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Listen: Justin Webb takes Amber Rudd to task on Today over her ‘plague of frogs’ Brexit claims

24 March 2016

10:24 AM

24 March 2016

10:24 AM

Today Amber Rudd is doing her bit for the In campaign with a speech in which she will warn the nation that UK energy costs could ‘rocket’ by £500 million a year if Britain were to vote to leave the European Union. The Energy and Climate Change Secretary will also claim that leaving the EU would mean that President Putin could raise the price of Russian gas and in turn cause energy chaos for Britain.

To discuss the claims, Rudd — whose brother Roland is the treasurer of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign — appeared on the Today show with Justin Webb. Unfortunately for Rudd, Webb had done his research when it came to her claims. He proceeded to take her to task over  the speech which he pointed out had a ‘bit of a plague of frogs feeling to it’.

So, do Rudd’s claims stand up? Happily Webb was on hand to bust some of her Project Fear myths:

Claim 1 – Higher energy bills if we leave the EU

Rudd claims that the report says that Brexit would spell higher energy bills for Britain, whch could be an increase of over £500 million a year. However, having also read the report, Webb wasn’t so sure:

JW: What they said was it was actually uncertain the impact of Brexit on UK energy

AR: They absolutely did, and they said the cost of that uncertainty would have financial costs which would lead to potentially higher bills which they estimate would be 500 million

JW: Well they said ‘could’ actually. They didn’t say would, they said ‘could’

So, there is no definite evidence that costs would rise. In fact, the only certainty is that costs would rise if we remained in the EU…

Claim 2 – No positives to leaving the EU

Amber Rudd claims that when National Grid asked the independent consultant to come up with the positives of leaving they couldn’t come up with any at all. Happily, Webb was on hand to offer up one of his own — even if Rudd wasn’t so pleased with it. The BBC presenter pointed out that while it was not certain energy bills would rise by leaving the EU, it was certain that they would rise by remaining in:

JW: Well, one positive is that you say energy prices would stay low under the EU, the European Commission wants to raise energy prices. There’s no question about that is there, they’re perfectly open about it. So the idea that under one system, we leave energy prices go up and if we stay in, they don’t go up, that’s just false isn’t it?

AR: No, absolutely not. I mean the whole point is that the EU energy market is about trade liberalisation and competition and that’s how we bring prices down and we as the UK are leaders in that model and we’re able to influence it, it’s completely wrong to suggest the EU want higher prices. Nobody wants higher prices

JW: ‘Energy costs are to rise in all scenarios,’ that’s what the European Commission said in 2013

While Rudd insisted that this wasn’t the case as the rising energy bills are linked with the UK climate change act, Webb pointed out that we could choose to get rid of this if we left the EU:

JW: We could change our mind, you’re making an assumption about what we would do if we were out of the European Union which is effectively that we would stick with those rules

AR: No I think you’re making an assumption which is that if we came out of the EU, we would somehow repeal the climate change act

JW: Well we might

AR: Well, that’s a completely different argument

A different argument maybe, but still a persuasive one

Claim 3 – President Putin would raise the price of Russian gas and cause havoc

Rudd claims that if Britain leaves the EU, we will be in danger from Putin when it comes to our energy supply. She says that Britain’s membership of the EU helps protect our energy supply from Putin trying to restrict gas flows. However — as Webb pointed out — this is a bizarre argument given that Russia does not supply our gas and the majority of our gas comes from outside the EU:

JW: How much of our gas do we import from Russia?

AR: Very little of our gas we import from Russia at the moment, but what the report says and what I would agree with, in the internal energy market is how we keep prices down

JW: I don’t understand the link, we import most of our gas from Norway?

AR: About a third from Norway, a third from liquid natural gas, a third…

JW: …and a huge amount about to be supplied from America, that’s starting to export gas and some of its going to come here. So, why is Vladimir Putin suddenly a problem if we leave the EU?

AR: Because Russia exports a lot of gas to the rest of Europe, we access our gas through Europe

JW: Through Norway most of it

AR: Well Norway is in Europe…

JW: Well it’s outside the European Union

In short, regardless of whether of not we’re in the EU, Britain would have to source its own gas if Putin behaves badly. However, this doesn’t seem too difficult given that it already does and there is a lot of gas around.

Mr S suspects that the In campaign ought to reconsider their Project Fear approach fast if they wish to be taken seriously in the EU debate.

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