EU referendum—1: The money the UK pays the EU
On BBC1 television’s panel game, Question time, last Thursday, 26 february 2016, Mr Giles Fraser, a man of God [*1], said:
We pay 50 million a day to the EU. We get some of it back, of course when they let us, and in the way they want…
It is not for me to comment on the relationship Mr Fraser has with his Lord and Master, but presumably he/she/it (the Lord) has a view on bearing false witness [*2].
Fraser is not, of course, remotely the only person who repeats this part-truth. It’s just that, whereas you expect politicians to be deceitful, one hopes that vicars might have more respect for one. But, apparently not.
The UK does not pay £50 million a day to the EU [*3].
The UK has a rebate, negotiated by Thatcher, which means that the UK pays around £35 million a day to the EU (this was mostly granted on the basis of the UK’s inability to benefit much from the then EU common agriculture policy). It is not the case that the UK pays £50 million and, at some point in the future, we get £15 million back. The rebate is deducted at source. £50 million is never deducted daily from the UK’s bank account.
Further, the UK gets some of this contribution back as well (a subject to which I shall return). Taking that into account, the UK’s net contribution is £23 million a day (less than half claimed).
Such a basic failure to grasp extremely simple numbers does not bode well for the credibility of those who want to convince us of their economic (and arithmetic) credentials.
Whether the UK gets value for money for that £23 million a day is a subject to which I shall also return. (However, it ought to be bleedin’ obvious that, if you rank all the EU member countries in order of wealth, the UK is well into the top half. It is inevitable then that the UK should be a net contributor. If you believe in the EU, that is all well and proper.)
It does not help the UK population when commentators put forward by the BBC as worth listening to, and whom one would expect to understand the subject before pontificating on it, either
- don’t have the facts to hand about the subject, or
- don’t understand the subject, or
- do understand the subject but are acting on headquarters’ orders to state a certain line, or
- do understand the subject, but are pursuing their own private agendas
The subsequent conversation on Question time spiralled off into this fantasy world:
David Dimbleby [the moderator]: “Let’s hit this thing on the head of 50 million. The National Audit Office figure is 15 million net of what is given back. This quote of 50 million, it is easy on the ear, but it’s not accurate, is it?”
Giles Fraser: “We are down 11 billion a year for being in Europe… So we give it out and we get some back, which is what I said to start with.”
Elizabeth Truss [a pro-EU Conservative politician]: “It’s 7 billion, Giles.” [*3]
Fraser’s £11 billion a year, presumably relates to £35 million a day (ie post Thatcher rebate) × 365 = £12.8 billion; that is, he is ignoring the money we receive back from the EU to support various parts of our economy. Where Miss Truss’s “£7 billion” comes from is currently a mystery. Surely, it is inconceivable she would just make up a figure and throw it in.
The bottom line
- The UK does not pay £50 million a day to the EU.
- Politicians who state that the UK pays £50 million a day to the EU are, at best, wrong but, most likely, just lying.
- The UK’s net contribution to the EU is £23 million a day.
I am an agnostic on the subject of remaining in the EU. These blogs are, in part, to help me work out the balance of pros and cons, but also to help others do this, too.
[*1] Giles Fraser is a priest of the Church of England, a journalist and broadcaster, previously canon chancellor of St Paul’s cathedral until his resignation in october 2011, as a consequence of his disagreement over the cathedral’s approach to evicting the Occupy movement, which had set up camp on its doorsteps. He is, by any standards, a bit of a ‘media tart’ (like me).
[*2] Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour is the ninth of the ten commandments. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour (Wikipedia)
[*3] The UK’s EU membership fee (Full fact team, 25 february 2016)
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© 2016 Jeremy Marchant . last edited 2 may 2016 . image: Free images