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26 April 2016

£350m p.w. Falsehood by the Leave Campaigns

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The Leave campaign's claim of £19 billion annually/£350m per week as the cost of being a member of the EU has been rebutted both officially and by commentators. Yet the Brexiteers persist in spreading this major falsehood that is intended to mislead electors.

The Leave campaign makes a great play about the “cost” of being a member of the European Union. Their claim of £19 billion annually/£350m per week as the cost has been rebutted both officially and by commentators. Yet they persist in spreading what they now know to be wrong. What might have been a statistical confusion originally has now turned into a major falsehood that is intended to mislead electors.

This `subscription fee’ to the club is just the cost of membership and does not take any account of the benefits of club membership. It is like saying the membership fee for a football club is nothing but cost and without taking account of the benefits of using the level playing fields, impartial referees, clubhouse and a set of rules that apply to everyone wherever you play.

The best answer – according to “In Fact” – is 26p per person per day/£17 million per day/£120 million per week /£6.2 billion per year for 2015. This takes into account: the UK’s rebate, payments from the EU to UK public bodies, private bodies and also a portion of our overseas aid budget that goes via the EU.

See a key Leave player try to justify the claim: The intent to mislead is dramatically illustrated in this clip of Dominic Cummings – Vote Leave campaign director – being cross-examined in Parliament by Andrew Tyrie MP (Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee) on 14th April. Link. The examination covers both the alleged amount and also the claim that it would all be spent on the NHS.

 What are the facts?

·        HM Treasury analysis – 13th April: the long-term economic impact of EU membership and the alternatives: The Treasury paper deals with this explicitly on p67 and cites the net cash paid to the European Commission as an average of £7.1 billion annually/£136 p.w. during the most recent 4-year period.


·        Letter from Chairman of UK Statistics Authority to Norman Lamb MP– 21 April 2016. This letter supports the Treasury analysis above and ends “Given the high level of public interest in this debate it is important that official statistics are used accurately, with important limitations or caveats clearly explained.” He asked the Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics to provide more detail and the key table is set out below.



·        In Facts: Why Britain Should Stay in the EU (

UK doesn’t send Brussels £55m a day

(Full story

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 07.04.2016

Myth: UK sends Brussels £55m a day

In Facts: This figure ignores the budget rebate Margaret Thatcher famously secured by brandishing her handbag. In addition, half of what we send to the EU gets sent back to Britain. The best figure for our net contribution is £17 million a day. If that sounds a lot, consider that it works out as 26 pence per person per day – half the price of a Mars bar.

What’s more, it is misleading to suggest that, if we quit, this sum would be available for building hospitals, or paying off the deficit. If we lost full access to the EU’s single market, which accounts for almost half our trade, the economy would be hit and the UK’s budget deficit could rise, not shrink. We would have less money to spend, not more.

A favourite eurosceptic myth is that Britain sends £350 million a week or £55 million a day to Brussels. Nigel FarageDaniel HannanPriti Patel and Vote Leave are just some of the people and organisations that have spouted these inaccurate figures.

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”. If you put £55 million a day into Google, its research is the top result. But, after InFacts pointed out errors in its calculation, Full Fact corrected their piece. (See extract below – and now reports the query from the UK Statistics Authority)

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. Per person, that’s 26p a day – or half the price of a Mars Bar.

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.

·        Full Fact: The UK pays more into the EU budget than it gets back. (Link)

(We're Full Fact, the independent factchecking charity)

In 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was £4.5 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was estimated at about £8.5 billion.

Each year the UK gets an instant discount on its contributions to the EU—the ‘rebate’—worth almost £5 billion last year. Without it the UK would have been liable for £18 billion in contributions. The UK doesn’t pay or "send to Brussels" this higher figure of £18 billion, or anything equivalent per week or per day. The rebate is applied straight away, so the UK never contributes this much.

© Graham Bishop

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