Europe: a guide to the key claims

Published: 24th Apr 2015


The cost of membership

"Our EU membership fee is £55 million a day"—Nigel Farage, 26 March 2014

  •  In the calendar year 2014, we did pay over £53 million a day to the EU.
  • But that's a gross figure. A lot of it comes back. The net payment — once you strip out Britain's budget rebate and other transfers — amounted to £27 million a day last year.

See our full factcheck.


Laws and regulation

 "Two thirds of Britain's laws are either made or influenced by the European Union"—Daily Telegraph, 2 March 2015

  • Counting up individual pieces of legislation doesn't tell you how complex or important each one is (NHS restructure vs regulations on olive oil standards).
  • If you're doing it, the answer depends on what you count.
  • Counting UK-only legislation (Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments), the House of Commons Library estimates that about 13% have an EU influence (1993-2014).
  • But counting all laws that apply in the UK — which includes all EU regulations, whether or not they're relevant here — the proportion rises to above 60% (same period).
  • Some areas (e.g. trade, financial services) will have far more EU influence than others (e.g. defence, direct taxation).

See our full factcheck.


Europe and jobs

"The latest Treasury analysis shows that 3.3 million British jobs are connected to Britain's place in Europe"—Danny Alexander, 25 June 2014

  • This is now usually expressed as linked to trade with the EU.
  • Figures from the early 2000s suggest around 3 million jobs are linked to trade with the European Union; they don't say they are dependent on the UK being an EU member.
  • Recent estimates vary between 3.3 million or over 4 million using the same methods, all of which make certain assumptions.

See our full factcheck.


The Norway/Switzerland model

Norway is a member of the European Economic Area, along with Iceland and Liechtenstein. This extends the European single market—allowing for the free movement of goods, services, people and capital — to those non-EU countries. The relevant EU laws apply in those countries, but not things like the Common Agricultural Policy or the customs union.

Switzerland negotiates separate treaties with the EU, with a similar aim of taking part in the single market while staying out of full EU membership.

Switzerland, the three EEA countries and the EU all make up the European Free Trade Area.

"Switzerland and Norway have to pay into the European Union coffers"—Nick Clegg

  • Norway and Switzerland do pay money to the EU in return for access to the single market
  • Norway also contributes development grants
  • It's significantly less than EU member states pay up front (although of course some EU members are net beneficiaries from EU funds)

"Switzerland and Norway… have to obey all European Union laws"—Nick Clegg

Norway is in practice obliged to accept some EU policies and rules despite having no voting rights, according to a review for the Norwegian government in 2012.

  • Whenever new legislation relevant to the Internal Market is passed, Norway has to implement it under the EEA agreement.
  • Switzerland negotiates individual treaties for access to EU markets, but also has to align with EU law in return for that access.
  • The idea that either country has to "obey all EU laws" is an exaggeration, though.

See our full factcheck.


 The EU and trade

"The coalition government's dogma driven rush to sell off as much of the NHS as they can means that TTIP could well scupper any plans to take it back"—Unite Union

  • The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) might have implications for public services.
  • EU officials want to include wording designed to keep governments free to run services like the NHS.
  • We can't be sure whether or not this would be effective until it is challenged in an international tribunal.

See our full factcheck.


How many Brits want to leave the EU?

  • National polls questioning voting intentions in a hypothetical EU referendum rarely show if a majority of those asked want to leave the EU.
  • Recent polls from YouGov, Populus and Opinium show (to varying degrees) that more people wish to stay than leave.
  • The "stays" generally come out on top, but the UK is quite evenly divided on the question. However, polls occasionally produce narrow "Brexit" outcomes.
  • If we do have a referendum in 2017, there are consistently enough undecideds in the polls to determine the vote.


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