• Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook

Search This Blog

Visit our new website.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How many of our laws are made in Brussels?

Okay, so we've asked this question before on this blog. But it's one that just keeps coming back. The question has eluded politicans, journalists, opinion-formers and others since the dawn of time (or 1973, to be specific).

Libertas, the new pan-EU party standing in the European Parliament elections, are claiming that 80% of our laws are made in Brussels.

Meanwhile. on Tuesday, German liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis repeated the frequently cited claim that 85 per cent of all laws come from the EU - and said it was even higher in eastern Europe.

The eloquent MEP Dan Hannan notes on his blog that "The figure cannot be repeated too often. Remember, when a candidate next solicits your vote, that four out of every five laws are proposed in Brussels by bureaucrats...There is no reason to believe that it would be lower in Britain."

For what it's worth, we're not convinced by this figure - as we've explained before.

It's taken from a reply by the Parliamentary Undersecretary of the German Parliament, Alfred Hartenbach, given on 29 April 2005:

In den Jahren 1998 bis 2004 wurden insgesamt 18 167 EU-Verordnungen und 750
EU-Richtlinien (einschließlich Änderungsverordnungen bzw. -richtlinien)

Im selben Zeitraum wurden auf Bundesebene insgesamt 1 195 Gesetze
(davon 889 im BGBl. Teil I und 306 im BGBl. Teil II) sowie 3 055
Rechtsverordnungen (einschließlich Änderungsgesetzen bzw. -verordnungen) verkündet

Essentially, from 1998 until 2004 18,187 EU regulations and 750 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) .

Former President Roman Herzog and Luder Gurken of the Centrum für Europäische Politik famously used these figures to calculate that 84% of all German laws originate in Brussels. The logic:

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).

Now, these figures no doubt give an important indication of the huge influence the EU has over national legislation, but 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.

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.

This also means that the likes of Denis MacShane - who like a stuck record keeps repeating that only 9% of all UK Statuatory Instruments (or SIs) are based on EU laws - are way off mark. There are at least four reasons for why these people are wrong:

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.

Where does that leave us? Well, having actually done the work, we stick to our findings:

72% of the cost of regulation in the UK is EU-derived. A shockingly high figure that needs no exaggeration whatsoever - just urgent attention.


The North Briton said...

So....what is that as a percentage of all laws passed in a given year? And where does it leave the European Parliament's President's assertion that his institution is (co) legislator in around 75% of all cases at the moment and will be in nearly 100% under the Lisbon Treaty? From where did he pull that figure?

Open Europe blog team said...

Hi Jack of Blades,

In terms of the absolute number of all laws, we simply don't know for sure (but it's certainly higher than 9%, for reasons outlined in the post). We could conceviably add all the Statuatory Instruments coming into force in any given year, subtract the Directives and the handful of Regulations that give rise to new UK laws, and then compare that number to all EU Directives, Regulations and Decisions applicable to the UK (coming into force in that same year). That should give us a proportion(but that would also be a very time-consuming exercise).

When EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering is saying that the EP is co-legislator in 75% of all cases, he's referring to the proportion of all decisions made on the EU-level. That is, the proportion of all areas of EU policy that currently are subject to co-decision between the EP and the Council of Ministers, as opposed to where the Council is making decisions on its own (such as in the area of justice and home affairs). With the Lisbon Treaty, the EP's powers would be radically extended, hence his claim for "100%".

See here: http://www.eupolitix.com/latestnews/news-article/newsarticle/poettering-urges-europeans-to-vote/

Unknown said...

The quantity would not be such a problem if only these laws could respect the will of the european peoples. Considering the debate around wine, fish, cheese and so on, I fear that Brussels seems to disconnect more and more from the true interests of the peoples.

Some evidence on http://www.captaineuropa.eu

Captain Europa

Roger Arthur said...

It would be interesting to know the total cost of legislation in the UK. I suspect that 72% of that will be around £100billion pa. If so and we could stop that, then we might pay off the National debt in 15 years.

Will3452 said...

Wait, 72%. Why does anyone actually care? It's not like we're being oppressed by being a part of the big picture. Britain does have a say in these laws, so stop worrying about things that benefit us.