12 march 2016, knowing the price but not the valeu

Still stuck in referendum world. A particular bugbear is the "leave" camp's claim that britons "give" £20b a year to the eu; £50m a day. Firstly that's wrong, as almost £10b comes right back, in cash for projects like manchester's metrolink and royal eye hospital, promoting tourism to the lake district and a large number of schemes for and investments in small and more risky businesses outside london that would not otherwise receive funding. That means there is a not a single uk-wide picture, as while london is a strong "net contributor" to the eu, wales is a net beneficiary, ie better off in cash terms in than out, as are many other areas. That though is not the story, as this is all about value, not cost. We just paid £45 for a new kettle - but that doesn't mean I should vote to leave john lewis. The question is whether we got value for money from them (which I think we did). The total money spent by the entire eu is 1% of its gdp; for comparison, uk government spends around 42%. Everything done for those 500m people is managed by the commission, which in its entirety has around 30,000 people working for it, less than 10% of the uk central government civil service and less than 1% of its total public sector. The single market alone brings the uk an estimated annual benefit (lies, damn lies & statistics) of £25b, which if we want to translate it to a fanciful figure for each uk household is almost exactly £1000 each a year. For that we also get a slug of external benefits, like 53 free-trade agreements across the world, with another 81 on the way, which enable british firms to export and prosper, and an undervalued foreign service, hand in glove with the uk's own, that bolsters europe's ability to project peace and security across the world. That may sound trite in a world of syria, libya and afghanistan, but it has helped amplify british efforts to bring stability and democracy to eastern europe and beyond and remains an effective global partner for the great powers that is pushing for solutions to these conflicts and which at least tries to make a positive difference. Like the romans, the eu has also brought us the roads. Boris may rant about the "burden" europe has imposed on crossrail (though note britain explicitly agreed to and indeed pushes for this european level playing field) but his small-minded opposition based on london being forced to allow for the possibility that german trains might one day go through it is to rail against the same fundamental single market building block that enables british firms to export a majority of their goods and services to europe. Back at #pulseofthenation hq then, we're still on course to leave. I'm still sad but increasingly sanguine about it.