Chart: How much does Britain pay into the EU and what does it get back?
Does Britain really put much more into Europe than it gets out? How have our contributions risen and fallen? This chart reveals how the EU works for us.
Being a member of the European Union has been a one-way street for Britain. Contributions from Britain to the EU budget have outstripped the benefits received in every single year of membership.
In total since 1979, Britain has paid in about €260 billion (£228 billion). It has received back in benefits just €163 billion (£143 billion). The difference of €97 billion (£85 billion at today’s exchange rate) has been Britain’s subsidy to the European project.
Each nation’s contribution is based mainly on its Gross National Income, a measure of its economic output and earnings from overseas. The budget is spent on a range of projects to do with agriculture, fisheries, social projects and other Brussels subsidies.
Britain’s contribution figure would have been even higher had it not been for Margaret Thatcher’s tough stance in 1984, when she famously negotiated a rebate on the basis that the vast bulk of EU spending went on agricultural subsidies and Britain received a far lower proportion of this than other nations.
Under the terms of the rebate, Britain’s contributions were cut while other countries which benefited most from agricultural subsidies (mainly France) paid more.
Since 1985 Britain’s rebate has been worth a total of almost €90 billion (£79 billion at today’s exchange rate). Though as our graph shows, Britain’s contributions have still consistently far outstripped the benefits it receives.
The rebate would have been higher in recent years had not Tony Blair given up part of it under pressure from EU leaders. He agreed to cut it by about 20 per cent from 2007 until the next round of budget negotiations in 2013. So far, his concession has cost Britain about £4 billion.