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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

What percentage of laws come from the EU?

Last week on the BBC’s Question Time, eurosceptic Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan mentioned 84%; UKIP leader Nigel Farrage said it was 75%, the figure most often mentioned by anti-EU types (such as French National Front leader Jean Marie Le Pen or the Libertas Party) is that 80% of our laws come from the EU, while in a speech elsewhere last week, Conservative leader David Cameron said that “Almost half of all the regulations affecting our businesses come from the EU”.

These figures (or, at least, figures in this rough ballpark) are widely accepted, with everyone from universities to charities seeming to accept them at face value.

But are any of them actually true? And which is it? 84%? 80%? 75%? 50%? Or some other figure? Because they can’t ALL be right.

Daniel Hannan: 84% of all laws come from the EU

Let’s take the biggest figure first. If 84% sounds ridiculously high, that’s because it is. Even eurosceptic thinktank Open Europe have dismissed this claim as unrealistic – explaining in detail where the calculation originated.

In short, it comes from a reply by the Parliamentary Undersecretary of the German Parliament, Alfred Hartenbach, given on 29 April 2005 – relating specifically (and exclusively) to Germany, where he stated that from 1998 until 2004, 18,187 EU regulations and 750 EU directives were adopted in Germany. During the same period the German Parliament passed in total 1,195 laws (as well as 3,055 “Rechtsverordnungen” – which are like Primary and Secondary legislation). This was seized on by former German President Roman Herzog and Luder Gurken of the Centrum für Europäische Politik, who used these figures to work out 84% of all German laws originate in Brussels. As Open Europe explains:

750 (directives) + 18,187 (regulations) = 18,917 EU legislative acts
1,195 (Gesetze) + 3,055 (Verordnungen) – 750 (directives) = 3,500 German legislative acts
= 84%.

The 750 directives were substracted as they require seperate implementing laws in Germany (assuming a directive/implementing law ratio of 1:1).

Open Europe goes on to explain why this figure is, at best, misleading. And remember, Open Europe is a eurosceptic thinktank:

to conclude that 4 out 5 laws originate in Brussels is probably a step too far. Germany, for instance, is a federal system, meaning that the individual Lander has substantial powers to legislate autonomously. The many laws adopted on the Lander-level would have to be included in any all laws count, which isn’t the case here. In addition, this count says nothing about the nature of the laws.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the EU’s powers are mainly regulatory, as opposed to budgetary. This means that most issues that relate to spending and taxation (health bills, crime bills, educational reform, pensions, welfare, etc) – the “wallet” issues if you will – are mostly beyond the realm of the EU, but must also be included in any count that includes all laws.

So, the 84% figure is based on a calculation about German laws (and is therefore not directly transferable to Britain, as Hannan and others would like us to believe), and that calculation in any case left out a huge chunk of German legislation, rendering the final figure utterly obsolete.

So the 84% figure can safely be discounted.

UKIP: 75% of all laws come from the EU

Next up, the second highest figure. Where did UKIP get their 75% claim from? Well, handily they provide a video on YouTube which shows it comes from Hans-Gert Pottering, EPP MEP and President of the European Parliament from January 2007 to June 2009:

“If we were not that influential,” the subtitles show Pottering as saying, “then we would not be the legislator of 75% of all laws in Europe.”

But where it suits UKIP’s purpose to interpret this as literally meaning that, EU-wide, 75% of ALL laws stem from the EU, had they included more of Pottering’s speech the context – and therefore the meaning – would have become far more apparent. For what Pottering was actually saying was that the European Parliament (not the EU) legislates on 75% of laws *passed by the European Union*. Not passed by EU member states – just by the EU itself, at EU level. Because the European Parliament has little say in something like 20-25% of EU legislation (something the Lisbon Treaty would rectify, but that’s for another day). German speakers will also be able to confirm that the subtitles on UKIP’s video of Pottering are not 100% accurate.

So the 75% figure does not apply to the percentage of laws in individual member states that stem from the EU, but the percentage of laws that stem from the EU that the European Parliament has a say in. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish – and so the 75% figure can safely be dismissed as based on a (deliberate?) misunderstanding.

David Cameron: “Almost half”

It is worth noting again here that Cameron says “almost half of all regulations affecting our businesses come from the EU”. Some laws may be regulations, but not all regulations are laws, so we need to tread a little more carefully here. Where did Cameron get his figure from? I genuinely have no idea. I can’t track down an original source for it anywhere – though it is a claim made on the website of the Institute of Directors – albeit with the qualification that “estimates vary”, something Cameron neglected to mention.

But what is the real figure? How much say does the EU have in business regulations? Well, handily enough, last month the British Chambers of Commerce produced a report (PDF) investigating precisely this issue, “Worlds Apart: The British and EU Regulatory Systems” – their seventh annual report into the subject, and the fifth comparing the British and EU systems. Their conclusion?

In terms of the number of regulations, the EU this year accounted for only 20%. The reduction from the previous EU level of about 30% is the primary reason for the overall decline in 2007/8.

Hmmm… Only 20%, you say? And the proportion of EU regulations is declining, you say? So where did Cameron get his “almost half” from?

The House of Commons Library’s 9.1% claim

Also on Question Time last week was Europe Minister Caroline Flint, who trotted out the usual defence against the above eurosceptic claims about the EU’s influence that just 9.1% of UK laws stem from the EU. the report in question can be found as a PDF in the depths of the UK Parliament site.

The study was conducted by the (politically independent) House of Commons Library between 1998 and 2005, based on the statutory instruments passed with references to European legislation, because “The vast majority of EC legislation is enacted by statutory instruments under section 2 (2) of the European Communities Act.” It also helpfully breaks these laws down by department – the most affected of which are Defra – which deals with the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies, so no surprises there – and the Department of Trade and Industry – hardly surprising with the Common Market and all. Both departments saw about 50% of their legislation having some kind of EU origin – which could, via the DTI, be where Cameron got his “almost half” figure from, perhaps?

But is the 9.1% figure accurate? Is just looking at statutory instruments fair, when this means that normal legislation, via parliament itself, can be left out? Open Europe (in the same post where they discussed and dismissed the 84% claim) make four key points:

1) They do not seperate between budgetary and regulatory legislation, therefore comparing apples and oranges.
2) They also compare apples and oranges in another respect: Directives are usually far-reaching measures with a big impact on the economy. SIs, in contrast, can cover a variety of issues, including public administration – for example a road closure or changing arrangements for parish elections.
3) EU Regulations (as opposed to Directives) usually don’t give rise to a new UK law but are directly applicable. Therefore, most EU Regulations are not included in the 9% figure.
4) One Directive does not mean one SI. The Motor Vehicles Regulations in 2007 implemented four different Directives, for instance, making a one-for-one comparison tricky.

On point 1), of course, the EU has no say in the British budget and has no revenue-raising powers, so I’m not sure what they’re trying to say. On point 2) they have a point – but how do you measure the “far-reaching” implications and economic impact of a directive, exactly? On point 3) they also have a point – which might explain why the British Chambers of Commerce have a higher estimate of 20%. Point 4), if we’re hunting down the percentage of British laws that have an EU origin, is irrelevant.

But considering that we’re looking for a percentage of the *number* of laws that stem from the EU, it is worth bearing in mind that Statutory Instruments make up the bulk of all UK legislation, with an average of around 3,500 passed every year for much of the last two decades. In 2008, 3,389 Statutory Instruments were passed, while the UK Statute Law Database lists 2,414 results for the same year. With no study (that I’m aware of) having been conducted on how many of those have an EU origin, it is hard to tell the percentage.

However, with Statutory Instruments making up the bulk of UK legislation, and with most EU legislation brought into force via this method (having already been passed at EU level, there’s generally no need for EU legislation to then be re-enacted at national level, after all), it’s no great leap to suggest that the final percentage wouldn’t be that much higher than 9%. Indeed, Labour MEP Richard Corbett has noted other studies in other EU member states:

6.3 percent according to the Swedish parliament, 12 percent according to the Finnish parliament and between 12 and 19 percent according to the Lithuanian parliament

This would suggest that something in the region of 10-20% would be a fair guess for the UK as well (a range that has the added benefit of being backed up by the British Chambers of Commerce’s recent study of regulations).

Bonus: How much does the EU cost us?

I’ve already discussed the actual costs of EU membership based on the UK’s annual contribution, showing that the net cost is around £4 billion a year. But what about the cost to business and to the economy?

This is, of course, a hugely complex issue. How to estimate the impact of legislation on an entire country’s economy? It’s practically impossible, as without a control sample we can’t tell how beneficial or detrimental any individual piece of legislation may be – let alone the impact of other pieces of legislation that may affect the same general area.

Nonetheless, the more enthusiastic among you may have noted, in the Open Europe piece quoted above, that the same post also gives Open Europe’s own estimate that “72% of the cost of regulation is EU derived”. Is this fair? Well, it’s only an estimate, and I haven’t seen their workings, so it’s hard to tell.

However, let’s return to that British Chambers of Commerce report, also linked above. What do they have to say about the costs of EU regulation?

By value, EU legislation was only responsible for about 0.1% (£1.9m) of regulatory net costs in 2007/8 and virtually all business burdening regulatory activity can be attributed to Whitehall.

Oh… would you look at that?


No one agrees on how much legislation and regulation stems from the EU. The 9.1% figure stated by the House of Commons Library is too low, as it only covers Statutory Instruments, not ALL laws; the higher figures of 84%, 75% and even 50% claimed by the likes of Hannan, Farrage and Cameron are based on miscalculations, misunderstandings, or sources unknown, and often derive from parts of the EU other than just the UK – and so with no hard evidence to support them must be dismissed as either too high or inapplicable to the British situation.

What is the true figure? No one knows. So any claims that state hard and fast percentages should – if we’re being intellectually honest – be treated with equal suspicion.

Not that any of this is likely to change the opinions of those eurosceptics convinced of the malicious and all-pervading influence of the EU on our daily lives, of course. But still. I’ve looked for the evidence, and this is what I’ve tracked down. If you know different, please do let me know – I’m interested in the truth of the situation, as without total transparency, such misinformation, misunderstandings and resentments are only going to grow.

Update, October 2010:

The House of Commons Library has published a new, much more comprehensive study of the percentage of UK laws that originate from the EU. It is freely available as a PDF and despite running to 59 pages I’d strongly recommend reading it in full.

Its conclusion? The true figure is around 15%.

(Rather sweetly it also references this post in the footnotes.)

Update, June 2012: A new German study has revisited this topic, focusing on Germany, the UK, Denmark, France, Austria and Finland. Its onclusions can be found in more detail here. Short version:

UK – 15.5%
Denmark – 14%
Austria – 10.6%
France – between 3% and 26%
Finland – between 1 and 24%
Germany – 39.1%

But note the qualifier: “Do these numbers tell us that the impact of European policy making is by and large minimal, while at the same time there are some interesting variations between member states? No – in fact, these figures can tell us very little about the impact of EU-policy-making.”

If you’re interested in this topic, you may also be interested in these old posts:

What are the economic costs of the EU?
UKIP’s £40 million a day claim vs the REAL costs of EU membership
The dishonesty of the EU debate
Why legislating and regulating at an EU level is almost always a good thing


  1. good post, well done. Quite enjoyed the UKIP video about Pöttering. A deliberate attempt to get the facts twisted. The translation is not necessarily wrong but cutting out the sentence before and after the 75% claim really takes it out of context. He is clearly talking about the powers of the European Parliament in the EU system!

    These ‘percentage debates’ have also an impact on the political debate as they imply that the EU would impose laws without any UK input. Obviously this is wrong but many people are actually surprised when they hear that the UK government is involved in the decision making process on a EU level (and with veto possibilities)… now the questions is of course how many EU laws actually get adopted without the consent of the UK? Another percentage debate I am afraid…

  2. Great post, Nosemonkey, but I think you miss a couple of points.

    One is Andy Moravcsic’s point; a lot of what the EU does is fairly technocratic in nature. You would not necessarily expect this to receive a great deal of scrutiny or a great deal of public interest but the structures of Europe enhance the amount of accountability and transparency over the process. Moreover, most of what comes out of Europe requires multiple supermajorities; there are certainly more checks and balances than the Westminster system.

    Secondly, you can’t meaningfully make the comparison without looking at what Westminster does. Is our Parliament particularly active or inactive? What effect has devolution, particularly to Holyrood, had?

  3. Best thing I have read on the internet for a very long time.

  4. This study from Notre Europe claims that the percentage is closer to 20% in the case of French legislation:


  5. Kosmopolito – indeed. It seems to be a favourite tactic of some anti-EU campaigners to slam “the unelected Council”, while neglecting to mention that, erm, the Council is made up of ministers from the elected governments of the member states… It’s no more undemocratic than the British cabinet.

    David – yup, there’s a strong case to be made that EU legislation is often far more heavily scrutinised than UK legislation is. After all, if 90.9% of Statutory Instruments don’t originate from the EU, by their very nature that pretty much means that 90.9% of them will have had no scrutiny from an elected official whatsoever…

    And yes, a comparative study with Westminster and the devolved assemblies would certainly be interesting – none of this makes any sense without context, after all.

    – much appreciated.

    Augusto – cheers. Tends to back up my gut feeling that 10-20% is about right.

    I’ve also just come across this convincing study by an Irish pro-EU group that reckons that about 28% of Irish laws passed between 1992 and 2009 stem from the EU. A bit higher – but this covers the period during which the Maastricht Treaty was brought in (which had a huge impact on the sheer amount of legislation during the initial year or so, as various pre-existing laws had to be revised) as well as the switch to the Euro. It’s also worth noting that the Republic of Ireland churns out significantly less legislation than the UK – just 10,725 Statutory Instruments from 1992-2009, for example – while in the UK you’re talking something like 63,000 during the same timescale.

  6. Blimey, Nosemonkey!

    What’s spurred this flurry of recent activity? I guess the EU elections coming up might have something to do with it.

    It’s always best to treat statistics with a bit of caution. Nice to see you doing some digging.

    I’d be interested in seeing a new series of posts about EU myths, with a serious attempt to get to the bottom of them and find out how much truth they hold.

    The EU “Carrots are fruit” debate was maddening, but enlightening, for example.

    There’s another thing I’ve been reading about how the Lisbon treaty would covertly allow the EU to apply the death penalty and execute dissidents. After tracking down the part of the treaty in question, it turns out the truth really isn’t so exciting.

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  8. Nosemonkey,

    These are the fairly high figures found in an overview by Nicolaus Heinen of Deutsche Bank Research (generally an excellent source for EU information).

    The context was an overview of the European Parliament’s role as a co-legislator, not original research on the percentages. Still, I think that they are at least indicative, although they could be classified as “obiter dicta”.

    Note that different proportions refer to various policy areas:

    “The Parliament is a major agenda-setter in the area of European policy. Over 40% of the national legislation passed in Germany is triggered by EU initiatives. In areas such as agriculture or environmental policy the share is close to 80%. Over 75% of all European legislative processes are now covered by the so-called co-decision procedure. This enables the European Parliament to have a decisive impact on legislation initiated by the European Commission and to wield almost the same influence as the Commission. This trend will continue: the Treaty of Lisbon will even further expand the range of issues covered by the co-decision procedure.”

    Your post is an excellent attempt to look into one of the persistent myths about the European Union.

    Lately, the erroneous high end figures have not only been trumpeted by anti-EU campaigners, but by various MEP candidates and others who have tried to rally voters to the ballot boxes; a new front of ignorance, so to speak.

    When speaking about EU legislation, we should remember at least a few aspects:

    1) National legislation has evolved during a long time, for domestic needs. Much EU legislation fills ‘lacunae’ concerning cross-border situations.

    2) The laws that “mess with our daily lives” are few and far between, because these areas are largely outside EU powers. – The more people travel, live and work abroad, the more there is a need for rules on cross-border situations.

    3) Many EU laws are addressed to governments, and many concern only them. Regulations may need domestic rules of an administrative nature. The most densely regulated area is probably agriculture, with regard to the intra-EU market (planned economy) and funds, as well as external trade (customs barrier, entry prices).

    4) Directives are turned into national legislation (transposed), but many of them are highly technical – not politically interesting for the wider public – and many concern businesses, not individuals.

    5) When we see stratospheric costs of regulation “for British businesses”, we should perhaps remember that regulation is generally EU-wide. As such, the playing field is level. Naturally, high compliance costs do affect the global competitiveness of EU firms.

    6) I sometimes wonder why regulation is presented only as a menace (for British businesses). The level has to be discussed, but the aims are usually to protect consumers, protect human health, enhance safety, improve the well-being of animals etc. Even if some rules may be too much of a burden, there might be some important benefits, too?

  9. Well done nosemonkey, was hoping you or Jon Worth or someone else respected in EU blogging would look into this.
    So the trick is to look into the sector the stat comes from: the FSA reckons it’s a very high percentage of financial services regulations, while a government department like BERR dealing with largely single market issues could expect a lot of what they work on as legislation to be from the EU.
    Of course, if we in the UK are succeeding in better regulation and deregulation then we ought to be able to expect the EU% of our laws to be increasing as the amount coming out of Westminster decreases…

  10. Thanks Nosemonkey…..though I have to say I dont think it will make much difference.

    The 75%-85% figure is more an article of faith, a meme, among certian groups….reality has nothing to do with it.

  11. Ace bit of research! Very glad to have all of this in one place, it will be a handy reference in the future.

    The essential problem that you allude to but do not state directly is this: at EU level there are Regulations and Directives (well, and some others, but Regulations and Directives are the main ones), whereas at national level in the UK there is a clear separation between primary and secondary legislation. So if you ignore secondary legislation eurosceptics come up with a tremendously high figure…

    Secondly Regulations are used for all kinds of mundane things, and some aspects of agricultural policies require a Regulation each and every year – some intervention prices in CAP for example. No national government would ever dream of using primary legislation for something like that, but the EU has no other option.

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  13. Ta again, all.

    The thing that’s really beginning to interest me, since doing this post, is the following…

    The research to uncover all this took me just a couple of hours. Any eurosceptic / anti-EU type who wanted to could have done the same research in roughly the same amount of time.

    So, when politicians like Farrage, Hannan, Cameron and the rest trot out the standard lines this can only mean one (or more) of the following):

    1) They haven’t done their research, which means their arguments are flawed, and anything they say on the subject should be treated with utmost suspicion.

    2) They HAVE done their research, but continue to believe the higher figures despite the fact that – to take the most generous interpretation – these figures are disputed. Which shows them to be incapable of suppressing personal passion when it comes to political decision-making. Which shows them to be incapable of taking important decisions in the best public interest.

    3) They are too stupid to understand the evidence.

    4) They have done their research, understand that the evidence is disputed, but continue to spread disputed information as if it were fact for simple electoral gain. Which means that they are lying to the public, and so unfit for office.

    5) They have done their research, they know that the real level of laws set by the EU is far lower than they claim, continue to claim it anyway for electoral gain, and have some other reason for being opposed to the EU that they aren’t letting on.

    This last is the most worrying. After all, if 50-84% of our laws really WERE being set by the EU, and if the cost to this country really was as high as they claim (even though there’s no evidence at all to support ANY of the cost claims, because the economy is simply far too complex to work out what costs and profits accrue where due to what legislation), their concerns about the EU’s influence are entirely understandable and reasonable. But if the real figure is nearer 10-20% of laws and just 0.1% of regulatory costs, why are they so opposed? What is their real agenda? If there isn’t a real burden on Britain, why do they want to pull out so much?

    This I find very concerning indeed.

  14. Congratulations for such an detailed and fair article (even if I am appalled by your call to vote for anti-EU parties). Despite our ideological gap, I must thank you for being fair and honest, and tough on both sides.

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  16. It is interesting that you choose to selectively cut and paste a substantial part of the Open Europe Blog report to undermine the 85% but later ask where Cameron gets his 50%. Had you cut a pasted a little more you would have found the answer to you question:

    “Recently we took a long, hard look at this issue when we combed through more than 2,000 of the UK government’s impact assessments for regulatory proposals. The exercise confirmed the limited value in comparing EU laws and domestic laws without any sense of their relative impact and importance.

    However, this excercise also confirmed that the EU is without doubt the main driver of the cost of regulation in the UK – 72% of the cost of regulation over the last ten years is EU-derived. In terms of absolute proportion, we estimate the figure to be around 50%. This means that the EU now has huge regulatory powers. What’s more, in terms of relative impact – which is what matters – its powers over regulation exceed that of the UK government. But this was not a measure of the proportion of all laws coming from the EU.”

    You are also spinning the British Chambers of Commerce report in two different ways; firstly these are laws that impact on business and not an assessment of all EU Legalisation; secondly if you think about it, your own quote from that report, does not argue that there has been a reduction in total laws just a reduction in new laws coming through the system, one would have to assume that a proportion of the previous 30% are still on the statue books thus the 20% have not replaced but added to those laws already in place.

    All you have done is to take a snapshot of a one year period and ignored the fact that the previous laws are still in place.

    So you contrive to arrive at a 20% figure and hope to pass that off as a reasonable estimate of the impact the EU has on the British people in short that is piffle; have you not also read the Open Europe Briefing note.

    Just how big is the acquis communautaire?
    Thus we calculate that the true size of the active acquis communautaire is over 170,000 pages long.

  17. One of the issues is that many of the anti-EU figures mentioned are also (ostensibly at least) “anti-government”/”anti-legislation” campaigners in general.

    It occurred to me, for example, that a number of environmental/industrial regulations passed in the last couple of years originated with EU initiatives – but that’s because it makes sense to have an EU standard. If we pulled out of the EU, we’d still need to set those standards, so we’d still need the legislation – at least if we don’t want to turn back the clock to the days before the Clean Air Act… but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron would be quite happy to ditch regulations on chemical effluent altogether.

  18. Ken – sorry, but I think you’ve misread. Open Europe’s 50% figure is their *estimate* of the *cost* (revised down from their original 72%) – not of the total *amount*, and therefore can’t be what Cameron was referring to.

    Additionally, Cameron specifically referred to *regulation* not *legislation* – hence me doing the same when discussing his claims.

    And as Cameron, Farrage and Hannan were all referring to the *percentage* of legislation/regulation that derives from the EU, and as it is this percentage that I am trying to find out, the total *number* of laws/regulations stemming from the EU is irrelevant to this debate. It doesn’t matter how many EU laws there are when looking for percentages, except when compared to how many non-EU laws there are.

    As for my 10-20% figure, I thought I was fairly explicit that this is little more than a guess, based largely on a combination of the fact that a) most EU laws are passed as statutory instruments, and will therefore have been included in the House of Commons Library’s figure, and b) a comparison with other available studies in other EU member states. That Irish one mentioned above is particularly useful for this, as it both covers a far longer timescale and includes *ALL* laws that even *mention* EU legislation – and so will have included a whole bunch that aren’t *derived* from EU legislation, but may merely reference it.

  19. To Ralf Grahn
    5) When we see stratospheric costs of regulation “for British businesses”, we should perhaps remember that regulation is generally EU-wide. As such, the playing field is level. Naturally, high compliance costs do affect the global competitiveness of EU firms.

    I remember a silly one from many months back about a council inspector closing down a Chinese restuarant as it’s oven that cooked Peking Duck had’t been checked for it’s carbon emissions. I don’t even know if it is a real regulation as there was no real follow up in the papers about it. But like many regulations, Britain APPEARS to be hell bend on following every jot and tittle whereas the rest take of leave it without fear of retribution. Again it may be myth, but the institutions that gives rise to such must become more open, both in Westminster and Brussels if they want public support. Somehow I don’t think they actually care, as they didn’t give the public any say on anything they have created so far.

    May I also add that the percentages of EU ‘laws’ rubber stamped by our lot would have been easy to count if our so called parliamentarians had voted with one MP (name forgotten, sorry) who wanted to bring in legislation to mark such laws as European and not of British origin. What did the rest know that he didn’t, why try to disguise them as British if they actually originate in EP? Is it more ‘corruption’ from Westminster whereby they fear we might see exactly what they produce themselves?

    Anyway, it matters not as we aren’t allowed to pick and choose what is good or not for the country only what is good for the EU. I’m off to the Mosque now to get a head start on all you infadels before Turkey comes to Europe.

  20. For those who may be interested, there’s more discussion of this post over at Liberal Conspiracy, where it has been republished this morning. Some interesting alternative takes from people who don’t normally get involved in discussions about the EU.

  21. William Ferguson,

    In my view it is an excellent idea to show the references to EC Directives in government bills and legal acts, as one does in my country (Finland).

    The member states have to report to the Commission on transposition measures anyway, so why not be open about it.

    Despite the roasted ducks, there has been a measure of success in cutting EU red tape and proposals (preparatory acts) now contain impact assessments, so some progress has been made.

    For open economies I think that one set of regulations is, in general, a preferable situation compared to having 30 different regimes within the European Economic Area.

  22. Very good piece. This by Richard Corbett is of interest too http://www.euromove.org.uk/fileadmin/files_euromove/downloads/090223_open_europe_regulation.doc
    It is good to see the percentage of laws derived from the EU shibboleth slain.
    I’ve often found it funny how both Europhiles and sceptics talk up how much law comes from the EU.
    Many MEPs talk the percentage up to big up their consultative role too.
    The bogus 80% (German figure) has been mentioned in the past by European Commission’s legal service, albeit with the caveat “as much as”.
    Of course, Gordon Brown’s quote that “approximately half of all new regulations that impact upon businesses in the UK originate from the EU” is a favourite.
    It is also very important to note the role of Whitehall, in terms of the rise and rise of legislation as regulation via statutory instruments.
    This is also bound with shifting definitions of risk and new concepts of the vulnerable individual.
    I have always thought it more useful to look at the EU as form or practice of politics (and to criticise it as such).
    So, for example, the passing of the EU data retention directive via secondary legislation, after the repeated failure of Labour to get it through in primary law, tells us much about the nature of politics and the appeal of “Europe” to politicians.
    The problem with Eurosceptics is that most are deeply evasive on the entwined relationship between Whitehall and Brussels.
    After all, most of them (both left and right) want to go back to a cosy nostalgic 1970s, where everybody knew what was what.

  23. Had we been offered a referendum on the Maastricht or Lisbon Treaty there would have been ample time and good reason to have this who makes the laws debate. What is indisputable is that after EIRE has Lisbon rammed up them on the second ‘free’ ballot, sovereignty will pass to our’ friends’ in Brussels. A large majority do not want this and will not accept it.
    I have no wish or the possibilty to return to the 1970 ‘s as some sneer on this blog . The corrupt and corrupting EUSSR is not an option.

  24. Actually, Adams, “sovereignty will pass… to Brussels” is entirely disputable. Something tells me you’re unlikely to trust the Foreign Office on this one, but their arguments do at least show that the notion is disputed.

    We are, however in total agreement that “the EUSSR” is not an option – albeit, I think, for rather different reasons…

    Bruno – largely agreed. As I reckoned it elsewhere yesterday, “successive British governments could have vetoed or opted out of pretty much any of this stuff, if they so chose. They chose not to, but instead decided to accept the EU regulations in all these areas – regulations which they will always have been involved in the drafting of. Want to point the finger at someone? Point it at the government – the EU is just a tool, while government is the workman.”

  25. Eh? I’m looking at the Open Europe blog site and they claim that the EU accounts for 72 percent of the cost of regulations in this country, averaged over a decade:


    This seems to me rather a lot.

  26. The French think tank Notre Europe has just published a paper on the 80 per cent myth (spread by both anti-EU campaigners and Euro-enthusiasts):


  27. “Kosmopolito – indeed. It seems to be a favourite tactic of some anti-EU campaigners to slam “the unelected Council”, while neglecting to mention that, erm, the Council is made up of ministers from the elected governments of the member states… It’s no more undemocratic than the British cabinet.”

    Hmmmm, since when did the British cabinet have the power to legislate?

    (Just to preempt any smug pedantry, I am perfectly aware that our Ministers already have the prerogative power to initiate and amend secondary legislation. Where the Council of Ministers diverges from this, and where it must be unique amongst all democracies, is that the 27-man politburo has legislative power for all European law)

  28. Yes, you could argue that the Council takes on the role of the executive and upper house. But all British ministers are also part of the legislature, spread between both houses of parliament. The lack of separation of powers is something the British and EU systems have in common.

    But I doubt you’ll find pretty much anyone who will defend the role of the Council in EU decision-making. It’s one of the things that europhiles and eurosceptics are agreed on in their dislike of the current system – which is one of the reasons why the Lisbon Treaty included clauses to reform the EU decision-making process to increase the proportion of legislation in which parliament would have a say, and more areas of qualified majority voting to enable the over-ruling of a non-unanimous Council.

    The problem is, of course, that because of the nature of the Council, when it pushes through legislation that people don’t like it is attacked as part of the EU, but if it were to be overruled by the Commission or Parliament, it would suddenly become “the EU preventing national governments from doing what they want”. The problem isn’t just that it’s part of the executive and legislature at the same time, it’s that it’s one of the EU institutions while being made up of ministers from member states, most of whom are looking primarily to national political concerns, not European ones. British members of the Council also find themselves in the bizarre position of being part of the executives and legislatures of the EU and UK simultaneously, which is so confusingly bizarre as to not even bear thinking about.

    (Not very well explained, but that’s because it’s a Saturday morning and I’m rather hungover – anyone else want to give it a try?)

  29. Part of the hidden % of influence of the EU on British admin is when a government department puts into place a law or regulation to prempt it being issued by the EU first, when it adds to aaaaeu laws, and when it doesn`t take a particular course of action because it is afraid that it contravenes an EU law, even if in error. So I would put the % back up over 50%. Probably that 84%.

  30. But another hidden percentage is the laws passed at council level (and even parish level in some cases) – by-laws and the like. Plus, of course, the effective law-making power of judges in most major court rulings. Which would again take it back down.

    There’s just no way of working out the precise percentage with our resources – the point is that without in-depth research and understanding of the methodology of that research, it’s impossible to take ANY of the figures seriously. But one thing I am pretty much certain of – it’s nowhere near 84%. That’s just ridiculous.

  31. The 84% may be reasonable if we take it as the EUs laws and effects on our laws and administration.
    For example the EU may make it a law for us that all traffic drive on the right hand side of the road. That might be just one law. The UK government may then have to transpose that in hundreds of laws, like type aproval in the manufacture of vehicles for a start, Then district councils would have to bring out laws for the siting of road signs, then town councils for the directions of one way streets etc.
    Then a government depatment might want to make a rule that no left hand drive vehicle can overtake on a motorway, to stop these sideswipes, but feel unable to bring in such legislation because it would infringe EU law.
    The UK government may not want to openly allow citizens from Romania or Bulgaria to come and work in the UK, and even legislate to that effect. But then they find that so many loopholes in EU law mean that those citizens can in effect ignore the UK law, and our Department of Work and Pensions gives them permission and National Insurance numbers on the quiet . So EU law not only intercedes and supercedes our laws, but makes our administrators indulge in bad governance. This should be an even more serious matter than whether 9% ,50% or84% of our laws come from Brussels.

  32. Interesting post, NM.

    However, as regards the cost of regulation to business, we do have a figure — although I don’t know how it was derived.

    It was Commissioner Gunter Verhoegen in an interview with the FT, I believe, who advanced the EU Commission’s estimate of the benefit of the EU Free Trade Area, to EU businesses, to be €200 billion per annum; he then proceeded to estimate the cost of EU regulation — again, to all EU businesses — to be in the region of €600 billion per annum (ref).



  34. Devil kitchen….did you read ANY of the actual article?

    Anyone making any suggestions of how much EU regulations costs, even by a Commissioner, is to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.

  35. I agree with Robin. We cannot forget that part of the hidden percentage of influence of the EU on British admin is when a government department puts into place a law or regulation to preempt it being issued by the EU. In reality the percentage is at least 50%. Probably higher.

  36. Welcome scrutiny on this important question. On either side of the EU debate I think we all want to see discussion based on reality.

    I would agree that the 80% figure is not applicable to the UK, but forgive those who use it on the basis that our own government refuses to do a proper study. Certainly the disparity between various studies shows how hard it is to estimate the true figure.

    The ‘around 50%’ figure recently used by Cameron probably comes from the same Open Europe study that you have been referring to thoughout, as it was also one of their conclusions – alongside the 72% of the *cost* of regulation having its origins in the EU.

  37. Nosemonkey said ……… “not that any of this is likely to change the opinions of those eurosceptics convinced of the malicious and all-pervading influence of the EU on our daily lives”.

    This is the million dollar question?

    Perhaps some might argue it is irrelevant where laws originate from providing the legislation improves the everyday fabric of our lives.

    There is a very important new piece of health legislation on the table (originating from the EU) that may have profound and far reaching effects on how services are configured.
    There is a thoughtful analysis of the potential effects here:

    More on the consultation document here:

    The NHS as we know it may be disappearing out of view yet I doubt if more than a handful of people realise it?

  38. “Anyone making any suggestions of how much EU regulations costs, even by a Commissioner, is to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.”

    In that case, how can the Commission do a cost/benefit analysis of the laws that they pass? If they cannot do it, then they should not pass said laws.


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  42. @huettemann How does Klaeden calculate that? In the UK it’s bloody hard to work out… http://t.co/LUj7bopz

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