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The EU in a nutshell

I have no idea how people will vote when the In/Out referendum comes, but I?ve noticed one thing: whenever the debate moves on to hard numbers ? our deficit with Europe, our surplus with the rest of the world, our Brussels budget contributions, the tiny part of our economy dependent on sales to the EU, the vast part subjected to EU regulation ? Euro-enthusiasts quickly shift their ground and start harrumphing about influence.

The statistics might have a Eurosceptic cast, but they are not exactly a fun read. Few of us want to wade through ONS graphs or European Commission tables. Fortunately, we no longer have to: Lee Rotherham has done it for us, and presented his conclusions in easy gobbets.

The EU in a Nutshell is a miscellany of facts and anecdotes about the system which rules us. It?s a book you can delve into in pursuit of a particular fact, or crack open for entertainment at virtually any page.

There are sections on how the Brussels institutions work in real life, on how the Euro-quangos have multiplied, on what each country thinks it is getting out of membership (complete with historical detours). And, of course, there are devastating numbers.

Take, for example, the argument about the European Economic Area. We?re all familiar with the traditional integrationist rebuttal: if Britain went for an Iceland-style market-only deal, we?re told, we?d have to apply lots of directives over whose drafting we had had no say.

How many directives? Here the Euro-grandees tend to become a bit vague. Fortunately, the Icelandic Foreign Ministry has run the numbers, and discovered that 93.5 per cent of EU legal acts don?t apply to Iceland. (The Norwegian Parliament, using a different methodology, came up with the figure of 91.2 per cent, reflecting Norway?s relative eagerness to opt in to common policies not required by the EEA Treaty.) British Euro-enthusiasts are forever telling us about the 2,500 ? 2,500! ? EU laws that Norway has had to adopt since 1992. For some reason, they rarely mention the nearly 30,000 that Britain has had to assimilate over the same period.

Here?s the kicker: Norway sells two-and-a-half times as much per head to the EU as Britain does. Switzerland, which isn?t in the EEA but instead relies on a series of sectoral free trade deals, sells four-and-a-half times as much. So much for the risible notion that three million British jobs ?depend on the EU?. (I write this with conviction, as one of the tiny handful of Britons whose job genuinely does depend on the EU: no one looks forward more eagerly to his redundancy.)

Dr Rotherham begins by updating an old favourite. The Lord’s Prayer runs to 70 words, the Gettysburg Address to 271, but EC Regulation 1284/2002 on the Marketing of Hazelnuts (In Shell) requires 2,509. And still people tell us that this project is somehow about boosting trade and business.

‘I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space,’ says Hamlet, ‘were it not that I have bad dreams.’ Bad dreams, indeed.

The referendum is on its way, my friends, perhaps sooner than you think. Buy this book, read it, digest its facts. The time is coming when you?ll need to deploy them.

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