Analysing Britain’s relationship with the European Union and its Members

Amendment 1: Order of countries in first chart updated.

The date is upon us. Today millions of Britons will cast their vote on whether we stay or leave the European Union. This referendum has had a hugely polarising effect on the British public, causing politicians to seemingly go mad! Incidents have ranged from screaming random figures at each other to realising the real life version of Godwin’s Law. It seems to me that no one truly knows what would happen if we did leave the EU. There simply isn’t a good enough precedent.

Mr Burns knows what’s up.

One thing has remained clear to me throughout this referendum and that is the huge amount of misinformation floating about or simply lack of. There has been a lot of strong feelings surrounding topics such as immigration, self-governance and membership fees to name a few. These issues are very complex and deserve much more than the reactionary response certain politicians would like you to give.

The best way I’ve heard this referendum described is as a relationship break up. What things do we consider when we decide to leave our partner? Do our lifestyles align? Are we happy? Do we see a future together? In an effort to gleam a bit of truth from this madness I have done some analysis that I believe may shine a light on the relationship the UK has with the EU. To do this I downloaded the ‘European Union’s Transparency Register’ dataset that recorded lobbyist groups since 2013. Below is a description of this dataset in the EU’s own words.

The Transparency Register provides citizens with access to information about who is engaged in activities aiming at influencing the EU decision making process, which interests are being pursued and what level of resources are invested in these activities

Firstly, I wanted to see who are the major players in the EU that are influencing decision making? To do this I counted the number of Lobbyist groups each country had registered and extracted the ten countries with the most registered.

It appears we aren’t doing too badly. We are third only to Belgium and Germany who may out do us because they are geographically closer to Espace Léopold, a legislative chamber of the EU. It might surprise you to see the United States listed among countries with registered groups. It is apparently not forbidden for countries outside of the EU to register lobbyist groups. A fact made clear to me by the vast array of other non-EU countries I found in this data.

Next I wanted to get an idea of the budget of these groups for each country. Unfortunately, the budget came in the form of a range meaning I couldn’t give you an exact number. Instead I’ve opted to show the distribution of each budget range for the top three countries; Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. The x-axis is a log function to better represent the distribution.

We can see that there is some serious money being injected into influencing the EU’s decision making. While there is a good trend towards the lower budget range in all three countries, the United Kingdom experiences a relevantly sharp increase at he upper end of the budget. We appear to be extremely competitive with the most influential countries in the EU. Perhaps the EU doesn’t interfere with British’s matters as much as we’re led to believe?

Lastly, I wanted to get a good picture of what topics where being targeted by these lobbyist groups. While creating this plot, I imagined powerful business people targeting economic matters to gain profit. However, my findings painted a slightly different picture.

Here we see that the majority of lobbyist groups are actually interested in the Environment, followed by Internal market and Research & Technology. It is only as we get to the fourth most represented interest do we find Economic and Financial Affairs. To my despair, Sport, is among the least represented interest along with Enlargement.

It gets quite interesting when you compare this chart with that of Belgium’s and Germany’s.

They all have almost identical distributions. It has always been a long held belief among many that Britain had a strong cultural difference to the rest of the EU making our integration awkward. Could it be that Britain has more in common with our neighbours across the channel than we’d like to believe.

It seems that in our relationship with the EU we are an equal and respected partner. It also appears that we share the same priorities and goals. From this short analysis I can see a picture of an healthy relationship with the EU. Whatever the reason for our discontent, it is not our association with the EU that is to blame.

Data Source

Cleaned Data + Code

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