In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

British abatements and Twitter

On the points of contention in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is the rebate, or the “abatement” or “correction”.

During the apperance on Sky News’ In or Out programme, Michael Gove MP (Conservative, Surrey Heath), the Justice Secretary and Vote Leave campaigner, suggested that we send the rebate to the European Union. Faisal Islam, the political editor of Sky News, interviewed Mr Gove on the programme.

(Video: MTV)

FI: Let’s have a fact. On the side of your bus, in one metre-tall letters, and let me quote: “We send £350m to Brussels every week – let’s fund the NHS instead.” Which week was it that we sent £350m to Brussels: was it this week? Last week? Was it Christmas week? Easter week? Which week?
MG: Every week we actually send more than £350m to Brussels.
FI: Hang on, it comes out of a bank account in Britain and goes to Brussels? It literally leaves the country?
MG: Yes. If you look at the Office for National Statistics report, they point out we send that we send more than £350m.
FI: Does it leave the country?
MG: Yes, we do.

As Mr Islam points out, this interpretation of Table 9.9 of the Office for National Statistics Pink Book has been called “misleading” by Sir Andrew Dilnot, the head of the UK Statistics Authority [1]:

The UK Statistics Authority concluded on 21 April 2016 that the use of the £350 million figure, which is a gross figure which does not take into account the rebate or other flows from the EU to the UK public sector (or flows to non-public sector bodies), alongside the suggestion that this could be spent elsewhere, without further explanation, was potentially misleading.

As the ONS states in this visualisation on the EU contribution [2]:

Before the UK government transfers any money to the EU a rebate is applied.


The ONS is clear: that money is never sent. (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Too many tweets

I pointed out this fact on the social media website Twitter — that the UK does not send that figure — and received a rather negative response from someone, fittingly, with the handle @IrateBrit called John Mackie.

AM: No, we don’t. We do not send the rebate. The money never crosses the exchanges.
JM: The rebate is still at the whim of unelected eurocrats sitting in Brussels. IDIOT.
AM: Are the Treasury Select Committee idiots too?

JM: The rebate Thatcher secured wasn’t cast in stone either… If it were, it wouldn’t be called a rebate.
AM: It “can only be altered with the unanimous agreement of Member States.” Will you withdraw calling me & the TSC idiots?
JM: Anybody who narcissistically [sic] describes themselves as a ‘philanthropist’ and ‘liberal conservative’ deserves to be ridiculed.
AM: You are wrong on a point of fact. Describing my political beliefs is not narcissism: you do not know what that word means.

Twitter is a rather reductive medium: the character limit means people fumble around for cheap one-liners over an actual discussion.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is also the goal of twits.

We do not send the rebate: the money never crosses the exchanges.

That rebate is not in the hand of “unelected eurocrats sitting in Brussels”: it can only be changed by the unanimous agreement of EU members, meaning there must be British consent.

Insulting me and calling me a narcissistic for describing my political beliefs does not change these factual statements.


[1] UKSA, 2016. UK Statistics Authority statement on the use of official statistics on contributions to the European Union. Available from: [Accessed: 5th June 2016]

[2] ONS, 2016. UK Perspectives 2016: The UK contribution to the EU budget. Available from: [Accessed: 5th June 2016]




This entry was posted on June 15, 2016 by in European Politics and tagged , , , .
%d bloggers like this: