Brexit, fake news and fraud

The following is a letter submitted three weeks ago to the Royston Crow, but which they have declined to publish…

The claim that EU accounts have not been signed off in over 20 years (Peter Chilvers, postbag 22 February) is what is known colloquially as ‘fake news’. It is an example of the adage often attributed to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels that if you repeat a lie often enough people will come to believe it.

At its outset, the European Economic Community was managed by an opaque collective of civil servants appointed by member state governments. Today we have an assertive and confident European Parliament directly elected by the citizens of Europe, and the power balance between Parliament, Commission and Council has shifted markedly.

Over the years I can recall many arguments over EU accounts, and involvement of the union’s anti-fraud office OLAF. The fact is that the EU accounts have been fully audited every year since 2007, and before that they were signed-off provisionally, with unanswered questions over certain details. The Court of Auditors now points out that member states misuse over 4% of the money they receive from the EU budget.

Readers of Private Eye and other organs of investigative journalism will know that OLAF has a somewhat chequered history. Thanks to the increasing public accountability of EU institutions, and the efforts of civil society organisations that consistently hold the EU to the high standards it claims for itself, the situation has much improved. The current level of fraud is deemed acceptable by some. Personally, I object on principle to such a cynical calculus of criminality, but at the same time appreciate the practical challenges involved in tackling fraud.

Note that OLAF is investigating the misuse of public funds by a UKIP front known grandiloquently as the ‘Institute for Direct Democracy’. Other far-right groups in the European Parliament have been up to similar tricks, and the EU is determined to claw back the money one way or another.

Fiddling the books is a ubiquitous problem, even in the most open societies, and it takes place in both state bodies and private enterprise. This leads me once again to Brexit.

Information warfare is being used by state actors and financial interests to destabilise democracy. Brexit is described by its protagonists as a popular uprising against the elite, but look into its driving forces and it soon becomes apparent that Brexit is the brainchild of an amoral monied elite out to line its pockets. It is time we acknowledge Brexit as a facilitator of tax evasion and money laundering on a global scale.

We are being taken for a ride by those who would asset-strip this country and impoverish its people. If Brexit does happen, I am confident that before long England will rejoin Europe. The question is how much damage is done, and whether we allow the criminal masterminds behind this wretched enterprise to bleed the country dry.

Dr Francis Sedgemore

UPDATE 28 March 2018 – the above letter was published in the 22 March edition of the Royston Crow.