As always, the figures are deliberately confusing, spun by all and sundry to suit their own agendas. And as always it's best to stick to cold hard cash, rather than the announced changes to changes.
So for the next seven year 2007-2013 EU Budgetary period, we will reportedly be paying a net £42 billion, after taking account of the new rebated rebate. Which is a shocking increase on the £23 billion for the most recent seven years, as shown in HMT's most recent projections:
You don't need a maths degree to work out that's a virtual doubling. And as Tone told us this morning on R4 Today:
"Of course all member states are paying more. That's the purpose of the enlargement of the European Union."
Er, yes. So as you struggle to work on the Northern Line, or through Taunton's notorious traffic jams, you can at least console yourself with the thought of Warsaw's brand new metro system.
But actually of course, for most of us taxpayers, even that £42 billion is a gross understatement of the cost.
Look carefully at HMT's table. See that line labled "Less: Public Sector Receipts"? That's money HMT gets from the EU to pay for various EU programmes in Britain. It passes straight through the public sector gut without touching the sides, and ends up paying for various UK regional subsidies, and...grr...our subsidised farmers (see previous posts).
So when you do the sums properly from a taxpayers' perpective, you find that the last seven years have cost us not £23 bn, but £50 bn. More than double the headline "declared" EU contribution.
On that basis- grossing up for EU programme spending in the UK- the real cost of Tone's deal to us is almost certainly not £42 bn, but- better sit down- getting on for £100bn!
And as we said in that earlier post- hang on, now I need to lie down- we consumers actually shell out a further massive subsidy to the farmers, reflecting the fact that EU food prices are fixed way higher than the world price. We reckoned the total cost of the CAP to us taxpaying consumers is running at about £10bn pa.
PS At least Gordo's saved us few quid by abolishing goody bags:
'Britain's EU presidency yesterday slapped a ban on summit free gifts to demonstrate its commitment to a new frugal Europe.
A decision to deprive thousands of officials and journalists of the customary bags of presents at summits saved Gordon Brown an estimated £100,000. The presidency only gave gifts to heads of government, and ministers.
A British official said: "It was getting ridiculous. Every presidency was trying to outbid the next in the present market. The last one [the Luxembourg presidency] gave out MP3 players."
"The sight of the entire European press corps laden down with sides of smoked salmon, bottles of Irish whiskey, mugs and double CDs of lute music from the Netherlands seemed a little inappropriate," said Mr Meade, who now has a large international CD collection.
"Sometimes the queues to get the freebies were longer than the queues to hear what the leaders had to say at press conferences."
A nice story- even if we know it's just more smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real bonfire.