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Sun raging about the EU simply does not fit the facts

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Re: Let’s sort this, once and for all (The Sun, 9th July 2012)

Let’s take it adjective by adjective….

Vast – well, yes, the EU has come a long way since it had six members. There is still a queue to join. The UK has always supported enlargement;

“Expensive?” The EU costs less than 1% of EU GDP and its budget is one-quarter of UK public spending, to cover the whole of the EU. The UK government estimates the benefits from the single market alone at £3 500 per household, i.e. 15 times the UK net budget contribution (which is similar to the French one and lower than Germany’s). Today, for example, the European Commission announces over £6bn of research and innovation funding of which each pound generates between 7 and 14 pounds in industrial added value. The UK typically gets 15% of that money and the European Commission is proposing increasing research and innovation’s share of EU budget for 2014-2020, while reducing agriculture’s;

“Undemocratic?” The EU only has the powers that Member States agree unanimously to share and policy decisions are taken by elected Ministers (with UK almost never outvoted) and MEPs, not by bureaucrats;

“Unaccountable?” “Brussels bureaucrats” are accountable to MEPs, Ministers and the EU Court of Auditors. The involvement of national parliaments has been increased by Lisbon Treaty;

“Corrupt?” There are isolated incidents of fraud as with all public spending, dealt with robustly.  Errors, the vast majority not fraudulent and mostly technicalities not compromising the effective use of the funding, affect 4% of EU budget, and occur nearly always at national rather than Brussels level. For example, recent errors in the UK led to the temporary suspension of some agricultural and regional funding. In the past seven years, there have been eight cases of suspected corruption by Commission staff: that is eight too many, but hardly shows endemic fraud;

“Bullying/Dictatorial/our MPs must bow the knee to the Commissars of Brussels?” Nonsense, Commissioners have executive power to act alone on competition issues but little else – so do US and all other competition authorities. And those decisions are challengeable in court. On other issues, Ministers and MEP decide. And Member States are free to introduce whatever scrutiny they like (before and after) of positions their governments will take in EU negotiations;

Perfect (not one the Sun uses, by the way) – no, and UK and European Commission thinking on improving the single market – which could boost UK GDP by 3% – and on better regulation is quite similar, as the PM has said in the House of Commons;

One more thing: the European Court of Human Rights is not an EU body and was founded at UK initiative in 1949, before the EU existed.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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