What % of UK law comes from the EU?

EU red tape dragon

Is it 7%, 80% 50% or just too much?

Estimating the % of UK law that comes from the EU is an old game that is bound to come up as the UK edges closer to its referendum.

In essence those advocating EU membership such as Nick Clegg and Hugo Dixon use an absurdly low 7% figure in an attempt to down play the impact of EU legislation on the UK, – while simultaneously saying it is so important the UK must stay in to have “influence”. On the other side the “Leave” campaign will seek to highlight the full extent of EU law’s impact and come up with a much higher figure – such as 64.7% quoted by Business for Britain. So who is right?

Starting with the lowest figure it is possible to come up with.

Low Figure: 7%
If you only count the % of UK primary law (Acts of Parliament) that come direct from Brussels you can get a low figure, as Nick Clegg quoted in the Nigel v Nick debate. This of course leaves out all EU regulations and Statutory Instruments, i.e all the red tape businesses complain about, so is unlikely to give a fair picture of EU influence. As the House of Commons Research the 7% figure is based on notes:

“To exclude EU regulations from the calculation is likely to be an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws”

Medium range: 50% – 64.7%
A more realistic figure was ironically used by Nick Clegg in 2003 when he believed that 50%+ of UK law emanated from Brussels (he was trying to prove a different point at the time). A similar estimate to the 2003 Nick Clegg is that of Business for Britain which in a study counted all EU regulations and UK statutes that are EU influenced – 64.7% of UK law. Fullfact has also come up with a similar 2/3 of law.

High figure: 70 – 80%
If you wanted to justify a higher figure than that ironically the highest credible estimate comes from the then European Commissioner Viviane Reding who has argued the % was between 70% and 80%, although she latter half qualified the statement. Hans-Gert Pöttering a former President of the European Parliament has also claimed the % was 75%.

Of course the % of UK law coming from the EU is not a good measure of the degree of UK involvement in the EU, some laws are vastly more important than others, may relate to relatively minor aspects of trade standards, the CAP etc while others (say on criminal justice, VAT etc) have huge implications for sovereignty. However it does give a useful pointer to the constraints placed on our own Parliament.

Given that in exactitude there are a number of other different ways of counting EU laws – you can, perhaps more accurately also count the ‘burden’ of EU law to UK business as a proportion of all ‘burdens’ and get a high figure. The British Chambers of Commerce used to publish a “Burden’s Barometer” that identified the source of costly UK laws. This can be done using the designation on the Impact Assessments which helpfully state whether they are EU or UK. Alternatively Open Europe in a piece of research found that the 100 most costly EU regulations cost £27.4bn a year.

Whichever way you look at it the impact of EU law on the UK is large and despite efforts to rein it in still growing. This debate curiously mirrors the debate in Norway where Inners want to use a high figure (75%) and Outers a low figure (9%), read my post here for more.

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