What proportion of UK law is made in Brussels?

There is no clear answer to this question as it depends a) on how one defines ‘UK law’ and b) on the way in which one counts ‘laws’.  This helps to explain why there is such a vast discrepancy between the numbers bandied around in the EU referendum debate.  For instance, the House of Commons Library concluded that ‘6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU obligations’, whereas the campaign group Business for Britain claims that the true number is 64.7%.

A narrow definition of ‘UK law’ – law originating from the UK’s legislatures – leads to an incomplete picture as it leaves out directly applicable EU law (much of the EU Treaties and many EU Regulations).  At the same time, simply adding up the number of directly applicable EU legislation and the number of UK Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments and figuring out the proportion of EU law is equally misleading: It does not reveal anything about a) the number of legal rules contained in each piece of legislation; b) their application to the UK (e.g. rules on citrus growing do not really matter in this country); or c) about their real impact on everyday life. Furthermore, these figures ignore that the common law, which makes up much of the UK’s private and criminal law, is not contained in legislation but in judgements of the court and the volume of this is hard to quantify.

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