Does Brussels influence 70% of UK law?

18 February 2014


"Viviane Reding, one of the EU Commissioners, was over in the week…and she's saying also that 70 per cent of our laws come from Brussels".

Janice Atkinson MEP, BBC Question Time, 13 February 2014.

"Seventy per cent of the laws in this country are co-decided with the European Parliament."

BBC News, 11 February 2014.

"She boasted about how 70 per cent of UK's laws are now made in Brussels",

Daily Mail, 11 February 2014.

Last week, European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding took part in a debate with British voters on future of Europe.

With May's elections for our representatives in the European Parliament looming closer, her comments caught a lot of attention in the press. In particular, a number of outlets quoted Ms Reding as saying that 70% of UK laws come from Brussels, while others said this was the proportion of UK laws co-decided - jointly decided on - by the European Parliament.

What Ms Reding said (82 mins in) was: "For what should they vote, they do not know. They for instance do not know that the most powerful parliament in Europe, is the European Parliament… Why? Because the European Parliament is co-decider with the member states on European laws. And European laws are integrated into national laws in the member states. So 70% of the laws in this country are made, co-decided, by the European Parliament".

We contacted Ms Reding's press office to find out what source she was basing this on. In fact, the percentage was actually referring to something entirely different — where the European Parliament (consisting of elected representatives for each EU country) has an equal say to the European Council (made up of the governments of all EU countries) on EU laws, not UK laws.

The remaining 30% is where EU laws are either decided solely by the Council, or with Parliament giving the Council consent to them being passed.

We know from previous factchecks that estimates of the percentage of UK laws coming from the EU vary significantly, from under 10% to around 50%. We've taken a look at why we can't really trust any of these figures for a conclusive interpretation of EU influence in our Spotlight on how much of our law the EU makes.

We've asked Ms Reding's press office to confirm if her comments were made by mistake. It is unfortunate that her comments led to widespread reporting of an incorrect figure when just a few sentences before the Vice-President talks of the importance of facts in the debate surrounding the role of the EU.

In the meantime, we'll be keeping an eye out to make sure this 70% figure does not get repeated.

Update 28 February 2014

Ms Reding's press office have told us that they thought her comments were interpreted wrongly.

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