britain faster than the rest of EU put together

An EY report, published in 2013, said that Germany was the most attractive option for investment in the period 2013-16.  The UK has had the highest share of investment each year for the last ten years.

But Britain isn’t gaining new investment faster than the rest of the EU put together. In 2012 Germany and France together secured 1095 FDI projects, and the UK 697.

Verdict: FALSE (but Britain still does well)

15. Clegg: the EU is the world’s largest economy.

And, he’s right. If you take all the countries together it’s £100 billion bigger than the US. And you can bet his spin team were pleased with that one.

Verdict: TRUE.

16. Clegg: 3m jobs are linked to our position in EU.

Clegg’s figure is a little out of date - at 4m it’s actually more. But they are linked to Europe and not our position in the EU.

Would these jobs be at risk if the UK left the EU? Not overnight, said the author of the original study, but they might become ‘a bit more vulnerable’. Backed in part by this EY report, Farage says any of these jobs lost would be supplemented by more jobs from Asia and the US.

Verdict: It’s even more, but they’re not necessarily at risk.

17. Clegg: the EU employs the same number of bureaucrats in Brussels as Derbyshire County Council

They do employ a similar number of people, but not necessarily bureaucrats. There were 36,159 public sector jobs in Derbyshire CC, and 33,000 employed in the European Commission.

Of course this also doesn’t allow for those employed in the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the EU Court of Justice, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, but of course, they’re not all in Brussels.

Verdict: Misleading (And you’ve got to ask how many employees Derbyshire County Council needs…)

You might not be surprised to hear Nigel Farage came up with more false facts than his opponent, but then he won the debate hands-down. So the question is, who are you going to vote for come 22nd May?