Mayor of London Boris Johnson shuffled onto a Vote Leave stage in Dartford Kent to deliver what he might himself have once called a foam-flecked hymn of hate delivered “in a state of semi-incoherence”.
He took aim at the EU’s clunking, grinding bureaucratic machinery, which he claimed produces “about 2,500 new regulations” each year, “costing British businesses about £600 million per week”. He’s wrong on both figures.
Far fewer regulations
Between 1990 and 2015, the EU passed 49,806 regulations. The single market in 1992 led to a burst of EU regulatory activity as trade barriers were stripped away. Over the past decade, the EU passed an average 1,500 regulations and directives a year – about a thousand fewer than the figure claimed by Boris.
The number rises to 2,300 on average annually if EU ‘decisions’ are included. But adding these to the overall cost to Britain is misleading, as decisions often relate to a specific company, person or country, and would not necessarily apply to the UK; or are administrative – dealing with the EU institutions internal workings.
Costs but also benefits
When Boris said these regulations cost British business £600 million a week he used the figure for the total cost of the 100 most expensive EU rules, not just to businesses, but also the public sector. UK government impact assessments estimate the total cost of these rules at £33.3 billion a year or £640 million a week.
This does not take into account benefits, such as cleaner air. Benefits are estimated at a total of £58.6 billion – a net gain of £487 million a week, according to government data.
Impact assessments can sometimes overstate benefits – such as £20.8 billion from a global carbon deal that did not materialise. So these are not reliable measures. On the other hand, benefits such as facilitating trade across the single market or protection against workplace discrimination are not quantified.
But even without these statistical pitfalls, using the 100 most expensive EU regulations to characterise all EU law, as Boris has done, is misleading.
Boris Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.
Edited by Yojana Sharma