This is a complicated one. The most popular figure in the media is 70%, a number which can be traced back to a quote from EU Commissioner Viviane Reding in February 2014. What Ms Reding was in fact referring to, was the percentage of EU laws where the European Parliament had an equal say to the European Council. The matter British laws wasn’t part of that discussion. The number was nevertheless used incorrectly by Janice Atkinson MEP on Question Time, later appearing in the media numerous times as a spearhead for the idea that Britain’s powers over its own laws are severely diminished within the EU. In the past, both Conservative and Labour MPs have quoted the number to be 50%, with journalists such as Polly Toynbee going as low as 7% . The problem is that the legislation in question here is horrendously complicated, making the question difficult to define. Counting only Acts put in place by our parliament that “incorporated a degree of EU influence”, then between 1980 and 2009 those accounted for around 14.3% of all our laws. This number falls to 10.1% if we only take laws that are specifically about implementation of EU obligations. Most EU regulations however do not need to go through our parliament to become enforced in the UK, needing only some form of secondary legislation. These Statutory Instruments can be passed under the European Communities Act (ECA) and between 1997 and 2009 they accounted for 9.1% of the total affecting Britain. Including others that were not passed through the ECA but are EU influenced, that figure becomes 14.1%. There are even more regulations that require zero additional British legislation to become enforceable here. If we combine all three types of legislation, then in 2009 53% were influenced in some way or stemmed directly from Europe. This number can be scrutinised too though, because taking the total laws that are actually enforceable here means including ones that don’t affect us at all, like ones covering the growth of tobacco or olives. It seems that almost any of these figures are justifiable depending on how the issue is defined.
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