Friday, 18 September 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and UKIP statistics

In a letter to the Western Mail this week, Wales' UKIP MEP repeats the standard line that '75% of laws' come from 'Europe' as though it is a proven fact. Indeed, this figure seems to have been bandied around quite a lot, but it is far from being as much of a 'fact' as opponents of the EU suggest.

There's quite an interesting analysis of the claim here, in a piece which also looks at a range of other claims as to what the percentage actually is. The real answer depends on a number of factors, not the least of which are what we define as 'laws' and 'regulations', and whether we count laws and regulations made by devolved parliaments in the UK and elsewhere.

It also seems that all attempts to calculate the percentage are based on a straight count of 'items' of legislation, such that one long and complicated act of parliament is treated as being equivalent to 1 one-page regulation or directive (and, of course, vice versa). It's a pretty meaningless way of comparing.

The '75%' claim, in particular, seems to be based on a complete misinterpretation of a point made by an MEP, who was actually talking about the proportion of EU-wide law made by the European Parliament as opposed to the European Commission. It's a completely different thing, and was never intended to refer to the difference between European and National law.

I don't pretend that I've done anything like enough research to be able to quote an accurate figure, but it is probably somewhere in the range of 10% to 30% - a very long way short of the figures being quoted by the Euro-sceptics, or even the 'nearly 50%' quoted recently by David Cameron. Law affecting individuals is likely to be at the lowest end of the range, whilst law affecting companies and competition is likely to be at the higher end. And, in terms of the volume of law which actually applies to what we do on a day to day basis, it's probably lower again.

But then UKIP are also fond of claiming, time after time, that moves to establish a National Assembly only started after joining the EU, and are part of a ghastly European plot, as though 80 years of nationalist agitation from within Wales can just be written off completely. Can we believe anything at all that they say?

1 comment:

Al Iguana said...

if 75% of our laws come from Europe, why do we have a Parliament? surely it's redundant? a figure like that is reason to get MORE involved in Europe, not pull out completely. Even 30% is a significant enough figure to encourage us to participate more.