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Saturday 16 July 2011

Decoding Another Late EU Frightener

Today is, as with every other day, EU knocking day at the increasingly downmarket Daily Express. And its latest attempt to frighten its dwindling readership has, in turn, been cribbed from the previous day’s Daily Mail. The Mail’s story was itself over two weeks behind the curve, and thus a very clear hint that, where the EU is concerned, it is not about timely reporting of news, but a steady drip of knocking copy.

The allegation is that the EU is somehow going to impose a VAT increase on the UK Government, although it cannot actually do so. The Express says the EU is “angling” for a one per cent increase, which would raise another three billion pounds. But then readers are told that a proposed increase in EU budget contributions would mean another £1.4 billion. At first this seems not to make sense.

But going back to the Mail article gives a clue, although you have to plough through a lot of pejorative ranting to get there: the UK’s budget rebate is reckoned to be worth around £3 billion, and giving that up would effectively increase contributions by that amount. But we aren’t about to give it up, and no proposal has been made to raise the UK’s contribution by the amount of the rebate.

And what of the assertion, made by both Mail and Express, that part of the UK’s VAT receipts go directly to the EU? Fortunately, the House of Commons library has the answer HERE (.pdf): “the UK’s contribution is calculated as if the Budget were entirely financed by VAT”. In other words, the link is purely nominal.

What of the assertion, only in the Mail piece, that we pay “twice as much to the EU budget as France, and one and a half times as much as Germany”. Again, the HoC library paper (Page 9) gives us the facts: our net contribution for 2009 was less than half that of Germany, and around 60% that of France. Our net contribution per head was 63 Euro, versus 100 for France and 107 for Germany.

PolitiFact might give that one a Pants On Fire rating.

And what of the UK media being late again? The proposal for an EU-wide sales tax was made on June 29 and reported the following day. What was also reported was that “some Commission officials concede that their radical plan will never be adopted as both Britain and Sweden oppose [it]”. The idea was part of the discussions surrounding the next seven years’ budget, and no more.

So the Express has reheated a Mail story that is based on false assumptions, false statements, and false figures. But at least this is a consistent approach, so that’s all right, then.

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