Brexit Fact-Check: The Economy, Immigration and The Irish Sea Border

On 1 January 2021, the day finally arrived!

Four and a half long years and two prime ministers later, the Brexit transition period finally ended.

The abundance of (mis)information that frequently surrounds significant political events such as Brexit often leads spectators confused and unenlightened.

This calls for one thing: a Brexit fact-check.

“We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead.”

The controversy arises here from the fact that the figure is a gross weekly amount awarded to the EU and does not account for the millions that flowed back into the UK through rebates and the money awarded to schemes in the UK such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Regional Development Fund.

In light of this, the UK Statistics Authority wrote to Boris Johnson over his repeated use of the number, calling it a “clear misuse of official statistics”. They stated that the real net figure is debatable because of the money returned to the UK from the EU but it is certainly much lower at around £234 million.

The Government has pledged to deliver a record £34 billion per year in additional funding for the NHS in the NHS Funding Act 2020. However, with such a large figure in mind it seems that the £350 million a week awarded to the EU would not have stopped the government spending more on the NHS.

In addition to this, the money we could have saved on EU membership fees has already been earmarked for the divorce bill which the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated to cost Britain around twice as much as the yearly EU membership fees with an additional 43 years of further payments which will take us to 2064. Therefore, it appears that it will be quite some time before we start making ‘savings’ from leaving the EU, that’s if we ever do.

“Take back control of our borders.”

Without running the risk of sounding like a certain former president, Boris Johnson made a pledge to cut immigration and deny entry for low-skilled foreign workers to the UK.

The Prime Minister’s claim that “the only way to take back control of immigration is to Vote Leave” is a bold statement, but how true is it?

Home Secretary Priti Patel has outlined an Australian style ‘Points-Based System’ meaning that people wishing to migrate to the UK will need to achieve a certain number of points in order to qualify for UK residence, such as minimum annual earnings of £25,600.

It is unknown how many people will actually qualify under this new system and therefore it is difficult to assess how true this statement is currently. However, there appears to be some truth behind it as a new points-based system should see a decrease in net migration to the UK, but perhaps only for low skilled workers.

“There is no Irish Sea border.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis headed to Twitter to release this stark statement which was met by a huge backlash and demands for further clarity and evidence.

The UK and the EU have agreed on the Northern Ireland Protocol which means Northern Ireland will stay in the EU single market for goods and will continue to enforce EU customs rules and regulations at its ports.

A hardening of the land border with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been prevented but a new “regulatory” border with the rest of the UK, complete with customs declarations, inspections and border control posts seems to refute Brandon Lewis’ statement of a complete eradication of the Irish Sea border.

With all of this in mind, one thing is for sure: the effects of Brexit will be felt for years to come and it may be a matter of time before we are able to see the extent of the truth behind some of the statements made in the process.  

Image: “Brexit” by (Mick Baker) rooster is licensed with CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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