Statisticians have fired another shot in the war with Brexit campaigners over how much the UK contributes to the European Union – with an online calculator.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has this morning published a guide outlining what they feel are responsible estimates of how much the UK pays into the EU, one of the key battlegrounds in the referendum debate.
Crunching the numbers
Vote Leave states that the UK sends "£350m per week" to Brussels. But this has long been disputed by Remain campaigners and fact checkers. The UK Statistics Authority dubbed the figure "potentially misleading" and said that talking about a £350m contribution without clarification was poor practice.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) waded into the debate this morning, arguing that the actual amount the UK government would save should it stop paying into the EU budget would be around £8bn a year (£153m a week).
The ONS's preferred figure for the "net contribution" is slightly higher, at £9.9bn. Or, as the calculator below shows, £190m each week.
The figure from the European Commission is even lower at £7.1bn – £137m per week.
What's the difference?
The discrepancy stems from the different between the UK's contribution on paper, its rebate and public sector payments which come from the central EU budget.
Here's how the ONS broke the numbers down for 2014:
|On-paper contribution||£19bn paid to EU (£367m per week)|
|Budget rebate||£4.4bn received from EU|
|Public sector payments||£4.8bn received from EU|
|Final "net contribution"||£9.9bn (£190 per week)|
However, Leave campaigners choose to use the paper contribution amount of £19bn – which gives a weekly total of £367m – for their campaign literature, without highlighting the distinction between the two, which has caused a little frustration in stats circles.
"Often, very large numbers can lose meaning," the ONS said justifying its publication of the calculator.
"To help you make sense of them we have created a calculator tool that will break the numbers down for you."
A spokesperson for Vote Leave said:
"Every week we send £350 million to the EU. Some of that money does come back to the UK after it’s been through the cogs of the Brussels bureaucracy, but we have very little control over how it can be spent."