It has well been said that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on. The “3½ Million Jobs” lie has been reverberating around the body politic for more than ten years, and no matter how many times it’s rebutted, it refuses to go away. So let’s try again.
Of course the reason the lie refuses to go away is that the pro-EU political faction has no valid case to make, so is obliged to lie. On the face of it, “3½ Million Jobs depend on EU membership” sounds plausible, and is likely to be fairly alarming to voters who hear it constantly and lack the knowledge to see through it.
It all started with a 1999 report from the well-respected NIESR (National Institute for Economic and Social Research). Forgive me for quoting at length from the report, but it’s necessary to see what NIESR actually said, in context:
Detailed estimates from input-output tables suggest that up to 3.2 million UK jobs are now associated directly with exports of goods and services to other EU countries. This has given rise to popular concern that some of these jobs might be at risk if Britain were to leave the Union. Opponents of membership on the other hand argue that many of the benefits flowing from the increasingly integrated European Economic Area might still be available even if the UK were to withdraw, particularly since the Uruguay Round Agreement has imposed significant limits on the trade barriers that the EU can place on non-members. In conjunction with the potential gains from withdrawing from the Common Agricultural Policy and no longer paying net fiscal contributions to the EU, there is a case that withdrawal from the EU might actually offer net economic benefits.
The NIESR presents a very reasonable and balanced analysis. 3.2 million jobs probably depend on exports to the EU. There is popular concern that “some might be at risk”. But there is also a case that leaving the EU could provide net benefits.
All that EU apologists took out of this is the assertion that “3½ Million Jobs depend on membership”. Note that NIESR said nothing about jobs depending on membership — only that they depended on trade. And while NIESR recognises public concern that leaving the EU might put some of these jobs at risk (my emphasis), it does not endorse that view, and indeed points to counter-arguments.
But the headline was out there, under the ægis of campaign group Britain in Europe: “British withdrawal would cost 3½ Million Jobs”. The then Director of NIESR, Dr. Martin Weale, was so angry at this travesty of his report that he described Britain in Europe’s behaviour as “pure Goebbels”. Yet europhiles today continue to parrot what is now clearly a deliberate lie. Most recently our “Eurosceptic” Prime Minister, David Cameron, mentioned the figure when arguing that Britain was “Better Off In”, and that therefore he would not countenance an In/Out referendum.
So listen out for that “3½ Million Jobs” figure. And note the pungent, acrid smell of deliberate deceit in the air.