1. We’d get our money back
Some of your taxes go the European Union. Some, but not all, of that money comes back to Britain in subsidies to farmers, grants to universities and so on. How much? In 2015, our gross contribution was almost £18 billion, but a budget “rebate” won my Margaret Thatcher in 1984 reduced that to £13 billion, around £200 per person in Britain. The Treasury says around £6 billion comes back to the UK in subsidies and grants, meaning our net EU payments are worth a little over £100 per head. In cash terms, Britain is the second biggest contributor to the EU budget after Germany.
2. We could decide who comes into our country
EU members must allow all EU citizens to enter their country and work without restrictions. The “right of free movement” has allowed hundreds of thousands of Europeans to live and work in Britain. In the 12 months ending in September 2015, an estimated 257,000 EU nationals arrived in the UK. The Office for National Statistics estimates that there are more than 2 million EU nationals working in the UK.
3. We could make our own laws again
Some British laws are passed and implemented because of decisions made at an EU level. Business For Britain, a pro-Leave group, reckons 65 per cent of new British laws are made in Brussels. The House of Commons Library says that between 1993 and 2014, a total of 231 Acts of Parliament were passed because of EU membership, 24 per cent of the total. In 2010, the UK government estimated that about 50 per cent of UK legislation with “significant economic impact” originates from EU legislation.
4. Our courts would have the final say over those laws
When Britain joined the EEC in 1972, Parliament accepted that European law could have primacy over UK law. That law is ultimately overseen by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The court’s power has grown steadily, and the Lisbon Treaty gave it power over 135 areas of criminal justice policy; Britain has opted out of all but 35 of those measures, but participates in the European Arrest Warrant scheme, which gives the court the right to order EU nationals (including Britons) be extradited to face trial elsewhere in the EU.5) We wouldn’t have to accept decisions forced on us by other countries
Many EU decisions are taken under “qualified majority voting” rules, where countries’ voting weights depend on their size. That means countries can be outvoted, forced to accept decisions with which they disagree. Britain is outvoted more often than any other country. Between 2009 and 2015, Britain was on the losing side of 12 per cent of QMV decisions. By contrast, France was on the losing side of less than 1 per cent of votes. The areas where Britain was most often outvoted included the EU budget and EU foreign and security policy.
6. We wouldn’t have to listen to lots of European presidents
The EU is not a country but it has no fewer than five presidents. Donald Tusk is president of the European Council, the group comprised of EU heads of state and government. Jean Claude Juncker is president of the European Commission. Martin Schulz is president of the European Parliament. Mario Draghi is president of the European Central Bank. Jeroen Dijsselbloem is president of the Eurogroup of countries using the single currency. They wrote a report last year calling for much greater integration of the euro countries, another step on the road to a superstate.7) We wouldn’t have to listen to, or fund, the European Commission
The European Commission is more than the EU’s civil service. It also has the right to propose new laws and regulations. It employs around 23,000 officials. In 2011, a think-tank estimated that more than 10,000 Commission staff were paid more than £70,000.
8. We could have proper vacuum cleaners
Under an EU regulation that took effect in 2014, vacuum cleaners with the most powerful motors (1,600 watts and above) are banned. The European Commission says the ban will save energy and encourage more efficient devices. Which?, a consumer group, says it prohibits some of the best machines currently being made. Sir James Dyson, the British industrialist, says the efficiency rules were skewed to favour German vacuums over his products.
9. We wouldn’t have to worry about Turkey
The EU wants to grow even bigger. There are five official candidate countries: Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania. To get in, each has to adopt all EU rules and political standards, then “accession” has to be approved by the leaders and parliaments of every EU member. The Commission says there’s no prospect of any new members before 2020; many European politicians believe Turkey will never qualify, though both sides say they are committed to its entry.
10. We could set our own tax rates
The EU wants to “harmonise” the rate of VAT and the goods to which it applies. VAT must be at least 15 per cent but can be cut to 5 per cent on certain specified items. EU-wide consent is needed for any changes, which is why George Osborne needs European permission to reduce VAT on tampons and sanitary towels.