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Why the UK’s influence in Europe is larger than you think

I‘ve been looking at the UK’s contribution to the EU budget in a slightly non-standard way, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the UK has a lot more leverage than is often suggested, although that may rely on a credible threat to leave Europe. The rest of Europe would certainly not like to lose our net contribution of around 20% of all the disbursements to net beneficiaries. So let’s have a serious debate about what is needed to make Europe work, and engage constructively in fixing the EU.

So, what data have I been looking at? What set me thinking was the BBC’s data presentation in this article. This is a little out of date, but provides an interesting way to look at the UK’s net contribution.

If the figures in this table are correct (there are at least two obvious errors, which I’ve reverse-engineered/guessed) then for the years 2000-2010 the UK has been contributing an average of 12% of the proportion of the EU budget which is disbursed as net payments to individual countries. (I’ve pasted my re-arrangement of those figures at the end of this email). This year, the contribution will be £10.78 billion.

Looking at 2012, referring to Open Europe’s 2012 Budget document, I’m guessing the total of net receipts/net payouts from graph 3 at around 36Bn or 52Bn, depending on which side of the graph you add up (is the difference really the cost of running the EU itself!?!), making the UK contribution 29% or 20% of the net outflow! Whatever the actual figures, the EU will not be keen to lose that spending power!

This all goes to show that the UK is in a strong position to tell Europe what to do, provided there’s a real threat of it leaving the EU. If it left, other net contributors would need to increase contribution by 25%, or the net receivers would lose 20% of their subsidy. Neither seems politically attractive for your EU partners!

Those figures mean that a credible threat to leave the EU would certainly concentrate the minds of the rest of Europe. With such power, I argue that we in the UK  need to have a serious debate about how we’d like Europe to evolve, and how we’d like our relationship with the EU to be defined. Which I suppose gives more weight to Andrew Duff’s pamphlet!

Edit: I should make it clear I’m not arguing for leaving the EU. Rather, I’m agitating for more serious thinking in the UK about how we can push our partners towards a better EU, on the grounds that we have the real ability to make a significant difference.

 

[If anyone has better figures, I’d love to hear from you.]

Here are the rearranged figures from http://www.eu-oplysningen.dk/euo_en/spsv/all/79/ for your delectation:

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Belgium -323.2 -745.2 -517.7 -779.7 -536.1 -607.5 -709.9 -868.2 -720.6 -1663.9 -1466.4
Czech Republic 272.2 178 386.2 656.7 1178 1702.5 2079.3
Denmark 239.6 -223.1 -169.1 -220 -224.6 -265.3 -505.2 -604.4 -543.2 -969.5 -615.3
Germany -8232.4 -6971.5 -4954 -7605.4 -7140.4 -6064.3 -6325.2 -7379.2 -8774.3 -6357.5 -9223.6
Estonia 145 154.3 176.4 226.2 227.4 573 672.7
Greece 4380.6 4503.6 3375.7 3358.3 4163.3 3900.5 5102.3 5437.2 6279.7 3121 3597.4
Spain 5263.6 7661.2 8859.4 8704.9 8502.3 6017.8 3811.7 3615.8 2813.2 1181.8 4100.9
France -676.6 -2043.4 -2218.4 -1976.1 -3050.7 -2883.5 -3012.5 -2997.3 -3842.7 -5872.7 -5534.8
Ireland 1719.5 1198.3 1574.1 1559 1593.8 1136.6 1080.5 662.1 566.1 -47.5 803.9
Italy 1231.2 -2030.9 -2917.1 -849.8 -2946.9 -2199 -1731.8 -2013.5 -4101.4 -5058.5 -4534
Cyprus 63.5 90.3 102.4 -10.5 -17.7 -2.3 10.6
Latvia 197.7 263.9 255.5 488.8 407 501.5 674.2
Lithuania 369.3 476.4 585.3 793.2 842.6 1493.3 1358.4
Luxembourg -54.6 -140 -48.1 -57.2 -93.6 -86.8 -60.2 -139.8 -22.1 -100.2 -41.9
Hungary 193.4 590.1 1115 1605.9 1111.7 2719.4 2748.4
Malta 45 90 101 28.1 30 8.6 52.9
The Netherlands -1543.9 -2259.9 -2171.3 -1942.2 -2034.9 -2636.6 -2587.6 -2864.3 -2678.2 117.7 -1833.1
Austria -435.5 -542.4 -212.6 -330.9 -365.1 -277.9 -301.5 -563.2 -356.4 -402.1 -677
Poland 1438.3 1853.2 2997.6 5136.4 4441.7 6337.1 8427.5
Portugal 2128.2 1773.8 2682.7 3476.3 3124 2378 2291.7 2474.4 2695.1 2150.7 2622.6
Slovenia 109.7 101.5 142.8 88.6 113.8 241.9 424.1
Slovakia 169.2 270.9 323.2 617.8 725.6 542.1 1349.6
Finland 275.9 -153 -4.9 -26.7 -69.6 -84.8 -241 -171.6 -318.5 -544.2 -300.2
Sweden -1058.7 -982.9 -750.4 -945.6 -1059.8 -866.9 -856.6 -994.8 -1463.1 -85.6 -1211.4
United Kingdom -2913.7 955.4 -2528.4 -2364.9 -2864.9 -1529 -2140.2 -4155.3 -844.3 -1903.3 -5625.9
Bulgaria 335.1 669.6 624.2 895.5
Romania   595.8 1581 1692.5 1245.2
Check 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.4
Budget 15238.6 16092.3 16491.9 17098.5 20386.7 17501.5 18471.6 22762.1 23682.5 23007.3 31063.2
UK contribution 19% -6% 15% 14% 14% 9% 12% 18% 4% 8% 18%

Posted in Politics.


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