Fact-Checking Brexit: The Conclusion

I’ve now spent the last three weeks fact-checking every detail on Brexit that I possibly could.

I’ve read 90-page government reports on my way to a wedding. I’ve hacked through academic analyses of the EU when I really should have been promoting my Virtual Reality game. I’ve treated myself to a fun Google search for the accounts of pro-Remain activists to check that they’re not biased. And so on.

(Here are all the posts I wrote as a result. )

It has been surprisingly interesting, in some ways. And frustrating in others.

But that’s not what you care about.

You care about who’s telling the truth, who isn’t, and who you should vote for.

So who’s more reliable?

I came into this leaning cautiously to Remain. However, I really hoped to find that my initial impressions of Leave were wildly wrong, and I was hoping they had very strong arguments.

Why? Because the country might vote for Leave. And if that happens I’d much rather be saying “well, at the end of the day both sides have a good point” than “oh god, oh god, we’re in real trouble now”.

Unfortunately, “well, at the end of the day both sides have a good point” is not what I found.

Leave’s Reliability

At every single turn, I found that the Leave campaign’s arguments were founded on lies. Sorry, it’s as simple as that. I wish it wasn’t.

They lie about how much money we spend on the EU. I’d love to say “they’re misinformed”, or “they exaggerate”, but they don’t. They lie. Outright.

They lie about the business case for Leave. I still have found absolutely no support whatsoever for the figures that are confidently quoted here.

They lie about the state of democracy in the EU. The more I investigate the EU, the more I find out it’s fairer and better set up than the UK’s government. Just today I discovered that the European Commission’s role in legislation is actually far more balanced than I thought.

And the Leave campaign lie a lot more. I haven’t had time to post all the mini-fact-checks I’ve found. As just one example, the Vote Leave website claims

Because of free movement laws, the UK cannot test every EU doctor operating in the UK for whether they can speak English

As proof, they link to an article in the Guardian about a horrible accident thanks to a doctor not understanding English. In that article, it explicitly states:

The GMC, which registers doctors and licenses them to work, has been able to check EU medics’ English since last summer…

In other words, Leave’s statement is absolutely untrue, and that’s proved by an article they themselves use as “proof” of their untrue statement.

I haven’t had time to fact-check every single Leave claim, and some, like the claim that leaving “will make Britain Great again”, aren’t possible to fact-check.

But every single Leave claim I’ve checked has turned out not to be exaggeration, not to be well-meaning misunderstanding, but to be obviously false.

Remain’s Reliability

Remain’s campaign has been criticised for being dull, being negative, and being led by people who are thoroughly disliked.

All of those claims are entirely reasonable. Personally I intensely dislike both Cameron and Osborne. I’m about as much of a fan of the current UK government as I am of bowel cancer.

But every claim of theirs I’ve checked — even the ones that had pro-Remain friends shouting about how over the top and ridiculous they were has turned out to be more or less sound.

  • Their arguments are evidence-based.
  • Their evidence is solid.
  • Their backup studies are detailed and provide sources and reasoning.
  • I could rarely pick any holes in their logic.
  • Their studies tally with independent studies of the same things, and sometimes they’re using independent studies rather than anything they control.

The worst I was able to prove was that one point in a 90-page review seemed to lack backup evidence. And that’s the same review whose conclusion almost all credible external sources agreed with.

I really wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting both sides — as many people have claimed — to be equally full of it.

But Remain seems to have played it pretty straight, and presented solid, well-founded claims. Having dug deep into their campaign, I’ve actually emerged more impressed than when I started.

So Which Way Should You Vote?

Based purely on which side’s arguments are actually true, and which side’s aren’t, you should vote Remain.

Remain claim that Brexit would be bad for the country, and they’ve presented evidence to support that claim. I’ve checked quite a lot of that evidence, and it all seems to be reliable.

Remain appear to be telling the truth, Leave don’t.