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Friday 14 September 2012

Freedom Association – It’s A Turkey

[Update at end of post]

Tim Congdon, chairman of The Freedom Association (TFA), is not a mere Doctor but a Professor. Thus elevated, he has dispensed his latest pearls of wisdom for the Better Off Out campaign, titled “The UK could be £150 billion a year better off out of the EU”, and eagle-eyed watchers will see the Achilles’ heel of this one straight away: it could, but then again, it could not.

And there is also the odd position of TFA, worshipping what it calls freedom, but not seeing it in the ability of EU citizens to work and own property in any member state, and for those with the sense to sign up to the Schengen area to travel without let or hindrance – check your UK passport for that one – across the borders of signatory countries. There is also a problem with Congdon’s cited supporting data.

The EU “is estimated to cost Britain £118 billion in regulation each year”. Ho yus. And where did this nugget of misinformation come from? Ah well. It was supplied by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), the same body that also asserted that the ECHR cost the UK over £42 billion, but made £25 billion of it up on the fly and provided no reliable citation for the rest.

But what of Congdon’s other figures, notably the costs to Norway and Switzerland of not being in the EU? Well, let’s look at Norway first. That cost of €340 per annum is correct, but for a country the size of the UK it would, as has been noted by J Clive Matthews, be around €2 billion, with no rebate or cash benefit, and with no say in the making of all those laws and directives it would still have to follow.

Norway and Switzerland both have to follow between 80 and 90% of those laws and directives, the only ones exempted being to do with the single currency, the CAP and CFP. And the UK gets out of the single currency ones already. We could get out of EU Fisheries Policy, but this would not magically re-stock our offshore waters with fish. We would still have to conserve stocks or risk running out.

Switzerland also pays significant sums to the EU over and above its £450 million annual contribution: it recently paid SFr1 billion to new member states and has also stumped up SFr257 million to EU cohesion funds. As at August 2010, around SFr580 million had been pledged to projects mainly in eastern European states. And the Swiss have bought large amounts of Euros to keep the exchange rate stable.

But all that The Prof is able to say is that “Over time the UK would make good the 10% output shortfall that can and must be blamed on EU membership”. Bzzzt! That 10% figure depends on taking the TPA’s dodgy dossiers as data. And the TFA does not tell the true cost of Swiss non-membership, nor of just how free of the EU Norway is not. Congdon’s proposition is full of holes.

But it will keep the Europhobic Kool-Aid drinkers happy, so that’s all right, then.

[UPDATE 15 September 0955 hours: to no surprise at all, Congdon's turkey has been turned - as usual, at zero additional cost - into today's Express lead story. "You Pay £6,000 A Year To Be In EU" thunders the headline on Alison Little's creative reinterpretation of reality.

What the Express also reveals is that Congdon is economics spokesman for UKIP, which is rapidly becoming the paper's favourite political party. Anyone still needing to know that this story contains a significant amount of total crap should see above]

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