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Carswell’s rebate error

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 11.03.2016

Douglas Carswell had something of a rough weekend. Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, UKIP’s only MP claimed that Britain sends £350 million a week to the EU.

The £350 million figure includes our rebate, which we don’t send to the EU. When presenter Andrew Neil pointed this out, Carswell responded: “I think it’s entirely right and fair that we include the rebate. The rebate figure is very very vulnerable to the whims and machinations of ministers and mandarins.”

The UK can veto any change to the rebate

It’s true the rebate is vulnerable to the whims of British ministers — as are most UK policy matters. But isn’t that the sort of domestic control eurosceptics say they want?

As for the machinations of mandarins, if Carswell means the European Commission or some other eurocrats, he’s wrong. To scrap, reduce or otherwise change the rebate, there would need to be a unanimous Council vote. In other words, Britain could veto it.

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The rebate is written into the rules governing the ways the EU raises money. As a European Parliament briefing note puts it: “The UK rebate has … become de facto permanent”, since “unanimity of the Member States” would be required to change it.

Carswell’s director’s cut

When Carswell tried to argue the rebate was vulnerable, Neil reiterated “we don’t send the rebate” to the EU. The conversation continued in this manner for some time, with Neil unconvinced by Carswell’s points. The full interview can be found here.

Possibly unconvinced by his own performance, Carswell has since released a heavily edited version of the interview. Noticeably absent from this “director’s cut”? The bits where he was pressed on his budget figures.

Carswell did not respond to requests for comment.

Edited by Hugo Dixon