The Office of National Statistics published the annual Pink Book on July 31st, showing inter alia the UK’s contributions to EU institutions in 2011. Gross contributions are now over £19 billion, while net contributions broke the £10 billion barrier for the first time — for a total of £10.78 billion.
These numbers come from Table 9.2 of the Pink Book. Confusingly, Table 9.9 appears to show different and lower figures. This results from the fact that Table 9.9 deals solely with transactions via the Treasury, whereas 9.2 includes payments by other departments. For example DIFID contributes separately to EU aid programmes.
These figures are shocking. I had in mind around £7 billion net and £15 billion gross. In fact the net figure was around £7 billion back in 2009. It has risen 58% in two years. It is unaffordable.
But as Dan Hannan has pointed out, we should really focus on the gross figure. After all, if we look at the tax we pay, we don’t make deductions for the benefits we receive from the government in terms of health, education, welfare and so on. No. We just look at what we pay. And although some of our EU contributions come back from Brussels, it may well be spent on things we don’t value and wouldn’t have done ourselves. As I have said many times, they give us back a little of our own money, they tell us what to do with it, and then they expect us to be grateful.
I wrote a piece recently in which I said that the amount we’d pay in duty on British exports to the EU if we were outside the EU (and if we had no Free Trade Agreement) was around £3.5 billion, and I said that that was around half our net contribution. Correction. It was less than a third of our net contribution, and less than a fifth of our gross contribution. We should be hugely better off outside the straightjacket of the EU’s Customs Union, even if we had to pay the duty under their Common External Tariff. But of course we wouldn’t pay the duty, because we’d have a free trade deal. More clear evidence that we should be Better Off Out.