Lies, damned lies, statistics, and spin


The latest opinion polls suggest that small business owners are evenly spilt on whether to vote for or against Brexit.

Deciding whether to trust either narrative has been extremely difficult, and there has been an interesting development during the EU referendum debate – the rise of fact checkers.

Many people say they are so tired of spin and skewed statistics that they no longer believe claims from either side. A number of media organisations and independent groups like 38 Degrees are now employing fact checkers to cut through the spin and give the public a clearer idea of the facts.

Spin over facts is a criticism which can be aimed at both sides right now. Boris Johnson continues to use the figure of £350m a week as the cost of EU membership to the UK. Yet, as the UK Statistics Authority has pointed out on a number of occasions, this is a GROSS figure before money which the UK receives back from the EU in rebate is deducted from it.

The chairman of the UKSA Sir Andrew Dilnot has spoken of his disappointment that the Brexit camaigners are continuing to use this figure – even on adverts on the side of their buses. He said its use misleads because its context is never presented, leading people to assume it’s a NET figure.

He said the £350m figure is “misleading and undermines trust in official statistics.”

On the Remain camaign side, Stuart Rose, chairman of Britain Stronger In Europe, refused to withdraw a claim that every UK household benefits from EU membership to the tune of £3.000 a year despite that figure’s debunking.

If you’re looking for an independent view, beware fact checking from media organisations which have decided to take a view on whether to leave or remain in the EU. Instead, look for independent sites.

Here are two authoritative fact-checking sites where you can go to avoid the spin:

Charity Full Fact gives you an unbiased view on a number of issues, and has checked many facts on the EU in the past few months. Read about them here.

The UK and EU was set up to give business people, journalists, politicians, and the public facts about out relationship with the EU. See its work here.

Maria Williams is a journalist, copywriter, and professional blogger. Visit





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