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Gross distortions about EU funding

There have been objections made to the claim made by the Leave campaign that “we send the EU £350 million a week”. Apparently, depending on how one makes the calculation, the net sum we actually send the European Union each week is £248m or even as little as £136m. So that’s all right then.

Even I, a Leave supporter, agree that the claim is deceptive and unjustified. We may send that amount to the EU but you have to allow that the EU sends some of it back. Gross is different from net.

But isn’t that the same lie told by every one of those thousands of compulsory European Union “gratitude” plaques?

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Project Part-Financed by the European Union
European Regional Development Fund
Which since Britain is a Net Contributor to the EU
Actually Means Financed by You

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33 comments to Gross distortions about EU funding

  • Sam Duncan

    £350m, £250m, or £130m, it’s still a truckload of money. Even at the lowest estimate, it’s about £2 per person per day. I stopped buying a newspaper when the price hit £1.80; I’m buggered if I’m buying a bureaucratic supranational dictatorship with the money I saved.

    But what angers me about the fuss the Remainers are kicking up about it is that they’re quite content to stand on the same stage and lie through their teeth about “sovereign nations” “working together” “in a spirit of co-operation”, as if the EU wasn’t an entity in itself, with legal personality, its laws taking precedence over those of its states, “the provisional government of Europe”, as Jean Monnet put it, with the “spirit of ever closer union” written into its founding treaty.

    They lied about the nature of this beast in 1975, and they’re lying now.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Even if Britain were to get all its money back, it would be a bad deal. In fact even countries that get more money back than they contribute, might end up getting a bad deal, because the money that a country gets back is not handed back to taxpayers in proportion to tax paid: it comes with strings attached and must be used as the EU dictates. This is pretty much the definition of corporatism. (As opposed to what Perry dH calls “corporatism” which would be the EU putting pressure on governments, corporations, and citizens to make efficient use of their capital: real corporatism prevents people from making efficient use of capital.)

  • Jim

    I keep offering to take control of people’s incomes for them, and arrange to spend their money, on them, but in ways that I approve of, but I’m not getting any takers. I might have to siphon of a few % for my own ‘expenses’ along the way, naturally…………….

  • Kevin B

    We send them £350 million a week. The fact that they deign to spend some of it on subsidising British farmers or Welsh Eistedfodds is neither here nor there.

    If we didn’t send anything to them, we could spend that money on what we liked. Or better yet, leave it in taxpayer’s pockets.

  • Natalie, and Kevin B and Jim, make good points. We lose control of a large sum that we send the EU each week. A fraction of that sum is spent by EU each week in Britain – on such things as the EU choose. Some is spent on propaganda for the EU and its policies. None of it comes back into our control to spend as we choose, except whatever is paid to British people as their salaries – and as we know, even that can come with an obligation to praise the EU.

    So I think it can be a very legit sum to describe as given to the EU. It is most certainly at least as legit as the claim in the notice Natalie shows.

  • rxc

    When I lived in France, we used to sail our boat around the NE of the EU, from Spain to Scotland. In Spain we used to come across these signs a lot, in the marinas that the EU built in small (and some not-so-small) Spanish ports. In the marinas the signs also talked about how they were helping the economy by promoting tourism. Unfortunately, these marinas were also locked, so that if you came up to them with your dinghy (there was NEVER any room for a cruising boat to tie up) to try to go ashore and spend money, you could not. You could tie up to the pier, but then you could not get out on to the street, and you could not get back, either, without a key or a combination.

    So much for promoting tourism. In contrast, in the UK and especially in Ireland, we used to pick up moorings all the time, for free, and then it was an easy dinghy ride to a public dock. Different culture.

  • As opposed to what Perry dH calls “corporatism” which would be the EU putting pressure on governments, corporations, and citizens to make efficient use of their capital: real corporatism prevents people from making efficient use of capital

    Corporatism means running a state (or even super-state) like it is a diversified corporation, treating private assets within its jurisdiction as not really private… and it is corporatism regardless of the specifics of what is or is not encouraged (or just flat out coerced). Fascism (economically speaking rather than all the racist malarkey etc.) is a kind of corporatism in that is nationalises control of the means of production whilst leaving nominal ownership in ‘private’ hands (i.e. you can ‘own’ something, just as long as you use ‘your’ property in a way the state finds convenient). This is why LVT supporters are actually a weird admixture of corporatist, feudalist and fascist.

  • JohnK

    The deal from the EU seems to be that we send them £10, and they give us £5 back, and tell us how to spend £3 of that. The other £2 we can spend exactly as we want. Sweet deal for someone.

  • Lee Moore

    I think the relevant figures for John K’s sum is that the gross contribution is about £350m a week, the rebate is about £100m a week, and the EU deigns to spend, at its sole discretion, about £125m a week. As Natalie says, we are supposed to be eternally grateful to the EU for the £125m a week. And various assembled scientists write panicked letters to the newspapers to say that if the £125m a week bounty from the EU is cut off, science in the UK will come screeching to a halt.

    The LEAVE exaggeration is that we never send £350m a week to the EU. We skim our £100m a week off the top and the EU never gets to see it. With the benefit of hindsight LEAVE would have been wiser to stick to £250m a week and not go for the biggest number they could think of, not least because there are only about 5 voters in the country for whom that extra £100m would tip them over the edge.

    I think LEAVE could usefully pivot and start mentioning the total amount shipped to the EU since 1973 (gross contributions net of rebate) which is some staggering sum like £300 – £400 billion – a non trivial proportion of the national debt.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the EU sends some of it back

    This is largely irrelevant if it’s not coming back to the same people.

    We already have a bunch of f*ckers ready to piss our hard earned cash up against the wall in their next vanity project, but at least you can vote them out of office.

  • Lee Moore

    This is largely irrelevant if it’s not coming back to the same people.

    Just so. The real analogy is with tax. Suppose you have income of £10,000 with a tax rate of 35%, and a special tax credit of 10%. Your gross gross tax bill is £3,500, but in fact you only have to pay £2,500, because of your special tax credit. And then the government decides to spend £1,250 on decorating the houses of say 5% of taxpayers (mostly farmers, and green energy spivs.) But not yours.

    The LEAVE people are claiming that your tax bill is £3,500. In fact it’s only £2,500.
    The REMAIN people are claiming it’s only £1,250, because of all the money that is spent by them, at their discretion, on people other than you, on things that you would never dream of spending it on yourself. But for which you are obliged to express grovelling thanks.

  • Regional

    Frank Whittle’s jet engine and penicillin were both developed without government patronage.

  • Cal

    The EU spends money only on its clients, like academics (and even then, only its pet academics).

    No money for you, white van mans.

  • bobby b

    This is the joy of huge government handling huge piles of money.

    It always seems to work this way. We, in our little far-off enclaves, send large piles of money off to our central government. They send some of it back. Sometimes they send back the same amount we sent in to them. At least, the accountings tell us this.

    But the whole point is to get this pile of money to pass through their hands and into their accounting systems. Once it’s lost into that hole, they begin to charge us for the service they’ve rendered to us of handling all of that money.

    Then, once they return some of that money, included in our “returned” totals is the charge for the amount they’ve siphoned off for performing their service to us.

    Say we send them $100, and then they send us back $100. Always – always – our returned $100 is short by the amount they’ve charged us for helping us handle our money. But they can publicly say they returned the entire amount, because – in their view – the missing portion is what we rightfully owe to them for services performed, and shouldn’t be counted as being left in their hands.

    It’s the “magic crumbs” concept from Bonfire of the Vanities. The more money that even very momentarily passes through their hands gives them them the power to spill some of it on their own floor.

  • bobby b

    As I read my comment of 1:14, it sounds vague. Let me give a concrete example.

    I was, some time ago, peripherally involved with an organization that was given a $475,000 grant from our federal government to strive towards some socially beneficial goals.

    At the time the grant was announced, a small portion of a small branch of one of our leviathan-departments of our fedgov was tasked with “administering” this grant, and with “oversight” throughout the life of the project. This entailed about twelve people in some D.C. office.

    It was estimated that these services would cost $62,000 of federal employee time. This amount came directly off the top of the grant, leaving a true grant of $413,000.

    Because of the “extremely complicated” nature of some of the legal issues involved, we were directed to use one specific attorney in D.C. to provide whatever legal services we might require throughout this project. In reality, the issues were simple. Legal services which we could have obtained locally for $25,000 (my estimate) were performed by this D.C. attorney for $53,000. It was widely known (but never discussed) that at least $15,000 would be donated by this D.C. attorney to the reelection campaign of our granting congressthing.

    This unneeded expenditure reduced our grant by another $28,000. There were other mandated requirements that further ate away at our money, but these were the main two.

    In the normal, publicly-announced accounting of such dealings, our federal government loudly proclaimed that they had returned $475,000 to our state in the form of a grant. In reality, they really only sent to us somewhat less than $385,000 of usable money. They kept the crumbs.

  • Regional

    bobby b,
    You get BMWs, Audis, Mercs, Porsches and the privilege of supporting a lot of supercilious wankers doing Clayton’s jobs, you ingrate.

  • Mr Ed

    Regional,

    I suspect that the lawyer hack in DC got the swanky car.

  • Regional

    Mister Ed surely you’re not suggesting that public officials are susceptible to inducements?

  • Mr Ed

    Regional,

    Not at all, those hard working lawyers earn their rewards, and it is truly reassuring to clients when their attorney has a Porsche.

  • The example given by bobby b (June 12, 2016 at 1:39 am) can be easily topped in the EU. Years ago I worked in a company that decided to take a 50% top-up from the EU for doing research the EU also wanted done. When this scheme was announced, companies flooded in – and flooded out a few years later when they had experienced that the EU _direct_ costs in meetings, oversight and etc. (the etc.. including on one occasion an actual, literal “pay in cash, no credit cards” shakedown from EU officialdom) exceeded the 50% – with the indirect costs of slowing and misdirecting the research over and above these. At least it sounds like bobby b’s group had some money left after all the shenanigans.

    I still see no reason to be defensive about the overall sum, unless it were explicitly misrepresented as net, not gross. If someone says the paid £X in tax last year, none proves me false by saying that some of that I saw spent on activities I do not object to and/or on things the government claimed were for my personal benefit.

    The £350m is money we could then decide how to spend. In theory, £100m or £125m of it would be spent in similar areas to the EU’s choices or in different. In practice, the savings of keeping it out of the reach of EU administrators with their prehensile hands means a significant;y lesser sum could maintain all the actual current benefits if we still wanted to.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually the 350 million Pounds a week is the CORRECT figure.

    The E.U. does not “give some of the money back” – it speeds some of the money in Britain on things it (the E.U.) likes, that is not the same thing at all.

    Natalie say I took 350 Pounds from you.

    Would it be a defence of my action for me to say……

    “But I spent 100 Pounds painting your front room lime green – so I only too 250 Pounds from you (not 350 Pounds).”

    What if you did not want your front room painted lime green?

    The push back against the 350 million Pound figure is wrong – because the figure is correct.

    Yes it is the “gross” figure not the “net” figure – but in this case it is the gross figure that matters.

  • Lee Moore

    There are two gross figures, though, PM. The club membership fee is £750 per annum, but there is 20% discount for over 65s. Never mind what they spend the money on, you only ever pay £600.

  • Greytop

    Even if the cost of ‘membership’ was only £1 per week, it would still be 100 pence too much for me.

  • Mr Ed

    240 pence too much for me!

  • Laird

    Lee Moore, your illustration is inapposite. In your “club fee” scenario, you get to keep the £150; but if it were run the same way as the EU you would still pay the full £750 but the club would then use £150 of it to paint your front room lime green. Not the same thing at all.

  • Kevin B

    And then they would say: “What do you mean, you don’t want a lime green front room. Our independant panel of experts advised our Front Room Colour Scheme committee that lime green was the ideal colour for your front room. And it’s insulting to suggest that the colour has anything to do with the fact that the committee chair’s brother owns a paint supply company that had a large batch of lime green paint he couldn’t get rid of.”

    “Oh by the way, your dues are going up. These independant panels of experts don’t come cheap. And nor do committees.”

  • bobby b

    Only hate-speech-spewing racists complain about lime green front rooms.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Perry: it is admirable that you obviously read many more comments than you reply to; i mean, it is admirable both that you read many comments, and that you refrain from replying. There is little for me to add to what i already wrote, just a few words.

    Corporatism means running a state (or even super-state) like it is a diversified corporation, treating private assets within its jurisdiction as not really private… and it is corporatism regardless of the specifics of what is or is not encouraged (or just flat out coerced).

    Agreed: no difference from what i wrote. Or are you using a motte bailey strategy?

    Fascism (economically speaking rather than all the racist malarkey etc.) is a kind of corporatism in that is nationalises control of the means of production whilst leaving nominal ownership in ‘private’ hands (i.e. you can ‘own’ something, just as long as you use ‘your’ property in a way the state finds convenient).

    Disagreed, though the points of disagreement are irrelevant here.

    This is why LVT supporters are actually a weird admixture of corporatist, feudalist and fascist.

    Disagreed 3 times: on the corporatism, fascism, and feudalism. This is just handwaving, and anyway the LVT is irrelevant here.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul Marks has made the point most forcefully. One caveat is that the EU does not just come and paint your room lime green: you have to apply for money to paint your room, and you get the money if you declare in the application that you intend to paint it lime green. Then, when the job is done, an EU inspector comes to check that the room is indeed lime green, and you are stuck with the travel expenses.

  • Mr Ed

    when the job is done, an EU inspector comes to check that the room is indeed lime green, and you are stuck with the travel expenses.

    And you get in the middle of your wall a little blue flag with yellow stars and a pompous declaration, just in case it looked nice without.

  • Lee Moore

    No, Laird you are mistaken. There’s two different points being confused.

    1. what does Britain actually pay in ?
    2. what is the net “cost” to Britain if you deduct the money the EU spends in Britain from the money that Britain pays in ?

    I quite understand that 2. – which includes what the EU spends painting your bedroom lime green, when you don’t want it painted at all, never mind lime green – is a silly question. I’m answering question 1. And the answer is that Britain doesn’t pay in more than the £600 – you DO get to keep the £150.
    The lime green bedroom stuff is about what happens to the £600 you actually send to the EU.

  • Rob Fisher

    I came here to say what Paul Marks already said.

  • Stuart

    But as Norman Lamont once said, taking money from the public and controlling how its spent is still a tax.