BRITAIN is losing at least £4.5billion every year as a result of its membership of the EU’s single market, it was revealed last night.
The swingeing annual cost of contributions to Brussels’ coffers and of EU red tape on business totals more than £41.8billion.
The vast sum outweighs the £37.3billion a year that the European Commission claims membership brings to Britain.
The analysis by pressure group Vote Leave was released as speculation grows that David Cameron will hold his promised in-out EU referendum next year – possibly in the summer.
Campaigners last night insisted the huge cost showed why Britain would be better off outside the EU.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave, said: “Pro-EU politicians like Peter Mandelson and Nick Clegg claim that we need to stay in the EU because businesses are helped by being in the single market.
“Our research shows that the benefits of the single market are far outweighed by the costs of EU regulation which is on top of the multibillion-pound bill we give to Brussels each year.
“After we Vote Leave, we will be able to take back control and negotiate a new trade deal with Europe based on what’s in Britain’s interests.
“We will stop sending billions each year to the EU and instead spend it on our priorities like the NHS.”
Brussels’ supporters have long argued that membership of the single market – the trade zone where goods and services can be bought and sold without tariffs – is the key reason for Britain remaining in the EU.
The European Commission describes it as one of its greatest achievements. “It has fuelled economic growth and made the everyday life of European businesses and consumers easier,” it says.
According to its own figures, single-market membership added an extra 2.13 per cent to the UK’s national income (GDP) in 2014.
This increase was equivalent to an extra £37.3billion, Vote Leave said.
On the other hand membership fees cost £19.2billion and red tape £22.6billion, adding up to £41.8billion.
But the “true cost of the single market will be much higher,” Vote Leave added in an aside.
It also noted that twothirds of the EU’s 100 most burdensome red tape regulations are due to the single market.
They include rules introduced in 2013 to cover “alternative investment fund managers” and estimated to cost UK business around £1.5million a year.
Rules to ensure vehicles reached required standards are estimated to cost Britain £1.3million a year. And working time regulations in road transport are estimated to cost a further £624,000.
Tory MP Peter Bone said: “The cost of EU membership is going up all the time. I am sure this is an underestimate of the true cost.”
Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said: “These figures prove that we can get a much better deal.”