North West MEP and Labour In campaigner Afzal Khan has hit out at ‘misleading’ Vote Leave claims and UKIP’s ‘Little England’ mentality.
The 58-year-old, who was elected in 2014, believes that the public are being sold a lie over how much money Brexit could free up for public services.
Despite fact checkers slamming Vote Leave’s claim that the UK pays £350million to the European Union every week, the campaign group have continued to repeat the figure.
And Khan insists the British public gets good value from its EU membership.
“They’ve already been told to stop using these misleading figures, virtually 80 percent of that money is actually used by us,” he told MM.
“While for me and you these millions sound like a lot of money because we’re not going to see it, if you see it in the context of a country’s budget, it’s actually very small.
“Every week we’re spending over £3billion on health, over £1billion on education, over £1billion again on defence.
“So when you look at these things, and then considering 80 percent of that money we’re spending, then you realise how insignificant that money is.
“It’s not a big thing, they’re just playing with people’s minds, and that’s a sad thing.
“The future of our country is at stake, and they’re just playing games, they’re misleading, they’re lying.
“If we walked out, we’re going to be lumbered with all this mess, and who’s going to be worse off? It’s going to be me and you.”
— Afzal Khan MEP (@akhanmep) June 10, 2016
The UK Independence Party has been campaigning on a Eurosceptic ticket since 1993, with much of their policy surrounding the issue of immigration.
Khan, who moved to England from Pakistan as a child, believes UKIP’s rhetoric is out of touch with the modern world.
“UKIP know nothing else other than spitting out poisonous ideas,” he said.
“I have no time for a UKIP mentality, because I think that’s a Little England mentality, it just will not help us in the 21st century.
“But there are serious issues as well, those others with genuine concerns, they are usually linked to public services.
“They’re not necessarily concerned about immigration.
“They understand that immigration has enriched us culturally and financially, but many of their concerns are to do with public services.
“I’m a good example, I’m an asset, I’ve never claimed any benefits, I’ve been working here, I’ve worked hard here.”
The issue of how immigration impacts public services such as the NHS has dominated debate surrounding the EU referendum.
The Conservatives have promised to reduce immigration in the six years they’ve been in Government, but Khan believes the party has failed – and the blame has been shifted onto the EU.
FFEU’s Samia Hathroubi trained French imams on different European institutions & engaging more on European levels. pic.twitter.com/gxA4MN5b7w
— FFEU (@FFEUnyc) June 12, 2016
“They talk about bringing in tens of thousands [of people], the truth is the Tory party have been in power for so long, they’ve been saying all this – they’ve failed, that’s the truth,” he said.
“They could have done it with non-EU, but they haven’t, so that shows these are empty words.
“It’s not easy to control immigration in the 21st century – it’s much more complex, so we have to think about it in that same manner.
“And then what we need to do is stop these cuts, because of course public services are going to be worse off if we’re getting cuts left, right and centre.
“It’s no good blaming immigrants who are actually paying in more and helping, because if you do that you’ll end up with even less money for public services.
“There are studies done which have shown there would be £30billion more cuts – I don’t want to see any more cuts, I want to see more growth. And it’s only by working together that we can do that.”
Cuts to public spending have already had a significant impact on services, and Vote Leave has tugged at the electorate’s heartstrings by promising to save the NHS.
But Khan believes that the economy and public services would take an even bigger hit if we were to leave the EU and lose European workers.
“We have about two million EU [migrants] here, but we also have about two million Brits in the EU, so on a numbers game it will just cancel out,” he said.
“And in fact, we will be worse off, because lots of our pensioners will be coming back.
“Young people from the EU who we know are paying more than they take out – in the last eight years or so they have paid in £20billion – we will lose them.
“So having a society which is ageing, having such a large number of our ageing population which lives in Spain and other places coming back, you are going to make this equation even worse.
“You need to have a balance between young and old – the number of people working and the number of people receiving pensions – to keep things moving.”
— Vote Leave (@vote_leave) June 10, 2016
Although the majority of Labour’s leading figures have been fairly vocal in their support for Britain to remain in the EU, a number of MPs have come out in opposition.
Most recently, Dennis Skinner and John Mann have added their weight to the Brexit campaign, but Khan insists the Labour Movement as a whole sees the EU as crucial to protecting British workers.
“I am [surprised], but I think the truth is there is this battle of brain and emotions, and I think there are many who are looking at it emotionally,” he said.
“The Labour movement in a wider context are all pretty solid, and they can see that Britain being part of the EU helps to improve things for everybody.
“Almost all the major trade unions understand and have seen how important the EU is to make sure we don’t end up in a recession, and also for worker’s rights, protection and safety.
“The TUC have recently done their maths and looked at everything, and said that those who are working would be at least £38 worse off every week.
“So they can see from both a money point of view – the wage going down – and also job security, safety and rights would be at risk.”