The Cost of the EU

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6655.htm)

Those who argue against Britain’s membership of the EU often cite its cost as a major concern.  A UKIP webpage What We Stand For,[1]  which is no longer available, asserted that “outside the EU we will save £53m a day”– which would add up to over £19bn a year.  This was deceptive: quoting gross figures rather than the net cost to Britain – which was estimated at that time, on page 13 of a Treasury document entitled European Union Finances 2013, to be £17.2bn gross and £8.6bn net.  This is less than half UKIP’s figure and amounts to about 0.3% of the 2013 United Kingdom GDP of £2,739bn.

Cost is certainly an issue, and it is also possible to point at instances of corruption and waste – although measures are being taken to combat this.  Just as with a national tax system (3.2.4), contributions are calculated on the basis of ability to pay.  Richer countries have more to lose economically from strife, so their additional contributions are at least partly justifiable in terms of their greater benefits from stability.

The benefits of EU membership in financial terms almost certainly exceed the costs, but they are impossible to quantify.  Security and economic stability are clearly worth something, and could be worth more if countries tried harder to reap the possible collective benefits.  A more coherent EU foreign policy would enable countries to share costs on embassies and defence, for example.



[1] UKIP’s website described What We Stand For, in May 2014 at http://www.ukip.org/issues/policy-pages/what-we-stand-for, but this page is no longer available.