Thursday, 20 August 2009

How Much Of Our Law Comes From Brussels?

UKIP made a big fuss in the last Euro Election saying "75% of our laws now come directly from Brussels". Meanwhile the Labour Party often refer to only 9% of all UK Statuatory Instruments (or SIs) are based on EU laws. David Cameron has been known to say its 50%. Are are lawmakers so incompetent that they don't know, or is this just a political game to score points?

Euro sceptic think tank open europe say 72% of the cost of regulation in the UK is EU-derived.

Eutopia asks where did UKIP get their 75% claim from? Well there is a video on YouTube which shows it comes from Hans-Gert Pottering, EPP MEP and President of the European Parliament from January 2007 to June 2009:“If we were not that influential,” the subtitles show Pottering as saying, “then we would not be the legislator of 75% of all laws in Europe.”

It suits UKIP’s purpose to interpret this as literally meaning that, EU-wide, 75% of ALL laws stem from the EU, had they included more of Pottering’s speech the context – and therefore the meaning – would have become far more apparent. For what Pottering was actually saying was that the European Parliament (not the EU) legislates on 75% of laws *passed by the European Union*. Not passed by EU member states – just by the EU itself, at EU level. Because the European Parliament has little say in something like 20-25% of EU legislation (something the Lisbon Treaty would rectify, but that’s for another day). German speakers will also be able to confirm that the subtitles on UKIP’s video of Pottering are not 100% accurate.

So the 75% figure does not apply to the percentage of laws in individual member states that stem from the EU, but the percentage of laws that stem from the EU that the European Parliament has a say in. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish – and so the 75% figure can safely be dismissed as based on a (deliberate?) misunderstanding.

No one agrees on how much legislation and regulation stems from the EU. The 9.1% figure stated by the House of Commons Library is too low, as it only covers Statutory Instruments, not ALL laws; the higher figures of 84%, 75% and even 50% claimed by the likes of Hannan, Farrage and Cameron are based on miscalculations, misunderstandings, or sources unknown, and often derive from parts of the EU other than just the UK – and so with no hard evidence to support them must be dismissed as either too high or inapplicable to the British situation.

According to the Swedish parliament its 6.3%, Finnish parliament say 12% and the Lithuanian parliament say between 12 and 19 %. This would suggest that something in the region of 10-20% would be a fair guess for the UK as well (a range that has the added benefit of being backed up by the British Chambers of Commerce’s recent study of regulations).

BBC Radio 4 discusses this issue. About 2 minutes in to the program from Sunday 8pm.

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