Michael Gove's Today programme speech, factchecked

Published: 19 Apr 2016

Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, spoke on the Today programme this morning about why he believes we should leave the EU. Here’s what we made of some of the claims made in the broadcast.

“We can take back the £350 million we give to the EU every week”

We don’t give the EU this much. The discount, or rebate, that the UK gets reduces what we would otherwise be liable to pay.

In 2015, we paid the EU an estimated £13 billion, or £250 million a week.

But some of that money came back in EU payments funnelled through the government, so the government’s ‘net contribution’ was around £8.5 billion, or £160 million a week. The EU also spends money directly, for instance, in research grants.

Leaving would give us control over the money spent by the EU in the UK, but not guarantee that it would be spent on other things.

“The EU has failed to secure trade deals with the huge economies of India, China and America. Outside the EU we can cut those deals”

The EU does not currently have trade deals with India, China or the USA. The European Commission has a list of trade deals it has negotiated with “some 50 partners” around the world, but those countries aren’t on it.

There is a deal being negotiated with the Americans: the so-called ‘TTIP’ agreement. Negotiations with India began in 2007 but seem to have stalled.

The EU has responsibility for trade agreements with outside countries, so the UK can’t negotiate its own.

That doesn’t mean these trade deals would definitely happen if the UK were to leave the EU. And the content of a trade deal matters, not just its existence.

“Outside the EU we would still benefit from the free trade zone which stretches from Iceland to the Russian border. But we wouldn’t have all the EU regulations which cost our economy £600 million every week”

The European Economic Area extends the EU single market to Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Those three countries are also in the European Free Trade Association with Switzerland.

The UK would have to apply if it wanted to join either of these organisations. It wouldn’t happen automatically after leaving the EU.

Those countries accept a lot of EU laws in order to access the single market, so it’s unclear how many EU regulations would still apply to the UK if we left the EU and negotiated a different relationship.

The claim that EU regulations cost the economy £600 million every week comes from a paper by the Open Europe think tank. It has added up predicted costs of EU regulations from government impact assessments, but doesn't take into account the predicted benefits in calculating the figure.

“Inside the EU we have to accept that anyone with an EU passport—even if they have a criminal record—can breeze into this country”

It’s not correct that anyone with an EU passport can come into the country, but a criminal record isn’t enough in itself to keep people out.

Just under 1,800 nationals of other EU countries were refused entry and then left the country in 2015.  

EU citizens can be refused entry for reasons like public policy, public security and public health.

EU law says that "Previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds" for keeping someone out. The person’s behaviour must be a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”.

“Outside the EU we could have a points-based system like Australia. We could welcome talented people from across the world but block those whose presence here isn’t in our interests”

There’s nothing to stop us implementing a points-based system to limit immigration if we were to leave the EU.

But we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do that and stay in the single market.

Free movement of people applies to countries in the European Economic Area, as it does to Switzerland. Norway and Switzerland both have higher immigration per head of population from the EU than the UK, as of 2013.  

So fully controlling immigration might require leaving the single market as well as the EU. Mr Gove has pointed to other European countries that have trade agreements with the EU, but aren't part of the single market.


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