20 Oct 2015

Putting the Europhiles in their place by using facts

What I find most frustrating about the respective EU referendum Leave campaigns is that they have an open goal to attack in the shape of the 'Britain Stronger in Europe' (BSE) operation, yet they are not even trying to shoot.

BSE are so utterly devoid of compelling arguments for Britain to remain in the EU they are left repeating false, discredited claims that are easily countered with facts. An example of this came this evening in the shape of a brief Twitter exchange with Lucy Thomas, the deputy director of BSE who yet again cited the lie that Norway has to follow all the rules set down by the EU with 'no say over them':

I was able to challenge her with some facts that she cannot counter. As such she has retreated until a time when she can try her ridiculous claims on someone else.This shows the importance of being informed and having access to details that I can draw on in such encounters.

Laws: EEA Acquis vs EEA Acquis

Richard North painstakingly established the information about the number of laws applicable to non-EU members of the single market, such as Norway, from a large number of sources as the information isn't collated in one place for comparative purposes. He found that over 20,800 legislative acts that apply to EU member states are in force. However Norway and the other EFTA members do not have to follow all the laws. In fact they are subject to around 5,500.

As for having no say over the rules, Norway and the other EFTA countries actually get two bites of the cherry. As non-EU countries they represent themselves on the world stage and have membership of the bodies where rules are developed and decided, before being handed down to the EU to implement. EU member states are not allowed to represent themselves, the EU does it for them and presents a diluted, compromise EU-wide position. So Norway has more than just a say, it gets to shape the rules from the outset.

But then as members of the EEA (single market) the EU consults Norway and the other EFTA countries on the measures to be implemented, giving them an opportunity to influence the shape of implementation. This demonstrates that Lucy Thomas' claim is moonshine.

Single Market Costs

If you've ever read Lucy's ramblings elsewhere you may be asking where the figure of £8 million for the cost to Norway of single market access comes from. After all, Lucy and her Europhile friends keep claiming the cost to Norway of single market access is huge.

In short, the cost is a contribution to the functioning of the single market and it is paid centrally by EFTA. In 2014 the annual budgeted figure EFTA paid towards single market costs was 22,360,000 Swiss Francs (about £16 million), of which 55 percent was borne by Norway - which at the exchange rate means around £8.4 million. http://www.efta.int/about-efta/efta-budget

The claim the Europhiles usually make is something along the lines of 'Norway pays two-thirds as much per head for access to the Single Market as the UK pays as a full member of the European Union'. It simply isn't true.

Massaging the figures

What the Europhiles have done is include voluntary payments called "Norway Grants", made by Norway to eastern enlargement countries to help with their post-Communist economic rehabilitation. In the six year period 2009-14, these voluntary grants amounted to €804 million and have nothing to do with the single market. That money does not go to the EU. http://www.eu-norway.org/eu/Financial-contribution/#.Vial9StBl-9

They have also included money paid to the EEA grants system, which again does not go to the EU, but rather the independent Financial Mechanism Committee, again not connected to single market, which when added to the Norway grants meant a total contribution of around €1.7 billion. Additionally they have added in Norwegian voluntary contributions to various EU and inter-regional programmes, such as Erasmus+. Horizon 2020 and Copernicus, which again are nothing to do with the costs of the single market.


We can defeat BSE and their cynical spin merchants just by using the facts. It would be nice if Leave.EU started doing this instead of churning out dodgy claims of their own just to attract attention, but we seem a long way from that level of competence. They are throwing red meat to the people who are already on our side. They are doing nothing to win over undecided voters who will want powerful reasons to vote to leave.

As for the Vote Leave campaign, there's no point hoping for anything from them. They are only interested in using the referendum as leverage to achieve the reform agenda they have long pushed for as Business for Britain. They pointedly refuse to state they will campaign to leave the EU no matter what. Vote Leave's co-owner, Matthew €lliott, is on record as saying:
'If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in.'
(Source: Evening Standard
And Vote Leave poster boy, Daniel Hannan, has said in recent days that 'Nothing would make me happier than for the PM to come back from Brussels with a deal that we could support,' and 'The only way to inspire them to greater radicalism is to start campaigning to leave. If the polls swing far enough our way, and a David-Owen-type deal follows, Brexit will become unnecessary.' Vote Leave is no more a fifth column pretending to want to leave in order to service their reform agenda.