prime minister claimed back in October, during his
concerted effort to smear EFTA/EEA countries, that Norway "accepts about
three quarters of EU rules", this untruth has become a commonly used
argument from remain campaigners across social media. It is a favourite myth of
remain politicians from all parties. It adds to the many untruths told about Norway in this
debate, from the money it pays, to the influence it exerts. As for the Norway “fax
democracy” myth, that’s a tired old
canard that ignores the international elephant in the room.
The Leave Alliance has contacted the EFTA Secretariat
administers the EEA agreement, and they report that 10,862 acts have been
incorporated into the EEA Agreement since its inception in 1992 (see
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
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.
Neither the prime minister nor the remain campaigners quote these primary
sources. Instead they rely on 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
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 and remain campaigners alike.
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 we 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. This
persistent myth has been widely discredited
Even without going
into the depths of this report, there is plenty of work to show that the claim
has already been discredited. The report we 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.
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.
In the end, the exact figure doesn't really matter for when the UK leaves the
EU, it should – like many newly independent states – repatriate the entire body
of law to minimise disruption. It can then work though the list at a methodical
and sensible pace to to determine what should be kept and what should be
As such, an independent Britain – at least in the early stages – will adopt
nearly 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 the global institutions
that really make the rules
. That is the real benefit of