• For years, I’ve regularly quoted figures on the costs and benefits of our membership of the European Union. Not my figures, but those of former EU Commissioners Verheugen and Mandelson.
Günther Verheugen, who was a Vice-President of the Commission and held the portfolio for industry and enterprise, estimated the total cost of regulation across the EU at 6% of GDP. This was some years ago, since when it can only have got worse, as the torrent of regulation continues. I’ve voted against a lot of it on the Unemployment Committee.
Meantime, Peter Mandelson estimated the trade benefits of membership (yes, there are some — though I keep meeting British companies who find it easier to export outside the EU) at 1.8% of GDP. And as I love to say, it may be forty-seven years since I got my Cambridge maths degree, but I can still work out that 6% comes to more than 1.8%. Quite a lot more.
Malcolm Harbour’s riposte is to point out that Verheugen spoke of all regulation in the EU: that is, Brussels rules plus national rules. And he ventures the hope that I will desist from using my numbers. See this video clip from the plenary.
I accept his point. So how much of the 6% comes from Brussels? There are all sorts of estimates of the percentage of our laws coming from Brux. Lee Rotherham in his book “The EU in a Nutshell” gives a good bibliography. Estimates range from as low as 9% to a high of 84%. One of the most quoted and respected figures is from the German Federal Department of Justice, looking at 1998-2006. They quote 80%.
But of course it’s a difficult thing to analyse. Do you just count laws? Or statutory instruments? How do you cope with some laws being two lines and some 200 pages?
Fortunately Open Europe comes to our aid. Their study shows that while around 50% of regulations come from Brussels, the EU represents 72% of the cumulative cost of regulation. Just to put it in perspective, that’s over £100 billion.
OK, Malcolm. I’m happy to apply that 72% factor to Verheugen’s estimate, and Brussels is still responsible for over 4% of UK regulatory costs — and as the EU acquires new competences, that figure can only increase. And that’s still more than double the trade benefits.
In addition to Malcolm’s Blue Card intervention (see the video clip), I had a second intervention from Andreas Schwab (EPP Germany). He asked if I’d seen the Stoiber Report, which (he said) reduced the burden of EU regulation by 25%. To be honest, I’d never heard of the Stoiber Report. But I’ve had my office go through it. It contains helpful advice (or perhaps wishful thinking) on how Member-States could reduce the cost impact of EU regulation, by integrating it more efficiently into their domestic regulatory structures. But so far as we can see, it offers nothing that actually represents a cut in the real burdens of EU regulation. So thanks, Andreas, but No Thanks. My point stands. And we’d be Better Off Out.