During the EU referendum campaign much prominence was given to a claim by Vote Leave that our membership cost £350 million a week. It was a provocative claim as it was the gross figure and did not take account of the rebate. This was defended on the grounds that we did not have control over how the EU spent money in the UK and that the rebate was not something we could count on as of right. Yet the Remain campaign was duly provoked – and spent a lot of time declaring that the true sum was £250 million or £120 million a week. This was all rather cunning by Vote Leave’s, Dominic Cummings, as the voters reflected that whichever figure was true it seemed rather a lot of money and a lot of attention went on that. There is now also much focus on whether we will still pay into the EU coffers some sort of penalty fee on our departure.
What is harder to quantify – but certainly much higher than our membership sub – is the cost of EU regulations. Much of it is unnecessary or even perverse. Open Europe has estimated that the top 100 EU regulations alone cost £33.3 billion annually. Of course there are thousands more regulations – 19,000 more according to the House of Commons.
This morning the Daily Telegraph reports:
“Britain is preparing to scrap EU green energy targets which add more than £100 to the average energy bill as part of a bonfire of red tape after Brexit. The UK is currently committed to getting 15 per cent of all energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. Ministers have long been critical of the targets because they exclude nuclear power, carbon capture or gains from energy efficiency. The UK is currently on course to miss the target and incur millions of pounds in fines from the European Union. Government sources told The Daily Telegraph that the target, under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, is likely to be scrapped after Brexit.”
Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and former Environment Secretary, said:
“It’s distorting the whole energy market. It’s like the Sheriff of Nottingham – it transfers money from my poorest constituents to my wealthiest constituents who are putting up pointless wind turbines heavily subsidised. I would be very happy to see the back of it.”
The Daily Telegraph has been running a commendable campaign on the matter – its own estimate is that the total cost is £120 billion.
Let us consider the cost to the NHS of its energy bill. And then there is the cost of the Common Agricultural Policy to the NHS in terms of hospital food. Once we start to include the full picture, the claims made by the Brexiteers will prove not to have been exaggerated, but to have been decidedly modest.