Sunday, June 14, 2009

What percentage of our laws are made by the EU?

This is a question that your humble Devil has pondered for some time, even before my involvement in UKIP, I would hear various different numbers bandied about—9% (only the number of Statutory Instruments, which does not include Directives and Regulations), 50%, 75% or, the latest, 84% (this last based on a German study).

Luckily, the ever-excellent but, alas, all-too-infrequently posting Nosemonkey has looked into the matter with his customary attention to detail—including debunking the 84% figure.

His conclusion?
No one agrees on how much legislation and regulation stems from the EU. The 9.1% figure stated by the House of Commons Library is too low, as it only covers Statutory Instruments, not ALL laws; the higher figures of 84%, 75% and even 50% claimed by the likes of Hannan, Farrage and Cameron are based on miscalculations, misunderstandings, or sources unknown, and often derive from parts of the EU other than just the UK - and so with no hard evidence to support them must be dismissed as either too high or inapplicable to the British situation.

What is the true figure? No one knows. So any claims that state hard and fast percentages should - if we’re being intellectually honest - be treated with equal suspicion.

If no one knows—including the Commission that proposes the laws* and the EU Parliament that passes them—then how can they do a cost-benefit analysis on the laws that they foist onto us?

As I pointed out over there, Commissioner Gunter Verhoegen, in an interview with the FT, estimated the benefits of the free trade area to EU businesses, to be €200 billion a year—but the costs of EU regulation, to those same businesses, to be €600 billion per annum. Another commenter, however, maintained that even Verhoegen's word could not be taken at face value (no surprises—he is a politician after all—but one would have thought that Verhoegen, at least, might have a good idea).

In fact, this conclusion is extremely worrying for anyone that cares about good law. After all, many of the EU laws passed—especially in the area of Environment—are aimed at getting people to change their behaviour through economic means. If no one has done a cost-benefit analysis on these laws, how can they know if they will, indeed, change said behaviour?

Come to think of it, this fucking insane lack of cost/benefit analysis would explain an awful lot about some EU laws...

UPDATE: thanks to commenter Jonathan Miller for a clarification.
DK, you seem to have confused the origin of the various legal instruments.

Statutes (primary legislation) and statutory instruments (secondary legislation) are UK 'laws'.

Regulations and Directives are 'laws' enacted by the EU.

The UK enacts EU Directives by way of statutes and statutory instruments.

Regulations are enforceable in all EU states, overriding national law. They don't need to be transposed into statutes/statutory instruments.

...so the calculation should include Regulations, Statutes and Statutory instruments, but not Directives.

Jonathan Miller

Yep, mea culpa: it's been a while since I refreshed my memory about this shit.

* Yes, I know that, technically, the EU does not make "laws"—only Statutory Instruments, Directives and Regulations that need to be enacted into the statutes of member states. However I am calling them "laws" merely for the sake of convenience.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why spoil your report with unecessary expletives?

Neil Harding said...

DK, I suppose the cost to business of outlawing child labour could run into hundreds of billions. Just because it costs business money, doesn't necessarily meam it is a bad thing. I bet breaking up the cosy mobile cartel cost 'billions' to business, but i am sure the consumers are happy at their billions saved in call charges.

jaydeeaitch said...

Because Anony, that's DK for you. You must be incredibly restrained not to feel expletive about the way we are being lorded over.

DK, is that last para true? I thought directives were law in member countries as soon as passed.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Neil,

"DK, I suppose the cost to business of outlawing child labour could run into hundreds of billions. Just because it costs business money, doesn't necessarily meam it is a bad thing."

Sure, Neil, but you need to assess that.

We, as a society, decided that the benefits of outlawing child labour outweighed the costs; these costs were substantial and, ultimately, paid by everyone in society through higher charges.

We considered that to be a price worth paying, however—and the way that we indicated this was through voting for the party that promised to bring in that Bill.

The point about the EU is that nobody votes for the Commission—which is the only EU body that can propose legislation.

Come on, Neil, I thought that you were keen on democracy?

"I bet breaking up the cosy mobile cartel cost 'billions' to business, but i am sure the consumers are happy at their billions saved in call charges."

Don't be so fucking naive, Neil: costs to business always end up being paid by someone—usually the consumer.

Look, even a company as large as Vodafone has barely ever made a profit: it will not swallow such a hit to its business model. Therefore the money will be recouped elsewhere.

That means higher charges to existing consumers or, alternatively, less expansion and R & D.

And expansion of mobile networks is good, Neil, especially in Developing Countries—a rise of some 1.5% of GDP per 10 phones per head of population.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, Neil: you must realise that...?

DK

Anonymous said...

DK, you seem to have confused the origin of the various legal instruments.

Statutes (primary legislation) and statutory instruments (secondary legislation) are UK 'laws'.

Regulations and Directives are 'laws' enacted by the EU.

The UK enacts EU Directives by way of statutes and statutory instruments.

Regulations are enforceable in all EU states, overriding national law. They don't need to be transposed into statutes/statutory instruments.

...so the calculation should include Regulations, Statutes and Statutory instruments, but not Directives.

Jonathan Miller

Nosemonkey said...

It's impossible to do a cost/benefit analysis of *all* EU laws - that doesn't mean you can't do a cost/benefit analysis of individual new laws before passing them.

You can, after all, work out the likely impact of a law liberalising the market for product category x on related industries a, b, c, (etc.) and even make an educated guess about the overall impact that this law may have on the economy as a whole.

But when it comes to the economy you can never understand everything - if we've learned nothing else in the last 12 months, we've learned that. Hell, with something as complex as a continent-wide economic system, there are so many other factors at play, though it may be possible to make an educated guess about the impact of a piece of legislation (enough to judge if it's going to be beneficial, at any rate), you'll never be able to track *all* of its effects - countless other things will be affecting individual parts of the economy in countless different ways, from other bits of EU and national legislation (which still often overlap) through local levels of trades unionism, consumer spending patterns, passing fashions, local infrastructure, and so on and so on.

In other words, to be able to put an actual monetary figure on the costs/benefits of EU legislation *as a whole*, you'd first need to work out a system for tracking all the workings of the entire European economy (or, at the very least, the entire economy of the individual member state you want to study). Because without complete understanding how an economy works both at macro- and micro- levels, it is impossible to judge how introducing variable x might affect it - because who's to say it's not actually variable b, h or z instead if you haven't also studied their influence?.

So *any* claims about the costs OR benefits of the EU must be nonsense. Because the only way we could actually tell is if a) we understood the economy of Europe inside-out (which we don't), and b) we had a control sample of a Europe in which the EU never came into being to which we could compare our findings.

So although I feel that the EU has done more good than harm to both the British economy and the economy of Europe as a whole, there is no way that I can prove that. There's also no way that anyone of a more eurosceptic bent can prove that the opposite is true. I could point to individual benefits, they could point to individual costs - we could add up more and more of each until we have a wealth of evidence and can start chucking around figures like 200 or 600 billion. But we'd still have only scratched the surface.

This is not a flaw in the way the EU works, it is just a consequence of the EU's continent-spanning economy (which exists in a world that has become increasingly globalised, and so increasingly economically complex and volatile over the last fifty years) being an incredibly, vastly, inconceivably complicated system that no one can ever fully understand.

Pat said...

On child labour- the cost to the business is in less low grade labour being available, hence reduced expansion opportunities (which reflect in a reduction in job opportunities for adults). They are paid for by the customers (else the business would fail leaving no job opportunities)
There is also a larger cost to families deprived of a source of income. Child labour laws are based on the idea that families don't know whats best for themselves, that children (anyone under 18 at the moment but the definitive age has been increasing for the last hundred years)are better off being lectured in a classroom for years before undertaking work for which the classroom has more often than not failed to prepare them, than they are earning money whilst learning the job.
The laws have always been passed by people who can well afford to do without their children's potential income, and whose children have a realistic chance of doing a job for which school is a useful preparation.
I don't think we can take it as read that child labour laws are a net benefit- there are many "poor hardworking families" whose offspring will never rise above shop assistant or cleaner, for whom the education is wasted and the lost income is just that- lost.
I'm sure I'm not alone in getting along with and liking cleaners, dustmen, shop assistants etc., but I hardly think it's doing them a favour when they are compelled to waste years in school when they could be earning.

wonkotsane said...

If the European Empire issues a directive and it takes one SI to transpose that into domestic law, if that new law then spawns another 20 new laws or amendments then is that still one imperial law or 21 imperial laws? The lower end figures are only counting SI's enacting EU directives and take no account of the knock-on effect on the statute books.

Emperor Barosso himself said 75% of laws are made in the EU Parliament.