THE British public were given fresh hope in the battle to quit the European Union last night.
Calls were issued in the House of Lords for an inquiry into the multi-billion-pound cost of our EU membership.
A number of peers declared the eurozone crisis provided “immaculate timing” for a major report on whether it is worth being saddled with the burden of paying billions of pounds into Brussels coffers every year.
They insist that the huge costs to the British taxpayer “far outweigh the benefits” of being in the EU.
The peers’ attempt to force an inquiry into the economic benefits of Britain being in the EU, which was voted through yesterday, will increase the pressure for a referendum on EU membership.
And it gives fresh impetus to the Daily Express crusade to cut Britain’s ties with Brussels altogether.
Last month we forced a historic vote on a European referendum in the House of Commons.
The wheel of history turns. And the question as to whether we should leave the EU is now firmly back on the national agenda
And earlier this week we revealed that Britain poured a colossal £18.5billion into the EU last year – equivalent to £51million a day.
The staggering figures, £730 a year for every household in the UK, come on top of the £12.5billion shelled out to help rescue Greece, Ireland and Portugal with bailouts.
Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, former Ukip leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch said a cost-benefit analysis of Britain’s membership of the EU was long overdue.
He told peers that a seven-strong committee of inquiry to report on the economic costs and benefits would help increase pressure for a referendum on EU membership.
Lord Pearson was opening a debate on the second reading of his European Union Membership (Economic Implications) Bill and after lengthy discussion fellow peers waved it through.
“For more than 30 years the political class has done its best not to talk about our membership of the EU,” he said.
“But the wheel of history turns. And the question as to whether we should leave the EU is now firmly back on the national agenda.
“But this Bill does not deal with that question. It is an altogether milder and more innocent creature.
“It merely requires the Chancellor to set up an impartial inquiry into the economic costs and benefits arising from our membership of the EU.”
Lord Pearson said the inquiry could look at some of the “fundamental misconceptions” about EU membership, such as the claim that British trade and jobs depended on it.
He said figures showed the UK made a net cash contribution, taking into account receipts from Brussels, of £10billion last year, or £28million every day “with perhaps none of it spent in our national interest”. This, he said, would pay the annual salaries of 940 nurses. The Bill will now go to the committee stage.
Tory former frontbencher Baroness Noakes backed the call for an inquiry, applauding Lord Pearson’s “immaculate timing” in the face of “turmoil in the eurozone”.
Lord Stevens of Ludgate said the benefits of Britain’s membership of the EU were “becoming harder to see” and hit out at the juggernaut of EU excess.
His comments came as it emerged yesterday that the average fat-cat Eurocrat now rakes in £80,000 a year.
Figures unearthed by the Daily Express show the EU’s enormous wage bill rocketed to £4.45billion last year, up an inflation-busting 5.6 per cent on 2009.
Even taking into account 10,000 lower-paid temporary workers, the typical EU official now enjoys an annual salary, expense account and pension top-up totalling £79,819.
That figure is more than twice the average package for a UK civil servant who picks up £34,596 a year.