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Wednesday 13 June 2012

Brussels And All Those Laws

Regulations and laws that are attributable to the EU are the source of some truly scary numbers: even Young Dave has not been immune to telling that half of our laws are made by the EU, or at least directly influenced by them. Other estimates have gone all the way up to a whopping 84%. But recent studies suggest that these figures are wildly exaggerated.

Three years ago, J Clive Matthews at Nosemonkey’s EUTopia noted that MEP and occasional Tory Dan, Dan the Oratory Man claimed the top spot with his 84% assertion. UKIP, on the other hand, was a paragon of modesty in comparison with a claim of just 75%. Young Dave suggested “almost half”, while the Commons library countered with an assertion that the actual figure was a mere 9.1%.

And, as Matthews pointed out, they couldn’t all be right. His own analysis, after observing that the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) were pitching a 20% estimate, and citing studies that found numbers of 6.3% in Sweden, 19% in Finland and between 12% and 19% in Lithuania, was that the figure for the UK was in the range of 10% to 20% (the latter matching the BCC).

This, though, did not satisfy the anti-EU part of the Fourth Estate, typified by the Maily Telegraph, where Martin Beckford claimed that the Commons library had been the source of the “Up to half” claim. In reinforcement of this, seemingly every Sunday there is another column of reinvention by Christopher Booker, where he attributes anything and everything in UK law to the EU.

So what of the latest study? This has been summarised on the LSE European Politics and Policy blog, with the post given the snappy title “Claims that 80 per cent of laws adopted in the EU Member States originate in Brussels actually tell us very little about the impact of EU policy-making”. The analysis comes from Annette-Elisabeth Toeller, a professor at the FernUniversitaet in Hagen, Germany.

She notes: “We looked first at studies on Germany, the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands and Denmark. Others on France, Austria and Finland followed. The striking finding is that most of these studies showed rather low shares of Europeanized national legislation: 15.5 per cent for the UK, 14 per cent for Denmark, 10.6 per cent for Austria, between 3 and 27 per cent for France, between 1 and 24 per cent for Finland, yet39.1 per cent for Germany”.

This ties in with earlier conclusions from J Clive Matthews. However, Prof. Toeller cautions that “looking at overall numbers on all policy fields makes little sense”, and that EU-wide policy need not come via legislation. She concludes “Actual numbers presented in this sort of research should be handled with great care”.

So expect much spin and misrepresentation in response. No change there, then.

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