Has an Avalanche of EU Legislation really been Imposed on the UK by Brussels?

One of the persistent arguments for Brexit is that we are being dictated to by Brussels against our will. There is an endless stream of laws and regulations being showered upon the country – or so this particular argument goes. There are numerous estimates as to the percentage of laws dictated to by Brussels, ranging from as high as 70-80% (Farage) and as low as 7% according to some other analyses. Of course there are endless Euro-myths beloved of the right wing press ever since Boris Johnson was the Telegraph EU correspondent in the 1990s.

To me it makes perfect sense as part of the Single Market that regulation is EU wide and indeed Anthony Barnett argues that leaving the EU will make almost no difference as it is regulation not sovereignty that is at the heart of the matter.

Listeners to James O’Brien’s LBC show know that one of his standard ploys when faced by a Brexiter complaining about the endless stream of laws from Brussels is to ask them to name one law that they disagree with that was foisted upon the UK by Brussels. There has to date never been a single law that a Brexiter has been able to name in this category.

Within the past few days, however, Jim Grace has done an analysis and quoting the Commons Library has put the number at  4,514 out of 34,105. Of these only 72 were forced upon the UK (i.e. the majority of UK MEPs voted against) as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig 1. UK laws 1996-2014

Jim has written a mega twitter thread looking at each of these laws and it seems in each and every case the laws are sensible. A link to the thread is given below

Jim has tried to inject some humour. The thread has garnered wide praise from such luminaries as Fintan O’Toole. Indeed the myth that draconian laws are foisted upon us by the EU is a persistent theme in Fintan’s Writing.

A full unroll of the Twitter feed, is available here.

The irony is that there is also information elsewhere from a retired civil servant that sometimes Britain voted ‘no’ in order to make a bigger point and not in any great endeavour to vote down the law in question!

If the oppressive yoke of those 72 laws was the reason you voted out then you probably know what they are already.

If you didn’t and don’t they might surprise you!


  1. Samuel Johnson -

    Surely a former civil servant rather than a retired one!

    Well, as the old saying goes:

    Experience keeps a dear school but fool will learn in no other.

  2. Neil Robertson -

    It is sadly often the “no bendy bananas” nonsense that gets brought up in connection with EU law!

    It is probably more true that UK priorities (some aspects of the single market, expansion of Eu) have been imposed across the Eu.

  3. Graham -

    According to Dorling & Tomlinson in their latest book (Rule Britannia) “across much of the European Union, regulations on goods have often been referred to as ‘British regulations because it was the British who in the recent past were particularly insistent on common and high safety standards across the Continent”. There are probably other examples.

    1. Peter May -

      Quite – it was the British and especially Thtcher who pushed for the single market. And now it is her philosophical children who decry those same standards.

  4. Bat Sheetcrazee -

    Has the EU ever repealed a law or a set of regulations?

    1. Sean Danaher -

      The quick answer is yes. The long answer really needs another blog post. Which I will try to write next week.

  5. Peter Dawe -

    Most regulation is created in committees of politicians and representatives of large corporates. Unsurprisingly regulation typically benefits large corporates. That the UK is the “home” of many global corporates it is not surprising that regulation is seen as a “British” phenomenon.

    One of my principle reasons for wanting the UK to leave the EU is that I feel the EU has been captured by the interests of large corporates and I see no way of fixing it.

  6. wilful sprite -

    You don’t understand that we want control restored to the British parliament whether it’s about laws we want or laws we don’t want, or whether it’s about sovereignty our government willingly gave away?
    It is totally irrelevent how much law was ‘forced’ on the UK when the government wanted to give away the sovereignty and campaigned for Remain – our Brexit vote was in opposition to this.
    This device about laws being ‘forced’ on the UK is like the one which says ‘people didn’t vote to be worse off’, or ‘we already have the best deal.
    We want control back and we already rejected the current ‘deal’ we have with the EU when we voted Leave.

  7. Graham -

    Who is this ‘we’?
    “Brandishing the campaign slogan ‘Vote leave, take control’, the Leave side in 2016 secured a narrow majority (1.3 million), 51.9 per cent of the 33.6 million who voted. Some 13 million registered voters did not turn out at the ballot boxes, and, on top of that, a further seven million eligible adults were not even registered to vote in 2016. They were disproportionately ‘the young, flat-dwellers, especially renters; members of ethnic minorities; [and] recent movers’.

    Dorling, Danny. Rule Britannia

    The Electoral Register is only 91% Accurate and 85% Complete (Dec ’15). Add in those not allowed to vote – EU citizens living in UK, Under 18’s, UK Citizens living abroad for more than 15 years – and “we” is really “wee”. That doesn’t even begin to look like democracy to me.

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