Revised with the addition of the background to the "three-quarters" claim.
Mr David Cameron, the liar who currently holds office as prime minister, asserts that Norway (as part of the EEA) "accepts about three quarters of EU rules". Yet this is just another lie to add to the others the prime minister has already made in a debate where lying by the pro-EU membership faction seems par for the course.
The truth, as always, is very different. Having contacted the EFTA Secretariat, which administers the EEA agreement, they report that 10,862 acts have been incorporated into the EEA Agreement since its inception in 1992 (see screen-shot above).
Very often, though, acts repeal other acts, and some acts are time-limited as cease to have an effect. Taking this into account, there are 4,957 acts remaining in force today.
By contrast, the very latest count of the EU laws in force (today) stands at 23,076. As a percentage of that number, the EEA acquis of 4,957 acts currently stands at 21 percent. In effect, the EEA (and thus Norway) only has to adopt one in five of all EU laws – not the three-quarters that is claimed.
The prime minister, however, does not quote these primary sources – always a mistake. Instead, he quotes a Norwegian Government report in 2012, which makes a mistaken claim in the introduction, repeated in Chapter 1 of the English version (the only chapter to be translated), which is not repeated in the body of the report (available in Norwegian only).
The error made is to claim that "Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation", when the detail is to be found on pages 794-5, which do not support this claim.
What we see there is a chart setting out the EU legislation in force (the same source that I have used), only for July 2008 – over seven years ago. In this overview, which comprised a total of 28,031 legislative acts, of which 1,965 were "applicable directives".
The report takes this figure for directives, and compares it with the (then) 1,369 directives adopted by the EEA, then concluding that "about 70 percent of all European Union Directives also apply to Norway through the EEA".
This is where the error lies, for the 70 percent of all directives is wrongly changed to "all EU legislative acts" in the introduction, expressed as "approximately three-quarters", the figure which has been lifted and used by the Prime Minister.
However, the report then goes on to observe that EU had 7,720 current regulations, whereas the EEA Agreement comprised 1,349 applicable regulations, approximately 17.5 percent of the EU regulations. When both were taken together (directives and regulations) – 2,718 adopted by the EEA compared with 9,685 in the EU EU acquis, amounting to about 28 percent.
Interestingly, when the comparison is made on the same basis that I have used (with 24,061 EU legislative acts), the actual percent comes to 11 percent – a far cry from the "three-quarters" claimed in the introduction.
Even without going into the depths of this report (for which I am exceedingly grateful to my commenter), there is plenty of work to show that the claim has already been discredited. Any competent researcher should know that, and Mr Cameron's office should certainly be aware of that.
The report I cite, however, looks at a snapshot of 2000-2013, when it finds that only ten percent of EU laws were adopted. But this ignores the fact that many laws are repealed each year. So as we add to the law book, old laws are dropping off the end.
Thus, the only valid measure is a comparison between LAWS CURRENTLY IN FORCE. We are making the comparison between the total number of laws on the books of the EU and of the EEA - the laws currently in force. That brings the figure to 21 percent, which can be regarded as definitive at this time.
Yet the three-quarters figure is routinely cited by the BBC
, Open Europe
and even the Westminster Parliament
, even though there is no evidential support for it, based as it is on an error in the Norwegian report.
This careless and even mendacious use of a discredited and inaccurate figure, however, characterises this debate, where truth is the first casualty of war. It is important though, to recognise that the prime minister is amongst those freely resorting to lying, and that the supine media will freely repeat his lies, with not the least effort to check them.
The irony, though, is that the figure doesn't really matter anyway. When the UK leave the EU, it should – like many newly independent states – repatriate the entire body of law, and then work though the list at its leisure to determine what should be kept.
As such, an independent Britain – at least in the early stages – will adopt near-on 100 percent of EU laws. Only gradually will the situation change, when the EU will be adopting laws made by the UK (and Norway) in global institutions. And that is the real benefit of independence.