November 11, 2013
The European Union is most commonly discussed in terms of constitutional debates, treaty negotiations, vetoes and votes. Of course, it is absolutely right that the crucial issue of the democratic deficit is addressed, but there are other reasons to be concerned about our relationship with the EU. The vast cost of the EU is foremost among them.
As important as questions of sovereignty and freedom are, it would be wrong to discuss the EU without fully investigating the costs it imposes: costs to the taxpayer, the consumer and business. And by any estimate, those costs are massive.
In our book The Great European Rip-Off, my colleague David Craig and I estimated the total cost to Britain of the EU, once the harmful impacts of its numerous policies and regulations have been taken into account, to be £118 billion a year. That is equal to £1,968 for every man, woman and child – a life-changing amount of money for millions who are currently struggling to make ends meet.
So what is that cost made up of? Up front, we paid the EU £16,398 million of taxpayers’ money directly in 2008: £650 for every person, or £45 million a day. This goes into the central EU budget. Of course, that £16,398 million contribution is a gross figure and the EU are always quick to point out that we receive money back from Brussels in the form of grants.
In fact, in 2008 they were generous enough to hand £9,830 million of our own money back to us. Before accepting that this money should be deducted from any estimated cost of the EU, though, it is worth looking at exactly what those grants are for. You will occasionally see “Funded by the EU” badges stuck on works of public art, stiles, free school diaries or in other places, and the range of things the money is used for is remarkably broad.
On close investigation, the actual list of what those EU grants goes on throws up numerous dubious examples. Meals for industry representatives at swanky restaurants, thousands of promotional items like fridge magnets and key rings, £460,000-worth of media training for EU officials based in London, video podcasts about EU events, and even a project run by an actors’ union to combat discrimination against elderly female actors – all are counted as grants to Britain from the EU, which we are expected to be grateful for.
The direct contribution to the central EU budget is just the beginning, though. On top of the cost of funding an army of well-paid bureaucrats in Brussels, the British taxpayer also foots the bill for a cohort of public servants employed by our own Government to implement and oversee the EU’s rules and regulations. With the EU in control of business, trade, environment, agriculture, fisheries, migration and more, a sizeable portion of each Government department effectively works for Brussels.