Net saving

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It is depressing for those concerned about public debate, that Vote Leave, in its first statement after being named as the official Leave campaign for the EU referendum, chose to repeat the claim that we send £350million to Brussels every week.

It says it wants to spend this on priorities like the NHS.

As has been pointed out many times, £350million a week (equivalent to £18.2billion a year) is a gross figure.

It does not take account of the UK rebate – which is never sent to Brussels in the first place – or of money returned for public spending on items such as farm support and regional development.

The Treasury and Office for Budget Responsibility put our actual net contribution at £8.5billion in 2015.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) puts it at £9.9billion for 2014.

The European Commission, which also takes account of EU spending on the UK private sector, at £5.7billion (also for 2014).

These figures are the maximum that would be available for “leave” campaigners to spend on their priorities if their campaign was successful.

Even these amounts take no account of any contribution we would likely have to pay for continuing access to the single market (as Norway does, for example), or any losses resulting from damage to our economy.

Of course, we could free resources by stopping spending on farm support or regional development, but I don’t suppose Brexiters will try selling that idea to farmers or the people of the North East.

Nor do the Vote Leave figures even acknowledge that there are huge economic benefits from our membership.

The CBI recently put this at £73billion-£91billion annually – roughly 10 times our contribution – based on the body of academic evidence.

To be transparent, and give credit where it is due, the net payment figures have been compiled by InFacts, a website which campaigns for Britain to remain in the EU, but is nevertheless a widely respected source of information.

If anyone does not trust them, the figures are readily available on the Treasury and ONS websites.

InFacts’ own estimate of our net saving is £6.3billion (about £120million a week) for 2015.

Peter Morris,

Secretary (North East),

European Movement UK,

Larkspur Terrace,

Newcastle.