No, none of the List of Lies is laid down in the Lisbon Treaty

There’s a new and fun cut-and-paste list going round! This one recites some fundamental untruths about how the EU works, and if I were being kind I would say perhaps it stems from misunderstanding. However since the list veers so completely into ranting fantasy towards the end (number 18 is my personal favourite), it’s clear that the whole thing is a List of Lies designed to scare people into voting Leave again, should there be a second referendum.

By the way, putting “as laid down in the Lisbon Treaty” in a sentence doesn’t make it true. It does make the lie more obvious though.

I’ve included evidence to support my refutation of most of the points. However, some of them are such complete lies that there just isn’t any evidence. If I said I was an alien, how would you prove I wasn’t? If anyone has some evidence or information I can add in, please comment.

I’ve grouped some of the points together, so they may appear out of order from the original list.

So, I am now going to tell you the worst-case scenario of remaining in the EU based on actual known factors and figures, sourced from the public records of the UK Government, the EU Parliament, The Bank of England, the CBI, Migration watch, The Stock exchanges around the world, the IMF, and the UN.

So those of you who think that this little rant is a tin foil hat moment by myself think again and go and fully research and cross reference what I am about to tell you and remember this is worst-case scenario that could happen unless I clearly point out where it will happen by either a date or other factor.


Of course the list doesn’t link any evidence, that would be too easy. We should “fully research and cross reference” it all. So I did. It’s really long, though, sorry. It’s odd how it’s so much more work to refute lies than it is to tell them. All sides have definitely not agreed these to be true!

1: The UK along with all existing members of the EU lose their abstention veto in 2020 as laid down in the Lisbon Treaty when the system changes to that of majority acceptance with no abstentions or veto’s being allowed.

Ah, the veto. This will be the longest section of the post, so if you want to skip to point number 2, the TL:DR is this – we have a veto, we can use the veto to veto any attempt to remove our veto, and therefore we can veto anything we don’t like in lots of areas of law. This is important, since most of the points in this list are lies because they are things we can veto. So as long as you understand that we are not going to lose the veto, that’s the main thing.

If you’re not clear on how the EU functions, you might want to check out my post explaining the various EU bodies. Basically, the Commission proposes law, and the European Parliament and the Council of the EU vote on whether they become law. The Council of the EU is made up of ministers from the governments of each member state, so our representative on the Council is the minister responsible for the matter under discussion. In effect, our government sits on this council.

Votes on matters in certain areas in the Council of the EU are decided by unanimous voting. Those areas include foreign policy, new member states, EU finances, changes to the Treaties, etc. This means that member states voting against any proposal in these areas can prevent it happening, thus effectively vetoing it. Even if Parliament votes it through, the Council has to agree as well, so if our government doesn’t want something to happen, it won’t. And because changes to the Treaties are veto-able, we can veto any change to the structure of the EU that would remove the veto. 

For areas of law in which the EU has competence (for example the single market, agriculture, consumer protection) the Council votes using qualified majority. So in these areas nobody has a veto. That’s fine, as these are areas in which we have all agreed that this will be the case. The Lisbon Treaty did change the method of voting from “weighted-vote” system to “double majority” (incidentally increasing the UK’s share of the vote), but this is all irrelevant to the veto, which is a feature of unanimous voting.

So this point just makes no sense. There will be no loss of veto. I don’t think there even is a thing called an “abstention veto” (in EU unanimous voting, an abstention isn’t counted as a vote against and therefore doesn’t create a veto). And it certainly won’t happen in 2020, which appears to be a date plucked from nowhere.

Now, it’s always worth looking for the nugget of truth behind any lie, and if you hang out long enough on Leaver forums you can sometimes find it. There are two nuggets here.

First, the passerelle clause. This was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty, and allows for certain changes to the Treaty if approved by an absolute majority of the European Parliament, and if no national government objects. In the relevant clause, the European Council (made up of all the heads of state of the member states, including our Prime Minister) can replace unanimous voting in the Council of the EU with qualified majority voting, for a specific area of law. You will note, though that we still have a veto over this, by simply objecting as a national government.

In September 2018 the Commission proposed invoking the passarelle for decisions on human rights, sanctions, and civilian Common Foreign and Security Policy missions. This would enable the EU to move faster when human rights violations around the world need addressing. At the moment, the EU can move with the speed of a sloth in these matters, and has been criticised for that (for example here) – the EU is the second largest economy in the world and should be taking a lead on certain things, especially when Trump-led America no longer cares about the rest of the world.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not, as part of the EU we can prevent this happening if that’s what the UK decides to do (incidentally, a Foreign Office report suggested that this proposal would not even have been made unless the UK was leaving the EU, and that it may not pass anyway). We can veto losing our veto. And even if this does pass, it is very limited and doesn’t remove the unanimous voting system for any other area.

The second nugget is that the text of an infographic from FullFact keeps being shared: “EU deal tries 2reassure non-euro countries like UK that they won’t be ganged up on by eurozone countries. There will be a system for non-euro countries to object to laws being passed that might harm them, but it WON’T actually give them a LEGAL OPT-OUT”. The capitals are not in the original text, and give a clue that someone has latched onto us not having an opt-out as being a Bad Thing. But we can’t generally opt out of laws we don’t like, this is not new. It seems to be being interpreted either as we are losing the veto, or will lose our opt-out of the euro. Neither is the case, of course.

2: All member nations will become states of the new federal nation of the EU by 2022 as clearly laid out in the Lisbon treaty with no exceptions or veto’s.

22: The UK loses its right to call itself a nation in its own right.

These are just lies. They aren’t even based on a tiny bit of truth, and the Lisbon Treaty says no such thing. There will be no federal nation of the EU in 2022.

It’s true that in the past there was a lot of talk about closer integration in the EU, but there is no appetite for it amongst the governments or citizens of Europe. There is an interesting article about this in the Irish Times.

Considering that this list is apparently a “worst-case scenario”, is it impossible that in the far future the EU might become a federation? No, it’s not impossible. Perhaps in 100 years we will have lost half our population to climate change, or be living lives of luxury because robots do all the work, or have been waging a war with Russia for 20 years – times change and it may be that the people of Europe want to become a federation in the future. But this will only happen if every single member state wants it to happen. I certainly don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

3: All member states must adopt the Euro by 2022 and any new member state must do so within 2 years of joining the EU as laid down in the Lisbon treaty.

Countries newly joining the EU must join the Euro eventually, when they meet the convergence criteria. Not by 2022, and not 2 years after joining, and nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty. The UK does not have to join the Euro, because we opted out when negotiating the Maastricht Treaty.

Edit 01 Feb 2019: in fact the Lisbon Treaty has an entire protocol on us not having to join the euro. Protocol 15, Article 1:

Unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt the euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so.

The idea that we have to join the euro might come from a widely-shared article in the Telegraph from 2014, which despite being an opinion piece stating that “at some point” the non-eurozone might have to disappear, carried the blatantly lying headline After 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro.

4: The London stock exchange will move to Frankfurt in 2020 and be integrated into the EU stock exchange resulting in a loss of 200,000 plus jobs in the UK because of the relocation. (This has already been pre-agreed and is only on a holding pattern due to the Brexit negotiations, which if Brexit does happen the move is fully cancelled but if not and the UK remains a member it’s full steam ahead for the move.)

There is no EU stock exchange, nor any plans for one. The London Stock Exchange is a company, not a body of the UK, and is owned by London Stock Exchange plc. The EU has no jurisdiction over moving UK companies around the place.

The nugget of truth here is that there was a plan to merge the German exchange Deutsch Boerse and the London Stock Exchange (remember these are companies, so it was a business deal, nothing to do with the EU). However, the deal came apart. First, after the referendum result, German politicians were demanding that the headquarters of the new exchange be in Frankfurt, because it would have been almost impossible for it to trade if it wasn’t in the EU. And then the deal wasn’t allowed by the EU Commission, for being anti-competitive. In other words, if the deal had gone though, it is Brexit, not staying in the EU, that would have caused the move to Frankfurt, quite the opposite of what this point claims.

And this has already started to happen. London Stock Exchange Group plc is moving part of its European bonds platform to Milan, to ensure that trading can continue after Brexit.

5: The EU Parliament and ECJ become supreme over all legislative bodies of the UK.

6: The UK will adopt 100% of whatever the EU Parliament and ECJ lays down without any means of abstention or veto, negating the need for the UK to have the Lords or even the Commons as we know it today.

16: The UK loses the ability to create its own laws and to implement them

This is the typical Leave fairytale (creatively turned into three separate points), that the faceless EU bureaucrats are claiming more and more power over us. But it has no basis in reality. The Treaties defining the EU state very clearly what the areas are in which the EU is able to legislate. Articles 4 and 5 of the Treaty of the European Union say that anything not specifically a competency of the EU remains with the member states. Articles 3 and 4 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union list what those competencies are. This cannot change unless the treaties are renegotiated. If we remain in the EU, we have the power to prevent any expansion of the EU’s power.

Obviously when EU law is agreed (which process includes our ministers and our MEPs) then the UK must adopt it. That’s the entire point of being in the EU, to harmonise and streamline law throughout the region, so that barriers to trade are minimised, to the benefit of all of us, and so that our working and living environments become better. In some areas of law there is no veto, which means that very occasionally we have to implement law we don’t like. But most of our law is still national, not EU.

7: The UK will NOT be able to make its own trade deals.

8: The UK will NOT be able to set its own trade tariffs.

9: The UK will NOT be able to set its own trade quotas.

Ok, so we all know there’s truth here. While in the EU, we hand over the negotiation of trade deals to the EU, and when trading with any countries with which the EU has a deal we have to abide by the tariffs or quotas in that deal. Of course, when trading with countries with which the EU has no deal, we can set our own tariffs and quotas.

The discussion of whether or not this is a good thing is way beyond the scope of this post, and is a point of genuine disagreement in the whole Brexit debate. What is, however, certain is that we get good deals inside the EU. The combined purchasing power of 28 countries carries considerably more weight than just that of the UK, and the EU has some excellent negotiators (which is more than we do).

10: The UK loses control of its fishing rights

Another contentious point. I don’t want to get into fishing policy here, but I will point out that some of the Leave arguments about fishing are nothing to do with the EU. It is not the EU’s fault that the UK grants nearly all its quota to large companies, some of them not even British; in fact it is contrary to the EU’s fisheries policy.

11: The UK loses control of its oil and gas rights

What, the EU is going to steal our oil and gas from our waters? I don’t think so. Unless of course Scotland leaves the UK and takes the oil with it.

12: The UK loses control of its borders and enters the Schengen region by 2022 as clearly laid down in the Lisbon treaty

Ah, the old cry of losing control over our borders. At least this point recognises the fact that we currently have full control over our borders, because we are not in the Schengen area. That is because the UK and Ireland negotiated an opt-out as part of the Treaty of Amsterdam, and we will never be required to join the Schengen area (unlike all other EU countries). You’ll be surprised, I’m sure, to hear that this is not in the Lisbon Treaty, nor is the date 2022 significant for any reason related to Schengen.

13: The UK loses control of its planning legislation
14: The UK loses control of its armed forces including its nuclear deterrent
15: The UK loses full control of its taxation policy
19: The UK loses control of its judicial system
20: The UK loses control of its international policy
21: The UK loses full control of its national policy
23: The UK loses control of its space exploration program
24: The UK loses control of its Aviation and Sea lane jurisdiction

All of these are areas that the EU has no jurisdiction over. The only way it could gain jurisdiction would be if we voted for that to happen – see the discussion of the veto at point 1. (What is national policy, anyway? The opposite of international policy, I suppose. I guess the writer was on a bit of a roll by this point.)

The writer would probably say, “ah, but this is worst-case scenario. These things could happen if we stayed in the EU”. Yes, they could, if we all wanted them. But many things could happen. If we leave the EU, we could end up the 51st state of the USA. We definitely will all end up poorer, with a worse international standing and worse trade deals.

17: The UK loses its standing in the Commonwealth

The EU has no power over our relationship with the Commonwealth. (However I think we can all agree that the UK has already lost plenty of standing in the whole world during this Brexit debacle.)

18: The UK loses control of any provinces or affiliated nations e.g.; Falklands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar etc

Seriously? The EU is going to steal the Falklands from us? What a blatantly jingoistic lie. A drop of reality though, is that Theresa May has agreed that Spain can have a veto on any future deals between the EU and Gibraltar. Basically by leaving the EU we give away most of the power we have over the EU that is provided by the strategically important location of Gibraltar. And possibly give away Gibraltar itself. After all, a territory that voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the EU may not want to remain part of the UK after Brexit.

25: The UK loses its rebate in 2020 as laid down in the Lisbon treaty

The rebate has to be renegotiated every budget period, and the current period ends in 2020. (It’s not in the Lisbon Treaty though.) It’s not guaranteed that we would get it again in the next period, but we have a veto over losing it. Maybe in the future we might negotiate it away in return for something good, but the other states can’t take it away from us unilaterally.

Of course, if we do get a deal with the EU and enter a transition period, we won’t be part of the next budget negotiation, and it is extremely unlikely that the other member states will give us the rebate. So if the transition extends into the next EU budgetary period, we’ll be paying full price. That’s fair enough though, why should we keep the rebate when we don’t want to be in the club any more?

26: The UK’s contribution to the EU is set to increase by an average of 1.2bn pa and by 2.3bn pa by 2020

This is true (though I haven’t verified the exact figures) but misleading. The amount we pay the EU isn’t the same year on year, because it’s dependent upon our gross national income and VAT receipts. A bit like tax. So if we have more money, we pay more money to the EU (and also have more for ourselves, of course). The Treasury provides estimates of our future payments to the EU in the yearly Budget, and the forecast is that our contributions would go up in the future (see page 14). However, if the forecasts are wrong and the country has less money, our contributions would actually go down. It’s all estimates.

If you’ve made it this far, well done. It’s exhausting explaining why blatant falsehoods cannot be true, but we have to do it. Share this post everywhere you see the List of Lies!

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