Saturday, May 14, 2016

How much do we really pay the EU?

Britain pays a lot of money to the EU and it is totally legitimate for supporters of a "leave" vote to make that point.

It is not legitimate for them to do so in what the head of the UK's statistical service called a "potentially misleading" way - and he was putting it very politely.

The top line in the table below, shows the gross payment Britain WOULD have had to make to the EU were it not for Margaret Thatcher. It is a notional accounting figure and NOT an actual payment.

The rebate Maggie negotiated - and even after Tony Blair gave half of it away, it's still worth more than four billion pounds a year - is deducted BEFORE we pay anything. The second line, after the rebate, is the GROSS amount the UK actually pays to Europe before you consider what comes back.

The fourth line is the NET amount we pay, e.g. what Britain pays to Europe less what they pay back to us.

Depending on the exact context, the second, third and fourth lines on the table all represent real sums of money and it may be legitimate to use any one of these in debate depending on precisely what is said. Personally I consider the fourth line the best measure of the money we pay to the EU. That is a matter of opinion. But to say that the top line is not a fair representation of the cost of Britain's EU membership, and certainly does not represent money which would become available for the government to spend after a "Leave" vote, is not an opinion, it is a matter of fact.

The top line is a purely hypothetical figure, not an actual amount paid, and it is totally wrong to suggest that it represents the real cost of Britain's EU membership in any meaningful sense.

Anyone who repeats the suggestion that a sum like the top line of the table above, usually rounded to £350 million a week or £19 billion a year, (or £20 billion a year) would become available to spend on other things if Britain left the EU is either very badly informed themselves or is falling well short of the standard of truthfulness that British voters are entitled to expect. Either way they have shown that they cannot be relied on as a source of fair and accurate information and in my opinion nothing else they say about the EU should be taken on trust.

Some people on both sides in the EU debate have been repeating grossly misleading figures and I will come  back to this later this weekend.


Jim said...

The whole financial debate is one I would much rather have avoided. This is one of the reasons the Flexcit plan goes out of its way in the earlier stages to state how (at least in the short term) we can achieve an exit that is financially neutral. It even states we a willing to pay a little more, as the gains are worth the cost (though we have good reason to believe paying a little more will not actually be the case).

Both sides of the campaign using grossly missleading figures (vote leave and their £350 per year, and DC with his £4,300 per household if we leave) does not help the debate at all. It stalls it over silly squabbles, and leaves both sides lacking any sort of credibility, whilst the real debate on "who should govern the UK" goes un heard, and un discussed.

I would have used the term panem et circenses - "Bread and circuses" to describe the debate so far - but that would be grossly unfair to the clowns at the circus, as at least they are not too daft to laugh at.

Chris Whiteside said...

To me and to many people the financial debate is extremely important but sadly you are absolutely right to say that both sides keep repeating grossly misleading figures.