The true facts about the EU - A letter from St. Austell and Newquay Liberal Democrat Chairman Garth Shephard

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I find most of the 'facts' about the EU to be either informed speculation or not solely related to EU membership. So, I offer these facts which I believe to be both reliable and informative.

Does the EU write our laws?

Something around 60-80% of all UK legislation is derived from EU directives. But only 10-14% of those laws pass through Parliament (fullfact). The rest are regulations or standards which are considered non-controversial and are not subject to Parliamentary debate. Most of these regulations relate to trade and would need to be followed if we wanted to export our goods and services into Europe or with countries which have trading relations with the EU.

The laws we are most concerned about are NOT affected by EU legislation. They are not EU 'Competencies'. This means that apart from best practice guidelines and the impact of associated policies, the EU has no direct influence on:

* Employment and social policy

* Healthcare

* Education and training

* Personal and business taxation

* Housing and planning.

These areas are governed by home-grown legislation.

Is freedom of movement a bad thing?

Over two million UK citizens live or work in the EU according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The most popular country for ex-pat Brits is Spain and many UK residents within the EU are retired. Therefore, it is unlikely that they provide a net contribution to their hosts.

EU migrants in the UK are twice as likely to have a university qualification compared to UK citizens and contribute £2Bn pa to UK public finances(ucl).

The bottom line is that freedom of movement benefits UK citizens as much as EU migrants and that EU migrants provide a net benefit to the UK economy.

Does the EU cost us too much?

The UK is second to Germany as the largest EU economy and fifth in world terms (Statista, current prices).

Despite this, we feature only tenth as net per person contributors to the EU budget, paying less than a fifth of the highest contributor (moneygoround 2014). This is a hard fought deal which would be difficult to emulate!

Our net payment is £8.6Bn pa (fullfact), which sounds like a lot but if you put this in the context of a personal budget, it's equivalent to a subscription to Amazon Prime (less than half a percent of income). The UK GDP is £1,808Bn (statista 2015).

Interest payments made by the UK government in 2015 were £45.4Bn (UK government figures), or five times our net EU contribution.

How dependant are we on trade with the EU?

As a proportion of total exports, we currently export twice as much to the EU (44%) as the rest

of the EU (the other 27 states) export to us. If you include countries with which the EU has trade deals, those countries, together with the EU, account for 63% of total exports from the UK (fullfact).

Is the Court of Human Rights running our affairs?

The Court of Human Rights is NOT an EU institution. The UK was the first nation to join in 1950, which pre-dates our membership of the European Economic Community.

So, whatever the bitch is with the Court, it is nothing to do with the EU.

Is the European Commission a bloated bureaucracy?

The European Commission (EC) is the equivalent of the EU civil service. It employs around 33,000 people. It proposes and drafts new laws, and implements and enforces EU laws that have been passed. Local Government in England employs nearly one million people in administration. Central government employs a further 405,573 civil servants.

Is the EU 'undemocratic'?

Strategic decisions are taken collectively by the European Council, which consists of the elected leaders of the member states (including our Prime Minister). The European Parliament of elected members (MEPs) has the power to create, amend or block legislation from the European Commission. In simple terms, this is the equivalent of two legislative bodies (The Parliament and The Council) working together with a civil service (the European Commission). There is a further complication in the form of the Council of Ministers, acting like an advisory 'cabinet' appointed by the sovereign governments. This is analogous to the two houses of Congress in the USA and the President's unelected 'cabinet'. With the EU, it's all about sovereignty. Despite directly elected MEPs, EU member states retain separate sovereignty, so there can be no universal European representation and therefore only a flawed democracy.

Are we speeding towards a 'United States of Europe'?

Eight countries in the EU do not use the Euro. The recent UK renegotiation allowed us to stand aside from 'ever greater union'. So, we would no longer be subject to closer fiscal union or a federal structure. On 27th May 2016, Donald Tusk, the EU President of the European Council warned against the principle of a united states of Europe.

Why are the EU auditors not satisfied?

"The EU Budget has not been 'rejected' or 'refused' by the auditors - its payments have been consistently found subject to significant error for the past 18 years. This is hardly good news, but it isn't as serious as some headlines imply. Member States control 80% of EU funds with the remainder managed directly by the European Commission. This means that, by and large, member states themselves are responsible for detecting and correcting errors." (Quotes from fullfact). By comparison the UK Department of Work and Pensions accounts have not been signed off for 26 years because of unacceptably high levels of fraud and error.

What has the EU ever done for Cornwall?

The EU has provided and is planning to spend around £70M pa directly to Cornwall (Cornwall Council).

Notes

These figures have been researched by Garth Shephard on behalf of the LibDem St Austell and Newquay Constituency. They are taken from impartial sources.