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
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.