A £9 million pro-EU leaflet funded by the government, which will be sent to every household in England next week, suggests UK customers could see their mobile phone calls go up by 38p a minute if Britain leaves the European Union.
The 15-page leaflet, called “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK,” is being funded with £6.4 million of taxpayers money. Additionally, the accompanying website and digital promotion for the leaflet will cost around £2.9 million.
The leaflet has the official “HM Government” logo at the top and aims to convince people that leaving the EU would be bad for the British economy. It also says that UK consumers could be hit with extra costs for living and if they travel abroad.
For instance, next year mobile phone roaming charges will be abolished across the EU, which will save British people up to 38p per minute when they make phone calls in other EU countries — the leaflet says there is no guarantee that British people could benefit from the roaming charge cut if Britain left the EU.
The Conservative party is split over the June 23 EU referendum, with seven cabinet ministers backing the Leave campaign. Despite this, Prime Minister David Cameron is campaigning hard to keep Britain in the EU and it’s completely legal for the government to spend public money on the leaflets.
The leaflet has a section telling people that Britain’s economy is made stronger by being in the EU and another section claiming that being part of the EU makes Britain safer:
In a section titled “What happens if we leave?” the leaflet also says that the Government thinks leaving the EU would lead to 10 or more years of uncertainty.
Predictably, Brexit campaigners are furious at the government’s intervention in the referendum. Here’s what they have been saying. The added emphasis is ours.
Boris Johnson — Mayor of London
Given that I think it’s very likely that it will be very biased and hysterical and warning unnecessarily about the risks of leaving the EU, I think it’s a complete waste of money…It’s crazy to use quite so much taxpayers’ money on stuff that is basically intended to scare people and to stampede people in one direction.
Liam Fox — Conservative MP and former Defence Secretary
I don’t want my taxes to be used for pro-EU propaganda so when I get my leaflet I’m going to stick it in an envelope addressed to Number 10 and I would suggest others do the same.
Peter Bone — Conservative MP
This is a major error of judgment given the lack of funding for vital public services. I urge the Prime Minister to rethink wasting such an astonishing amount of British taxpayers money.
Vote Leave — Group supported by six cabinet ministers
Number Ten is trying to distract the media’s attention from the issue of whether the Prime Minister’s family money is kept in offshore trusts. The Government promised that it would not take on the lead role in the referendum, so it’s disgraceful that they’re spending taxpayers’ money which could go to the NHS on EU propaganda instead.
The Government has responded to the criticism by sending out Defence Minister Michael Fallon to defend the leaflets. Here’s what he told Sky News this morning.Let’s be clear about this,
Let’s be clear about this, the government is not neutral in this particular battle, the Government takes the view that we would be better off, safer and stronger inside a reformed Europe and we’re entitled as the democratically elected government to set out our view as government have done in every referendum we’ve had, going all the way back to the original European referendum back in 1975.
Later today David Cameron will be launching a campaign called “Brighter Future In” that aims to convince young people to vote to remain in the EU. The event will have a question and answer session, so the Prime Minister can expect to face lots of questions about the leaflets.