This Blog will feature opinions on European affairs by members of the Centre for European Politics. Comments are welcome in English.

"Change Britain" and its fictional figures on the EU budget

The report published by Change Britain on 27 December seems to be using fictional figures with regard to the EU budget.





Let’s take this apart by looking at the gross contribution figure of £19,593 million in 2015. It is misleading to quote this figure in sterling rather than euro since the budget is decided in euro and its value in sterling fluctuates with the sterling-euro exchange rate. During the 2015 financial year, the exchange rate of euro to sterling fluctuated between 1.28 (on 6 January) and 1.44 (on 18 July). Let us take the 1.28 rate since it is the most favourable for the purposes of Change Britain in maximising the size of the budget.


In 2015, the EU’s total revenue collected through the UK authorities, including from the external tariff, was € 21,409.3 million (or £ 16,726 million at the rate of 1.28), nearly 3 billion pounds less than the figure touted by Change Britain. [Source: the 2015 accounts of the European Union confirmed by the Court of Auditors, tab 2015, box AJ99.]


From the same source, the rebate (cell AJ89) was € 6,083.6 million and EU expenditure in the UK (cell AJ84) was € 7,457.6 million.


These give a net contribution figure of € 7,868.1 million or £6,146 million at a rate of € 1.28 to the pound. This is a full £ 4 billion of net contribution less per year (40%) than the £10,353 million that Change Britain is claiming.


Highlighting an accurate figure for Britain’s net contribution is all very well, but to look at the EU budget only in terms of net contributions or net benefits is severely flawed. Whereas payments to farmers are direct and can be seen as welfare payments, the EU’s other 70% of expenditure has different effects. For example, the award of an engineering research contract to a consortium led by a university in Germany is not only an award to Germany. EU research projects have to be multinational though with one leader. The research money will be spent in other member states, like the UK, on personnel or equipment. The results of research will be to the benefit of all users wherever they are located geographically, and will promote economic growth if, in this case, engineering efficiency is improved. Completing such research establishes networks that can be used in the future. In other words, much of the EU’s spending has multiplier effects and is not merely a welfare payment to the country where a receiving bank account is located.


Change Britain also neglects to analyse the cost for Britain in leaving a number of investment programmes run by the European Investment Bank, such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Worth € 500 billion over 5 years to 2020, this fund provides leverage for investments in innovation infrastructure across Europe, including the UK. Funds are provided by the private sector but are underwritten by the EU’s member states, the European Investment Bank and by the EU budget.


- Giacomo Benedetto, Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Budget Policy, Royal Holloway, University of London, 28 December 2016

Posted on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 08:17PM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | Comments Off

Philip Hammond’s statement on guarantees for EU expenditure until 2020: Farmers versus the rest

The promise of Philip Hammond, the UK Finance Minister, to honour EU expenditure in the UK until 2020 is only partly reassuring – at least those already in receipt of funds will now know that the rug will not be pulled from beneath their feet.

Mr Hammond used the cut-off point of 2020 because the end of that year marks the expiry of the current Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union, which was agreed for the years 2014 to 2020, and allowed for long-term spending decisions to be made. At the end of 2013, the Conservative-LibDem coalition government had agreed to this package, so to guarantee a replacement of EU expenditure in the UK until 2020 is merely to honour David Cameron's previous commitment.

Beyond the year 2020, nothing is guaranteed. Mr Hammond undertook to honour projects which are already financed by the time of the autumn statement this December. In other words, farmers whose payments were contractually pre-allocated in 2013 can rest assured until 2020, whereas research or regional development bids currently in preparation but not yet awarded will not have their funds guaranteed. British scientists involved in international cooperation would have appreciated an unconditional guarantee by the British Treasury to honour any funding yet to be committed between now and 2020. Not having this guarantee puts British participation in such projects in jeopardy since a successful bid would run the risk of part of its funding being cancelled at the moment that the UK leaves the European Union.

From Mr Hammond’s words, it is also unclear whether the Treasury will honour all payments beyond 2020 for projects that already exist. Whereas farming payments are automatic ("non-differentiated" and "pre-allocated" in EU jargon), other EU expenditure is divided into what are called commitments and payments. Commitments are virtual money that the EU promises to deliver when an award is made. Payments are the cash paid as a recipient complies with the conditions of the award, secures co-financing and produces necessary paperwork. Typically payments can follow up to three years after commitments and are most common in areas like regional development and research once projects get off the ground.

Farmers’ incomes in the current system are indeed guaranteed until 2020. What researchers and the UK’s most needy regions like Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys have a right to know is whether all payments due in the UK under the EU’s current spending programme of 2014 to 2020 will be honoured.



Giacomo Benedetto

Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Budget Policy

Royal Holloway

University of London



Posted on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 07:34PM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | CommentsPost a Comment

Portuguese MEPs in 1986

 In researching the number of MEPs per national party, it is difficult to discover the names and parties of temporary MEPs appointed just after a country joins the European Union. In these cases, and before the first election to the European Parliament in new member states, members of the national parliament are seconded to the European Parliament and sit as full MEPs. If the European Parliament holds internal elections at the time, these temporary MEPs count towards the totals necessary for political groups to obtain positions like the chairs of parliamentary committees.

One website is very useful in tracking the number of MEPs per country and per national party elected to the Party groups:

But it does not contain information on temporary MEPs by party appointed by national parliaments immediately after a country joins the EU, pending the first elections.

A visit to one of the European Parliament's archives provided me with old paper catalogues that contained this information concerning MEPs from Portugal from January 1986 until the first EP elections in Portugal in July 1987:





















Posted on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 12:44PM by Registered CommenterDr Giacomo Benedetto | CommentsPost a Comment

Symposium on Strategic Narrative Published.

The journal Critical Studies on Security has just published a symposium on research published by CEP co-director Alister Miskimmon and New Political Communications Unit co-director Ben O'Loughlin.

The symposium, edited by Dr Laura J. Sheppard from the University of New South Wales, includes a number of different perspectives on the concept of strategic narrative outlined in Miskimmon and O'Loughlin's 2013 book entitled: Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order.

The symposium includes contributions from a range of scholars and a response from Miskimmon and O'Loughlin and their co-author Laura Roselle.

Posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 12:32PM by Registered CommenterDr Alister Miskimmon | CommentsPost a Comment

Royal Holloway student project reveals David Cameron’s inflammatory language on immigration affects public opinion negatively

Royal Holloway student project reveals David Cameron’s inflammatory language on immigration affects public opinion negatively

Executive Summary

In the House of Commons on Wednesday David Cameron referred to people in camps at Calais as a ‘bunch of migrants’. A spokesman for the Labour Leader said the Prime Minister’s comments were evidence of a ‘wholly contemptible’ attitude towards refugees. This was not the first time that Cameron had been accused of using inflammatory language on the subject. Last summer he expressed concern about ‘swarms of migrants’ from the Middle East trying to ‘break in to Britain’ from Calais. His choice of language then was criticised by the Deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman as ‘dehumanising’.

The controversy that these episodes provoked inspired the students in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway to examine the impact of language on public attitudes. Does referring to people as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ affect how much support people have for letting Syrians come and live in the UK? Or are people not swayed by one word over the other? The reasons why word choice might make a difference have a certain intuitive appeal. The term ‘migrant’ is frequently associated with people coming to the UK to look for work and has developed a number of negative connotations. By contrast, the term ‘refugee’ refers to people in genuine need who are fleeing from persecution. All other things being equal, we would expect people to be more sympathetic to the plight of refugees than migrants, even if the words are being used to describe exactly the same group of people.

In order to answer this question the students carried out an online survey experiment with PsyToolkit. The experimental design provides a robust way of isolating the effect of word choice and is a useful way of establishing cause and effect while holding other variables constant. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions. The first condition involved asking the following survey question:

Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants from Syria to come and                  live in the UK?

The second condition asked an identical question; but substituted the word migrant for refugee:

Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more refugees from Syria to come and                  live in the UK?

In both cases respondents could answer: strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree. The survey was carried out from the 23rd to the 26th November, 2015. The sample was recruited by the students using Facebook, twitter and group chat. Although the sample itself is not randomly selected, crucially, for the purpose of the experiment, respondents were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment conditions. This means that whatever differences we observe in our results can be attributed to the exposure of different word choices. Over 1850 people completed the survey, of which 56% were female and 42% still in full time education.

The table below shows the results. Although the differences between the two groups are not great, they are statistically significant. Respondents were more likely to ‘strongly agree’ with the statement that refugees from Syria should be allowed into the UK than with the corresponding statement about migrants (23 percent vs. 17 percent). The difference between the two groups of 6 percentage points is not trivial. Moreover the mean level of agreement between the two groups is statistically significant. Talking about ‘migrants’ instead of ‘refugees’ has a negative influence on public opinion.


Group 1: Migrants

Group 2: Refugees

(1) Strongly disagree



(2) Disagree



(3) Agree



(4) Strongly agree










The results of this experiment indicate that choice of language can exert a noticeable impact on public attitudes. We have investigated the difference between two relatively neutral terms – though terms with distinct meanings – and observe clear effects. More inflammatory language, such as describing people as ‘swarms of migrants’ can only elicit stronger reactions. Politicians then would be wise to pay attention to the words they use. Cameron might deny using inflammatory language, but that does not mean that the words he used had no negative effect on the way people see refugees fleeing from Syria.

Notes: The experiment was designed, carried out and analysed by PR1600 students as part of their first year methods course in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway. The course convenors are Oliver Heath and Kaat Smets. The teaching assistants are Daniela Lai, Ellen Watts and Rakib Ehsan. This report provides a summary of the findings from the student reports. A full student version of the report is available below.


Full Report: Attitudes towards immigrants and refugees: A survey experiment

Emma Temple and Olivia Walsh

PR1600: Introduction to Research Methods

Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London


The question we have chosen to investigate in this experiment is ‘Does language used affect public attitudes?’ To put this experiment into context, we are investigating whether describing people from Syria as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ affects how much support people have for letting Syrians come and live in the UK. 

The justification for the investigation of this question stems from a recent speech in which David Cameron referred to the people of Syria attempting to gain entry into the UK as a “swarm of migrants”. The backlash and large amounts of criticism which arose regarding the choice of language in this speech makes for an interesting and very relevant topic to investigate. The effect of language on public attitudes is highly relevant in the context of free speech and media reporting. The results of this experiment have important implications on the appropriateness and effectiveness of persuasive methods used by the media and public speeches. By comparing the effects of language, we hope to discover a pattern which can help to put into perspective both the seriousness and relevance of linguistic influence. This investigation could also act as a gateway to further research regarding the development of public attitudes.


The ‘Syrian Crisis’ has been a topic which has dominated political discussion and public opinion in 2015. By describing Syrians fleeing persecution as a “swarm of migrants” David Cameron reignited an interesting debate – is it ‘politically correct’ to call people fleeing persecution “migrants”, or does this unfairly alter the public’s perception of people in need?

Many political researchers have identified the role of the media in shaping public attitudes towards immigration. Esses et al. (2008) identified that the media can “promote the dehumanization of refugees.” In terms of language influence, much of the research done appears to be based on the framing of a certain concept (e.g. describing an “immigrant” as “illegal” or discussing immigration in line with security). For example, Lakoff and Ferguson (2006) conducted research on framing, and conclude that the “immigration issue is a complex melange of social, economic, cultural and security concerns”. Similarly, according to Hainmueller and Hopkins (2014) “anti-immigrant hostility is grounded in the portrayals of groups by parties and the mass media.” Indeed, Holmes emphasises that these “stereotypes tend to display massive resilience” (Holmes, 1991, p.17). Again, this research indicates that there are negative connotations associated with the term immigration. However, there is little research that directly compares the effect on public opinion of referring to people as either migrants or refugees. Therefore it will be of interest to test whether the use of language, in this case the use of the words “migrants” or “refugees”, has an impact on public attitudes towards people coming to the UK from Syria.

The hypothesis that will be tested for this experiment is as follows: when the question is phrased “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more refugees from Syria to come and live in the UK?” the level of agreement with the question will be higher than when the question is phrased using the word “migrants” instead of “refugees”. This is a directional hypothesis – a specific difference in agreement between the two conditions is expected from this experiment, with condition 2 (“refugees”) having higher levels of agreement that condition 1 (“migrants”).


In order to test this hypothesis PR1600 students in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway, University of London carried out an online survey experiment. The sample was recruited by the students, mainly through social media. In particular, ‘Facebook’ and instant messaging services such as ‘iMessage’ and ‘WhatsApp’ were used to spread awareness of the experiment to people outside the department. A cohort of roughly 150 students were advised to attempt to recruit 10 people each to complete the survey. The final sample consisted of 2224 respondents, of which 1850 provided valid responses.

The survey experiment was conducted online using PsyToolkit. By conducting the investigation on the internet a wide and diverse sample could be recruited relatively easily in a short amount of time. In selecting the sample for the survey experiment, we did not need to use a random sample; we were not trying to generalise our findings to the entire population, but, rather, we were concerned with the impact that language has upon someone’s views. Participants were randomly allocated to one of two experimental conditions, allowing us to attribute any differences between these groups to the treatment. Indeed, Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber assert that random assignment “ensures unbiased inference about cause and effect” (Green and Gerber, 2003, p.94). Furthermore, randomisation of treatments provides “the advantage of a high degree of internal validity” (Barabas and Jerit, 2010, p.227).

To develop our survey questions and ensure that they were posed in a neutral format we followed David De Vaus’ ‘Question wording checklist’ (De Vaus, 2002, p.97). The first condition used the question:  “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants from Syria to come and live in the UK?”  The second condition replaced the word “migrants” with the word “refugees”. So, our independent variable was whether the word “migrants” or “refugees” was used, and the outcome variable of interest was the level of agreement in response to each question. Participants were given four response options to the question; strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree. In undertaking the survey experiment, there were several ethical issues that had to be considered: voluntary participation, informed consent, privacy, and harm (Halperin and Heath, 2012, pp.178-180). Respondents were informed that all their answers would be anonymous. The survey was live for five days and fieldwork took place between 23rd and 26th November 2015.


The results of the experiment are shown in Table 1. Respondents are more likely to support people coming from Syria to live in the UK if they are referred to as ‘refugees’, rather than ‘migrants’. When we use the word ‘refugee’, the level of agreement increases; when we refer to ‘migrants’, the level of agreement decreases. The results of the survey experiment support the hypothesis, and thus confirm our expectations. Whereas 23 percent of Group 2 ‘strongly agree’ with supporting refugees from Syria, just 17 percent of Group 1 do so:  the 6 percentage point difference between Group 1 and Group 2 is statistically significant. The difference in the mean level of agreement also supports the hypothesis as it is significantly higher in the second condition than in the first condition. These results thus corroborate our main hypothesis that language does affect public attitudes towards immigration.

Table 1:           “Do you agree or disagree that Britain should allow more migrants/refugees                   from Syria to come and live in the UK?”


Condition 1 – “Migrants”

Condition 2 – “Refugees”

(1)  Strongly Disagree



(2)  Disagree



(3)  Agree



(4)  Strongly Agree











The data shows that word choice does have an effect on public attitudes. In the context of this experiment, the data suggests that the wording chosen to describe Syrians does have an impact upon how much support people have for letting them live in the UK. So, when it comes to attempting to resolve this ongoing issue, consideration should be taken of the fact that language is an important tool in influencing public opinion.

Notes: The experiment was designed, carried out and analysed by PR1600 students as part of their first year methods course in the Department of Politics and IR at Royal Holloway. This report provides a summary of the findings from two of the student reports.


Barabas, J. and Jerit, J. (May 2010) ‘Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid?’, The American Political Science Review, 104 (2), 226-242

Citrin, J. Green, D. Muste, C. and Wong, C. (1997) ‘Public Opinion toward Immigration Reform the Role of Economic Motivations’, The Journal of Politics, 59(3): 858-881.

Esses, V. M., Veenvliet, S., Hodson, G. and Mihic, L. (March 2008) ‘Justice, Morality, and the Dehumanization of Refugees’, Social Justice Research, 21 (1), 4-25

Green, D. P. and Gerber, A. S. (September 2003) ‘The Underprovision of Experiments in Political Science’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 589, 94-112

Hainmueller, J. and Hopkins, D. (2014) ‘Public attitudes toward immigration’ Annual Review of Political Science, 17, 225-249.

Hall, S. (2015) Focus: migration and election 2015 [online]. Discovery Society. Available from:

Halperin, S. and Heath, O. (2012) Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Holmes, C. (1991) A Tolerant Country? Immigrants, Refugees and Minorities in Britain. London: Faber and Faber

Lakoff, G. and Ferguson, S. (2007), The Framing of Immigration [online]. The Rockridge Institute. Available from:

Mayda, A. (2006) ‘Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Public AttitudeToward Immigrants.’ The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(3), 510–530.



Posted on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 11:15AM by Registered CommenterDr Alister Miskimmon | CommentsPost a Comment
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