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27 Oct, 2010 07:13

UK’s choice is not EU or oblivion - British government advisor

The cost of EU membership is unreasonably high and not worth it for the UK, argues Dr Lee Rotherham, a veteran from behind the scenes of UK-EU relations.

Dr Lee Rotherham is an EU Policy Analyst at Taxpayers' Alliance and author of Ten Years On: Britain Without the European Union.

He told RT that the UK’s overall bill for EU membership, including direct and indirect costs for business and the whole country, could be up to £110 billion a year. However, he added that nobody knows that for sure because there has not been a gross benefit analysis of EU membership. Therefore there is a big question over whether UK taxpayers’ money is being spent effectively, particularly in regard to the unprecedented economic problems the financial crisis brought to Southern and Eastern Europe.

Rotherham said: “The cost of the [EU] regulations, in terms of the UK, is greater than the actual value of the trade that it is meant to regulate. That’s because the regulations cover ten per cent of the British economy, which is our exports to the EU, but actually cover 100 per cent of the UK economy. Eighty per cent is internal, ten percent is to the rest of the world.” The whole economy has to pay the price of the 10 per cent regulated by the EU.

In real terms, the UK could buy a new hospital every three days with the money it spends on EU regulations and membership fees.

“The British taxpayer is funding taxes and naturally expects the money to be spent for the benefit of themselves, as fundamentally it is their money,” Rotherham said.

There are about 10 different levels of association with the EU, which are very similar in style, but some without the burdens, regulations and bureaucracy attached to them. And there has to be an appropriate mechanism for the UK that is not necessarily full membership, believes Rotherham.

“If you were a member of a golf club and your bill kept going up and you had to invite people to your house every Sunday, and you had to put obliges and a number of things were added to your conditions of being a member of this golf club – you would not be happy with that,” he said. But “it’s the same principle.”

The EU is just a part of the world and the UK, “rather than linking itself too closely with one part of the world trading system [EU], which is decreasing in importance, the UK or any European country should be involved in more pro-active free trade across the world rather than becoming a part of a regional association which highly risks becoming a protectionist bloc.”

“There are different models to offer, let’s not pretend it is either the EU or oblivion, there are lots of choices around,” assured Rotherham.