Pac-Man pie chart of UK’s spend on the EU

good pie

Please note since posting this it has been pointed out to me that this pie chart is not 100 per cent accurate – though the picture it paints is broadly correct. You need to read all the way to the bottom of this post to see info on the inaccuracies.


How much of overall UK government spend is on EU membership?

I took the figures from the government’s Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis 2015 and knocked up a little Pac-Man pie chart. I’m not generally a fan of pie charts – see here for why and for info about the inspiration that made me knock up this chart.

Pie charts are generally a bad data visualisation tool. But this one does the job. If you want to see my spreadsheet to check my numbers go here.

If you think the £3.7bn could be used to fix the NHS as some leave supporters claim (they’ve also claimed the savings from leaving the EU could fund other things too) take a look at my bar chart below that shows the £3.7bn would be a small beer in terms of increasing spending on the NHS, education and other public services.

horiz bar

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a remain supporter.

Edited on 23 May 16 to add:

A few days after I posted this Ian Cuthbert pointed out on Facebook  that I had made a mistake.  He wrote:

I’m interested in the figure for costs of EU membership, as it doesn’t tally with my understanding. Your figure of £3,723m (0.5%) seems to be for EU transactions (in the Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis). But I don’t understand this to be the same as the cost of EU membership, which page 18 of that source shows as just under £8.9bn (Net expenditure transfers ti the EU). See page 18 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis – here’s a screen shot of the part showing costs of EU membership. Here’s the link to the document which you included:…/public-expenditure-statistical…

In my own fact check on the graph I simply used the ONS and the OBR figure of £8.5 for 2015, but it was an estimate, not a final figure. That figure is, straightforwardly, the UK contribution to the EU, net of the rebate.

So I arrived at a figure of net contribution for EU membership of a little under 1.2%.

In a way, it is a moot point, because none of this includes the net economic benefits of membership. But it is this figure that the Brexit campaign has headlined (constantly!) and also seriously misrepresented. Nor does it include EU spending on UK programmes, such as ESF and ERDF, as far as I can see.

But I’d be interested to know what you think.

I replied:

You ask me what I think. I think:

a) I’ve checked what you’ve said – you are correct. I misread the wrong table.

b) I am happy to be corrected – there is no shame in it. We should all be open to challenge and that’s why I always post a link to my data sources in all graphics I do, along with the link to my spreadsheet with the calculations. Open data and open calculations is exactly where it should be at. Having people check my work and point out mistakes increases my knowledge and it makes me better. No one is always right.

c) Whilst it is of course better to have accurate figures, the point I was making is broadly the same – it is a very small proportion of total government spend. The real point to debate is whether it presents good value, as it is clear even if we stopped paying in it would be relatively small beer in terms of propping up public finances.

d) I will post a correction on my blog [this is it].

e) I’ve done a new pie chart. See below.

And here’s the new pie chart which is broadly the same as the last one

new eu pie



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s