Has Evan Davis any idea how much we pay to the EU?

Many listeners to the Today programme earlier will have heard presenter Evan Davis, previously a BBC economics correspondent, make the astonishing claim that, if the government borrowed to build social housing, this would “improve the national debt”.

Not quite as many will have heard my interview with him at 7.20am when he pretty much shouted me down for suggesting that we could avoid a hike in rail fares if we stopped:

a) putting benefits up by more than increases in wages for people in work; or
b) paying £19.2 billion a year to the EU.

Having shouted me down, Evan Davis then assured BBC listeners that leaving the EU would only fund a small decrease in rail fares.

For the record annual spending on rail fares on the latest available data was £6.6 billion. So, if we left the EU, the government could if it wanted make the train network completely free. Indeed it could also pay for every single train journey (£11 billion when we include the £4 billion or so of taxpayer funding), and have £8.5 billion left over.

I know that this is an issue on which Evan Davis has form, since earlier this month Radio 4 broadcast a debate on the EU chaired by Evan Davis in which I and others spoke against Sir Stephen Wall, previously Britian’s top EU civil servant.

Since we are the EU’s largest market, and they sell more to us than we do to them, it would obviously be in their interest to have a free trade agreement with the UK were we to leave the EU.

Nonetheless, since pro-EU commentators, who are so over-represented in BBC output, scaremonger that we could face a tariff wall outside the EU, I made the point that the total amount of such tariffs could not under WTO rules be more than between £5 billion and £6 billion.

I then observed that this was only a fraction of our budget contribution to the EU. Hence, in the highly unlikely event of the EU putting up a tariff wall against the UK, our government could if it wished redirect that fraction of our EU budget contribution to pay any tariffs faced by firms exporting from the UK, while still having a lot of cash previously sent to the EU left over.

But Evan Davis interrupted me, first to tell BBC listeners that £5-6 billion (in any event a top-end estimate) was not a fraction of the EU budget, and then – contradicting himself – that, even if it were, it would be “a very large fraction”.

For the record £5-6 billion is between a quarter and a third of the annual £19.2 billion which we now pay to the EU.

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39 Comments

Filed under bbc, benefits, commuters, conservatives, europe, Eurozone, fair's fare, mark reckless, medway, MP, railway, rochester, rochester and strood, southeastern, strood, transport

39 responses to “Has Evan Davis any idea how much we pay to the EU?

  1. I’m sorry but you are completely misrepresenting what Evan Davis said. He asked, perfectly sensibly, how you would fund cutting rail fares – higher taxes, spending cuts elsewhere or more borrowing.

    You then brought up the subject of the EU and wanted to discuss that rather than the fare issue. Evan Davis just wanted you to say “cut spending elsewhere” rather than, say, put income tax up.

    The actual things you want to cut are a secondary issue and for another discussion.

    • No Nick Reid you have fallen for the oldest BBC ‘Marxist’ line of asking a question and inserting an answer you want to receive. Evan gave three options Higher taxes, spending cuts, borrowing.
      It was quite right to answer that question with another source of funding provided by cutting our EU cost burden,
      The cut to EU budget if we leave the EU or downgrade from full member is not a secondary issue at all or for another debate, the answer indicated the MP was thinking outside the BBC box.

      • But cutting the EU budget is a “spending cut”.

      • ivan

        @NIck Reid: It is a spending cut, but in other countries — NOT IN THE UK. As a net contributor to the EU, more money goes over to Brussels than comes back (by quite a margin, although the precise extent of this margin probably accounts for the difference in Mark’s and Evan’s views on the scope for covering rail fares). It is disingenuous in the extreme to suggest otherwise.

    • “Cutting the EU budget is a spending cut” Wow! Just wow!

      • blingmun

        And if he simply said “cut spending elsewhere” you know damn well what the BBC line would be: “Tories don’t know where spending cuts will come from – could be NHS”.

    • PitPony

      So Evan Davies would have been happy with the reply restricted to just “cut spending elsewhere”?
      Not exactly compelling radio.

  2. Erik Gertkvist

    WTO forbids the introduction of tariffs towards a country that leaves a tariff union. Isn’t that common knowledge?

  3. GeoffMM

    Davis was rude and ill mannered to his guest. Fail to see what the likes of him and the rest actually bring to the prosperity of the country, total contribution to the GDP = nil

  4. Interesting that you argue that Mark didn’t say what Evan Davis wanted him to say…how bizarre.

    • No, the point was whether Mark wanted to fund rail fares through spending cuts, taxes or borrowing. The actual details of which taxes to raise, or what spending to cut, was a secondary issue for another occasion. Today programme interviews aren’t just an open invitation for the guest to talk for 5 minutes about whatever pet subject they feel strongly about.

      It’s also interesting that in this blog Mark mentions the issue of raising benefits by more than wages have risen before he mention our EU budget. Whereas it was the other way round on the radio.

      I can quite see why Evan Davis was annoyed as a perfectly sensible debate about rail fares looked like it was going to be hijacked by a discussion of whether the EU is a waste of money or not. Which is a perfectly reasonable debate, but for another occasion.

      Evan Davis would have been just as annoyed if a Labour politician had been on and said we don’t need fare hikes if only we got the offshore Tory tax avoiders and their Fat Cat City friends to pay their fair taxes.

      • robin

        Evan Davis and perfectly sensible debate are mutually incompatible. Come to that the bbc and perfectly sensible debate are incompatible too.

      • It does seem a little suspect that you didn’t want Mark to talk about the EU. Regardless, the point about saving money is totally coherent. If Mark feels that we as a country could fund one thing by cutting another, he is absolutely within his right to make solid mention of the sewage pipe full of cash currently belching it’s contents directly into Brussels.

        Here it is, unadulterated. Evan Davis asked a question. Mark Reckless answered that question and included an example. Being shouted down by Evan Davis does not justify Evan Davis’ own journalistic approach. Mark Reckless was not avoiding the question, as many politicians tend to do.

        In a cruel twist of irony, you have been avoiding the subject, which is how we might tackle rising rail fares, by stubbornly complaining about Mark Reckless’ approach. If anything is a secondary issue, it’s your opinion, as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Daniel

    Maybe Mark Reckless was shouted down because everyone thought he was drunk again?

  6. £19 bn? I thought gov’t figures said £14.7 bn annual membership (minus the £5bn odd rebate) See http://stevehynd.com/2011/10/10/the-true-cost-of-eu-membership/ for more on EU membership costs relative to UK domestic expenditure

  7. I’ve listened to the clip and neither Mark or Evan shout each other down. A bizarre claim.

  8. lolathebeautiful

    Got a lot of ‘friends’on here Mr r, n’est pas?

    didn’t here oyu this a.m. as I really cannotbe arsed with biased and largely ignorant BBC journos and ‘presenters’. In any event why the bloody Hell are we still subsiding rail when it makes up only 8% of journeys?

  9. RogerT

    I have thought Evan Davis an idiot ever since he made some condescending and completely wrong comments on contracting and IR35. I so, so, so hope he is one of the high-paid BBC staff who are not employees and will have to pay loads in back taxes and NI contributions.

  10. Leftie hypocrites

    He should have replied, cut the licence fee by 30%, putting £s back in the pockets of people to pay for increases in such services as transport. Scrap the waste, nepotism and abuse of fee payer’s cash by the likes of Evan Davis.

    • Sluggage

      If your enormous pay and pension comes from a state poll tax on every household (the BBC licence fee) you would be chary of ever suggesting a reduction in public spending.
      Evan Davis can only be a statist.

  11. Old Blue Eyes

    I never listen to, or watch, any BBC programmes that have a political content. That they are biased to the liberal left is without question. Margaret Thatcher would have done the country even greater service had she included the BBC in the privatization exercise.

  12. Early Morning Commuter

    I was listening and thought you came over quite well UNTIL you suggested the impractical solution of leaving the EU. Evan D was simply trrying to keep the debate within sensible boundries – at least he didn’t suggest you were spouting ‘boring waffle’ as he did with Nick Herbert.

    • sandy winder

      Leaving the EU is not an impractical solution at all. In fact it is THE practical solution to many of our problems. Having an extra £5-6billion year to spend is hardly a problem to most people. Being able to trade more freely with non-EU countries plus getting rid of a lot of red tape, which is crippling UK business, are hardly problems either.

      The BBC may wish to deny the freedom of whistle-blowers to speak out about the EU but guests have no duty to observe its wishes.

  13. Mark F

    Mark Reckless, the money we’d be left with is our net contribution. Have you any idea how much that is?

    “The UK’s net contributions to the EU Budget are expected to average almost £6½ bn for the years 2011-2013”, Ruth Lea, Global Vision
    http://www.global-vision.net/perspectives11.asp

    • David

      The point is, if we left the EU, we’d have control over all £19bn – rather than have the EU donate two thirds of it to the various ‘good causes’ it (not us) deems to be worthy.

      No less important is that us being in the EU is costing us many billions – because it stops us acting independently to strike up free trade deals with foreign nations we want to trade with. Instead, we have to do it via the EU. The most obvious example is that the British Commonwealth realms should be a free trade zone, as we’re already sharing the same language, culture (largely), tradition and monarch. Currently, we can’t even do this with (what’s effectively) our extended family!

      Meanwhile, we’re shackled to an area in chronic economic decline; only Germany is growing (slightly) and that can’t make up for the nightmares elsewhere in the Eurozone. As a proportion of the world’s economy, the Eurozone is shrinking at an alarming rate. Why obsess over our relations with them when we need to be out in India, China and Brazil, building business relationships and signing contracts?

      • Mark F

        You’re making an anti-EU argument, not addressing the point.

        Mark Reckless is questioning Evan Davis’s grasp of the cost but then quotes numbers that come from I don’t know where. Would you like to support this £19.2bn figure? Also, please explain why you’re discounting the contributions we receive to worthless.

        Or perhaps the MP himself would like to put some flesh on those numbers.

      • Jim

        The vast majority of EU spending in the UK is a) on farming and b) regional aid, adding up to over 6.5bn euros (2007 figures here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8036096.stm#start). Thus it seems to me that it is perfectly possible that the people of the UK might decide that sending €13-14bn+ to the EU in order to get back about €7bn, most of which goes to wealthy landowners, is not a good deal. They might consider that the farmers can go hang, we’ll import our food from abroad, and we will spend our €13bn+of gross contribution on the NHS, or free university tuition fees, or free care homes for the elderly, or whatever. (The figures will have changed since 2007, but what the EU spends its, or rather our, money on hasn’t. The principle is the same – large gross contribution, and most of the money that comes back goes to agriculture).

  14. Pingback: What would you do with £19.2 billion a year? | Better Off Out

  15. Pingback: What would you do with an extra £19.2 billion a year? | Better Off Out

  16. Derek Emery

    Unless you are a left liberal you would never be offered employment at the BBC. Therefore it should be no surprise the BBC only has one political view on everything.

  17. m32

    I thought a good example of the leftie bias on Today this morning was the report on the US presidential race. The BBC reporter asked the republican supporter a question along the lines of “How can you win when your campaign is imploding because everyone thinks you’re extremists”, whereas he bowled nothing but under arms to the democrats.

  18. bob!

    Davis once stated as fact that Gordon Brown’s 5 billion per year tax grab from private pensions “was a good thing because it will encourage people to save more for their old age”. Combine that with his ridiculously one-sided pro-immigration programmes for the BBC… he has never been neutral.

  19. Rh-

    I stopped listening to the tripe davis spouts. Its inevitably tainted with the line he intends to push and if he’s stood up to he quotes figures that he or his researchers got from the guardian’s pages (ie extremely bias)

  20. I decided to listen to the tripe, and both you and Davies have ishooos. Davies is clueless and seems to think that there is a magic money tree. And you are not facing the reality that rail fares are related to house prices. In a sense they are both rents. It is plainly bloody obvious that house prices reduce the further you commute to London in direct proportion to the season ticket. And just to make the point again only about 8% of commuting journeys are by train.

    How about thinking outside the box on taxation. Ever heard of LVT?

    And in a depression, there will be an unwinding of unwarranted expansion of money and credit and the reason that this is painful is because the prices rise faster than wages.

  21. Steven

    I agree that Evan Davis was a little tetchy in his manner, and I felt that Mark Reckless’s points were reasonably valid initially at least. But… we are talking about train rises in the next year, and with the best will in the world, arguing that we can stop them by leaving the EU does not strike most listeners as a particularly imaginative or intelligent engagement in this debate. It would take quite some time to happen in practical terms for a start. To bang on about the EU in answer to every question that arises — large or small — does come across to the average voter as somewhat irrational and obsessive.

  22. Roland Dooley

    I wish the likes of Reckless would leave this useless EU loving Tory party and join UKIP.

  23. Usual tripe from the usual suspects. I gave up listening to Today and just wish I could give up paying for it. Mr Reckless did well against the stuttering and muttering from Evan Davies – as soon as the interviewee starts to answer a question in non-BBC mode, well Evan Davies discovers they’ve run out of time. Would you believe it?

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