Statistical Accuracy and EU Contributions

The amount “we send the EU” should reflect the actual cash-flow to the EU. (Photo: Getty Images)

In short

Accuracy in public debate: The figures used by politicians, campaign groups and activists should be accurate.

Four important figures

There are four figures of interest regarding the UK’s contribution to the EU:

  • Post-abatement gross contribution: The amount the UK government actually sent to the EU institutions;
  • Net contribution (after public sector receipts): This amount reflects the direct effect of EU membership on UK government finances;
  • Net contribution (after public and private sector receipts): This amount represents the direct effect of EU membership on the UK economy.
This table quantifies the different figures, from HM Treasury statistics. (Image: BBC)

We do not send the ‘rebate’

Before any money is sent to the EU, a ‘rebate’ is applied. It is formally called the “Fontainebleau abatement”.

The abatement is applied before any money is transferred, meaning the post-abatement gross contribution is what we send. (Image: House of Commons Library)

Common Counterarguments

This section goes through some common counterarguments, observed on social media, by those maintain this erroneous claim.

‘We really send £365m a week’

No, this is a misuse of official statistics. We do not “send” the abatement.

It is plain that the abatement is not sent to the EU. (Image: ONS)

‘The rebate is controlled by the EU, so we should include it’

This is a false premise. Financial frameworks must be unanimously agreed:

‘£350m is the amount under the EU’s control’

The Vote Leave slogan was not about “control”: it included an empirical claim about how much “we send the EU”.

‘The rebate is effectively a credit’

Previously, the abatement was listed in the credit section of the ONS Pink Book.

Andrew Tyrie: “It is not in fact debited from the consolidated funds.” (Video: YouTube/OldQueen)
The gross contribution to the EU (“total debits”) has the series ID ‘GCSM’. (Photo: ONS)

‘Only Remoaners think the figure is wrong’

There is no debate on factual matters: only correction.

‘Of course the rebate is sent back to us. That is what a rebate means’

Congratulations on the ability to read a dictionary.

‘It doesn’t matter: it did not affect the result’

Accuracy in public debate is worthwhile on its own terms.

‘It will be true some day’

That implies it is false today.

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