He is particularly strong in one-minute-maximum sound-bites, a skill he has mastered partly because of the way that the European Parliament operates ( MEPs cannot speak for long ), but also partly (I suspect) because intra-party debates in the UK Independence Party tend to use the one-minute-maximum rule. ( a tough discipline, as I found out myself in the 2010 UKIP leadership election.).
But the question ‘ how much does the European Union cost the UK on a daily basis ? ‘ will be critical in the next few weeks, ahead of the European elections on 22nd May.
In his confrontation with Clegg, Nigel said that the cost was £55 million a day. By this he must have meant the direct fiscal cost (meaning the cost falling on UK taxpayers, because of the taxes paid to the UK government which are then remitted to EU institutions, not the full cost including the indirect costs of regulation, protectionism and various insults.
I argue that the £55-million-a-day figure is about right, if we mean ‘ the money sent by the UK government to the EU and over which we have no further control, but minus the rebate ‘.
If we also deduct the money sent back to the UK to help farmers and the poorest regions, we get a lower figure. But – bluntly – much of the money sent back to the UK for the farmers and poorest regions is very badly spent, and of little or no benefit to the average UK taxpayer.
When we add in all the indirect costs of membership i.e., the cost of regulations, protectionism, ‘ displaced’ jobs because of uncontrolled immigration from the rest of the EU, the wastes of fish discards, fines from the European Court of Justice, etc., the daily figure is much more shocking.
In my 2013 study How much does the European Union cost Britain?, I proposed a figure per year of £165 billion. That will have risen again in 2014. On that basis the UK is now about £500 million per day worse-off because it is in the EU rather than outside it.
I should warn you that the attached note is quite tough-going, not least because the main official sources are opaque, confusing and apparently inconsistent.
This is not my fault ! I enter a plea for a plain and clear statement from the Office for National Statistics, not the government, on the subject of ‘ the direct fiscal cost of EU membership ‘.
I trust the ONS, more or less. But I don’t really trust the government, not even the Civil Service, as senior civil servants tend to become too chummy with top politicians and so are liable to be ‘ economical with the truth ‘.
Professor Tim Congdon CBE
Chairman, The Freedom Association