Total cost of EU membership not even half of the figures used in the Leave campaign, after accounting benefits received from Brussels and not properly gauging the exact benefits of Single Market for UK economy.
A favourite eurosceptic myth is that Britain sends £350 million a week or £55 million a day to Brussels. [...]
Until now, they have been able to hide behind Full Fact, the fact-checking website. It produced research in 2014 saying ‘it’s reasonable to describe £55 million as our ‘membership fee’, but it ignores the fact that we get money back as well”. [...]
In 2015, Britain actually sent £250 million a week to the EU. After accounting for the money the Brussels sent back to Britain and EU spending we include in our foreign aid target, the net cost was £120 million a week or £17 million a day.
This is a fraction of the benefits we have got from being part of the EU’s single market. And remember that if we wanted to leave the EU but stay in the single market, like Norway, we’d most likely still have to pay a membership fee. Norway’s net payment per person is about the same as ours.
The rebate never goes to Brussels
Last year our notional contribution to the EU was £17.8 billion (£340 million a week). But the UK gets a rebate, which is deducted from our payments. Margaret Thatcher fought hard for this rebate when she was prime minister. It is never sent to Brussels.
Our 2015 rebate was about £4.9 billion, so we actually sent Brussels £12.9 billion or just under £250 million a week. Funny how eurosceptics, for most of whom Thatcher is a hero, have forgotten one of her best known achievements.
The EU sends money back
But describing £250 million a week as the “cost” of being in the EU would be misleading. Last year the EU sent the British government £4.4 billion to spend in the UK, mainly on farming and regional aid. It also gives money directly to the private sector, in particular for research. In 2013, the last year for which the government has published figures, this amounted to £1.4 billion.
Moreover, we are committed to spend 0.7% of our national income on official aid for developing countries. When we calculate our total spending, we include our share of EU aid –£816 million in 2014.
If we left the EU and maintained our support for agriculture, the regions, science and developing countries, we would only save £6.3 billion – £120 million a week. And if we had to pay for privileged access to the EU market on the lines of Norway, we would save next to nothing.
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