Christopher Chope yesterday presented the European Union (Audit of Benefits and Costs of UK Membership) Bill. It stands next to no chance of coming into force.
Christopher Chope on how Gordon Brown exaggerates our economic relationship with the EU: "Only as recently as Wednesday, the Prime Minister was using that familiar refrain of justification for our position in the European Union, by saying that 60 per cent. of our trade is with the EU and that 3 million jobs depend on the EU. He told my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) that it would be “bad for Britain” to be out of Europe altogether.
However, the Prime Minister’s claim about trade is wrong. The Library note for this debate summarising national statistics data says that in 2007, 52 per cent. of the UK’s total trade in goods and services related to the European Union, which was lower than it was in 2006. The Prime Minister was therefore wrong in asserting that the figure was 60 per cent. He was also wrong in implying, as the Euro enthusiasts do so often, that, because perhaps 3 millions jobs depend on exports to the European Union, they would be in jeopardy were our relationship with the European Union to be different.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) made that point well in the debate on European affairs earlier this week, saying: “In fact, 6.4 million jobs in continental Europe depend on trade with the United Kingdom. Germany exports more goods and services to the UK than we do to it. Some 3.2 per cent. of German gross domestic product is exported to the United Kingdom.”
He then gave some other figures and concluded by saying: “Imports from the EU 27 to the UK have grown by an average of 13 per cent. over the past two years."
At the same time, our exports have been static or declining. Anybody who suggests that our having a different relationship with the European Union would put those 3 million jobs at risk will find that there is no evidence for that suggestion."
In a question to Mr Chope Philip Davies argues that the costs of EU regulation outweigh the benefits of the single market: "The European Commission has been very helpful in acknowledging that the cost of regulation is €600 billion and that the benefits of the single market are something in the region of €160 billion. On its own admission, the costs of regulation are about three times more than the benefits of the single market. Does my hon. Friend agree that whereas only about 10 per cent. of businesses in this country get any benefit from the single market, every single business faces the cost of all the regulations?"
Christopher Chope on the costs of the Common Agricultural Policy, particularly for the poor:
"I have not time to go into all of them, but let me remind Members of a
document produced in December 2005 by the Treasury, no less: “A Vision
for the Common Agricultural Policy”. It states that “economic analysis,
even on conservative assumptions, suggests the CAP will leave the EU
economy around €100 billion” — about £80 billion —“poorer over the
It adds that “the financial cost to ordinary citizens is much
greater—€100 billion each year according to OECD estimates…This is an
average cost to an EU family of four of… €950 a year” — over £750. The
cost, says the report, is shared by taxpayers and consumers.
The report also states—this, I think, is one of the most amazing
figures—that “the CAP has been estimated to be equivalent to a value
added tax on food of around 15 per cent”. Can we imagine what would
happen in the Chamber if the Government announced that they were going
to impose value added tax of 15 per cent. on food? I seem to remember
the present Prime Minister, when he was Chancellor, teasing us all in
one of his Budgets by saying that he was not going to impose VAT on
food; but we are already paying the equivalent of a 15 per cent. VAT
rate, at a time when food costs are spiralling out of control.
The annual costs of the common agricultural policy fall
disproportionately on the poorest in society. That policy alone
represents 40 per cent. of global market price support for agriculture,
and the Treasury document estimates that “global income could increase
by $290 billion by 2015 if trade-distorting policies… were eliminated.”
Mr Chope’s summary: "I have not had a
chance to go into other issues such as the costs of the common
fisheries policy—perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us about its
benefits—and the costs of the social chapter, which I am delighted we
Conservatives are committed to getting rid of our involvement in,
following the next general election. Nor have I been able to comment on
the defence that the Government try to put forward regarding European
Union membership and its benefits, but it is set out succinctly on the
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website and
makes no mention whatsoever of the CAP, the social chapter, the common
fisheries policy or anything else. Indeed, the European Union single
market is regarded as being something separate and apart from the
European economic area, when we know jolly well that the EEA includes
countries such as Norway and Iceland, which benefit just as much from
the single market as we would continue to do if were in that sort of
relationship with the European Union."