This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
£350 million has been selected as the Number Watch number of the month for May, the amount that Vote Leave claims is being handed over by the UK to the EU every week. I agree with JEB that it is a wrong number, but I wouldn't go as far as calling it "a blatantly stupid, counter-productive and campaign-wrecking wrong number". If the Leave side used a less controversial number that was based on estimating the net contribution to the EU, there would be much less of a reaction from the Remain side (though they would still probably try to claim the number was too high). By using a more controversial upper bound number which invites people to attempt to debunk it, you may benefit from the "Streisand effect", in that it draws much greater attention to the fact that, whatever the precise contribution is, the funding of the EU does not represent good value for money for the UK.
Various figures could be assigned to how much the UK pays the EU each week. Using data for 2014 from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) website:
The nominal gross contribution (before considering the rebate) is £19.1 billion per year, or £367 million per week.
When the £4.4 billion rebate is applied, the contribution drops to £14.7 billion per year, or £283 million per week.
ONS estimate that the grants coming back to the UK in the public sector (going mainly to farmers and UK regions) make the net contribution £9.9 billion per year, or £190 million per week.
If grants coming back to the UK that are outside the public sector are included, ONS estimate the net contribution is £7.1 billion per year, or £137 million per week. These grants might include funding of university research and also grants to various organisations such as the BBC and Green NGOs who are known to take a bit of EU funding if they can get it.
If I was assigning a number myself I would go for the £280 million per week (gross contribution considering rebate).
One problem with "the rebate" is that it isn't, strictly speaking, a rebate. A rebate, which is the word which has been used to describe the UK's reduced membership fee since the 1980s, sounds like a partial refund, where you hand a sum of money over first and than get some of it back after a period of time. But the rebate is apparently never paid, so a more appropriate word would have been to call it a 'discount'.
You've some good points there,Dave.
Like yourself, I'd like to see the country leave the EU ,but unfortunately I don't see that coming to pass.
I do not trust any of the politicos.
It seems to me that Boris is a stooge to make the leave campaign suspect?
Bojo is, I think, an asset to the leave campaign even though there is probably some truth to the claim that it is less out of conviction than it is an attempt to secure the leadership when the opportunity comes.
The problem for Bojo is that he doesn't realise that you make your own luck and too many people interpret his late coming off the fence for exactly that, his interest in being leader.
I suspect he ducked the opportunity to enter parliament via a by-election because then he would have to challenge for the leadership against a sitting leader and then fight an election which he would have to win or himself be expected to stand down for having deposed a leader who might have won. The thing is I don't think Bojo though the tories would win in 2015 with himself or Cameron in charge. But if Cameron lost the 2015 election and Bojo entered parliament in those elections, he probably expected (naively) that Cameron would have to stand down and he could then run for the vacant leadership.
The only flaw in this plan was that Cameron, against expectations, did win a clear majority. Bojo would now have to challenge for the leadership with Cameron still on the throne and Cameron, who may not be the brightest spark, does have some sneaky moves (or clever advisers) played smart with his "no third term" so all Bojo has to do is wait and he stands a chance of being leader well in advance of the 2020 elections. If he was to believe the promise of no third term which no one should believe.
Thus, when Bojo looked again he saw and recognised the potential that a leave campaign might succeed, (especially if he took a hand in it) and once again, if the vote is to leave, Cameron, being so firmly for staying - against half the parliamentary party and 70% of the remaining membership, would again be expected to do the honourable thing and resign.
So yes, Bojo may well have his own agenda and may well not be a genuine leave supporter but it is an expedient way to gain popular support and have a chance at leading before he is too old for the job. The trouble is, and it is common to most in the party, that waiting for cameron to resign rather than acting on principle and insisting on a new leader who actually represents the party, doesn't exactly endear the to the electorate. They seem to lack the necessary "Ides of March" instinct and are thus, perhaps, unfit to be leader.
Only one or two have so far shown they will sacrifice ministerial positions and risk the wrath of Cameron and his cohorts to support leave on principle. I'd rather one of them as the next leader, thank you.
But Sir, you must leave because it will ultimately save all the peoples of Europe from the tyranny of a foreigner.
This works both ways.
There is some comfort in knowing that you are not alone in thinking that there is something wrong. A sort of "litmus" test. That so many populist parties are coming to the fore and causing discomfort for the EU supporting establishment parties says we can't all be wrong.
Then too, if Britain fails, and it will only be by a narrow margin if it does, then other countries may take the honours in starting the break up.
This referendum may not, after all, be our last chance for freedom, though we should treat it as if it was.
In reply to Edward, I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about when you say you don't think the politicos will let us get out of the EU. You could be talking about the claim by Lord Astor (David Cameron's father-in-law) that the Referendum vote will just end up being treated by UK MPs as being advisory and in practice it would be very difficult to repeal the acts necessary to get out of the EU as there is a substantial existing pro-EU majority in the House of Commons:
Referendums (or referenda) tend to be treated as being advisory in Continental Europe. I suppose a classic example would be the Swedish government asking its citizens if they wanted to switch from driving on the left hand side of the road to the right hand side of the road in the 1960s. The Swedish public voted against the switch in a referendum, but the Swedish government then imposed the switch to driving on the right hand side of the road in the late 1960s, deciding that it was in the national interest.
But in the UK we use referendums for a purpose that doesn't apply in continental Europe, where we occasionally allow the smaller countries within the UK to vote on whether they want to separate from the UK. Examples would be the recent Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and a referendum held in Northern Ireland back in 1973 where NI was asked whether it wanted to leave the UK and join the Irish Republic. From the point of view of avoiding major civil unrest, it would not be at all advisable to give any impression that a referendum result in the UK might just be taken as being advisory and could be ignored. In my view, the particular nature of the UK means that referendum results have to be taken seriously by Parliament.
On the idea of Boris Johnson being a stooge to make the Leave campaign look suspect, it does look a bit strange that one of the leading figures in the Leave campaign has no previous track record of indicating a desire to leave the EU. But the way that the Conservative party has handled the EU issue is that they proposed that a renegotiation of UK membership terms would take place before the referendum. Theoretically (though highly unlikely), the proposed renegotiation might have produced much better membership terms, maybe something like an associate membership arrangement, and it invited people like Boris to sit on the fence and wait to see what came out of the renegotiation effort. My view is that Boris has waited for the renegotiation effort to be concluded, taken the view that the renegotiated membership terms are unsatisfactory, and has decided to back the Leave side.
So far Boris has performed pretty well for the Leave side, and he even seems to be less bumbling than usual. He also seems to have the effect of making the Remain side behave in a rather snarky manner when they are up in a TV debate against him, which is probably good for the Leave side.
Our problem with referendums is that we have so few of them because usually we have little need of them. This means that we don't actually have any legislation relating to them.
Thus it is quite possible Cameron could claim, in the event of a small margin vote to leave, that what we rejected was not the EU but the deal he obtained. he would then offer to negotiate a better deal with a new referendum to follow.
This works fine as an excuse not to actually leave if the deal he brokered were really pathetic, which it is.
Alternatively he could claim that on such an issue it is important to have a clear and decisive vote.
Now, a while back some ministers carefully constructed a proposition that if the vote to stay were marginal, we should stay but have a new referendum in five years. Cameron has not, to my knowledge commented on this and in the light of the ongoing insistence of SNP that they want a new referendum, this idea was surely one he might have commented on.
Of course, his lack of comment commits him to no course of action. This means that if the vote to remain is marginal he can simply ignore this suggestion and keep us in with no further referendums, no new re-negotiations, no more looking for reforms etc.
But what if the vote to leave is narrow? For some reason this option did not occur to the ministers. Now Cameron could refer to the ministers suggestion and adopt it as an excuse to keep us in pending a repeat referendum. A carefully presented suggestion with no public response from Cameron makes one suspect the whole thing is a put up job to keep us in regardless. A simple majority of we vote stay and a clear and decisive result if we vote to leave.
Then too Cameron could simply ignore the referendum and decide, on our behalf, that "it is in our best interests" which he alone is qualified to judge, are that we should stay.
Note that whatever the option we will stay whether we are offered a repeat referendum or not. No one wants to suggest that if we vote to leave we can always change our minds and rejoin. This isn't something remain wanted put about because this is portrayed as a "one time offer" intended to frighten off the undecideds. But as Schauble just suggested, we can return at any time. Joining is never the problem, getting out is.
In any event one would have hoped the referendum bill would have resolved all these issues including scotching any ideas of new negotiations and it would have mandated government action in the various outcome scenarios.
And at this point one envies the Swiss for having something approaching sensible legislation on referendums including that the government has no say in denying a referendum if enough people call for it.
It might be sensible to implement just such legislation for any future situations.
David Cameron says that a decision to leave would be irrevocable.
I've not heard him challenged on this and would like to hear
his reason(s) for thinking this.
If we left,and say after five years or so,it did n't work out, then why should there be any major problem about returning to the fold?
Joy in heaven,repenteth sinner,etc.
This is a message recently made by Cameron and echoed by many EU "leaders" including Hollande.
However, Wolfgang Schauber recently said exactly the opposite, that when we recognised our mistake we would of course be re-admitted.
Logically, we have to ask if the EU would really reject an application to rejoin from:
1) A world top ten manufacturer
2) The world's fifth largest economy
3) The fourth largest spender on defence and, of course,
5) The second largest contributor to the EU.
This is the EU that would have fast tracked Scotland back in. An economic basket case if they chose independence from the UK.
SO why this declaration against the logic?
Because clearly we will never get another chance to leave. A vote to remain will be final. ANd, while Cameron says if we do remain he will continue to fight for reforms and repatriated powers, as an added inducement perhaps to those inclined still to think he can achieve meaningful change or that the EU is capable of it, the EU scotched that idea straight away with Hollande and Junkers trampling on that.
But let us suppose that we do not know who to believe. The logic of the situation dictates we vote leave as the risk free choice.
If we vote remain and discover our mistake we will not again get the chance to leave. Nor will we know how we would have faired outside though we wills certainly learn from experience inside just who was misleading us.
But if we vote to leave, we will still see what our future might have been on the inside by watching what happens to those still in the EU. And we get to try for ourselves to discover the truth of the Leave Campaigns claims of a better future.
If vote leave was a mistake, no problem, we simply rejoin the EU.
This logic says vote leave is the best option. hence Cameron et all want to cut off this choice even though what they say is blatantly wrong.
Quite Excellent logic,JMW and nicely put.
A pity this piece is not in one of the nationals today.
On the issue of David Cameron claiming that a decision to leave the EU would be irrevocable, it is obviously untrue as a statement in itself as JMW has pointed out.
However I think I did see him being challenged when he made that claim in a debate on one of the TV channels. As I remember it, Cameron clarified that the UK would be very unlikely to be able to go back into the EU on the current supposedly favourable membership terms (being given a rebate and being allowed to opt out of participation in the Eurozone or the Schengen Agreement), implying that if we did try to go back in, it would have to be on the unfavourable standard membership terms like adopting the Euro currency. So it sounds to me like the Conservative party has ruled out the idea of trying to take us back into the EU in the future if we left. I would imagine that the Lib Dems would try to take us back in, if they ever got the chance, even on the unfavourable standard membership terms.
If I had to predict how Brexit is going to go, I think we're likely to end up outside the EU's 'single market', due to the EU not budging on the free movement of people issue, which was a major concern for many Leave voters in the EU referendum. If the UK ends up outside the single market, then I expect that the left-leaning UK political parties, if they can get elected or can form a coalition in the future, will try to regain access to the EU's single market (rather than try to re-join the EU), in an arrangement similar to what non-EU member Norway currently has. In a Norway-type arrangement, the lefties get the freedom of movement of people back, and a lot of the EU regulations would be re-instated.