Skyline of Frankfurt. Picture by Thomas Wolf.
The beauty of the European Union is the proliferation of quotes by so many of its founders and current politicians. There are literally hundreds of them; thousands, even, that seem almost designed to denigrate the European Union. Most of them could have came out of the mouths of hardened Eurosceptics.
Barroso claiming that the EU has 'the dimension of empire' is a remark that would have seen any Eurosceptic who uttered it chastisted and pilloried by the media, his political career in ruins. Romano Prodi admitting that he had 'powers that can only be described as government' was confirmation of what Eurosceptics had tried to tell the people of Europe for years. Even Jean Monnet was heard to remark that 'Europe should be guided towards a federal superstate without its populace knowing what is happening.' All of these quotes have been invaluable in the fight against 'ever-closer union,' and for them I humbly thank our wise but not too PR-savvy rulers in Brussels.
Undoubtedly, however, the biggest clanger was that of the now-retired Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, German Günter Verheugen. He was a Commissioner that many businessmen and free-marketeers would look back on and be quite fond of: he spent much of his time trying to cut back on red tape and to improve standards of innovation in the European market. He spoke out against the idea that 'the more rules you have the more Europe you have.'
He also made the oft-repeated claim - one of the favourites of EU supporters, in fact - that the benefits of the single market vastly outweight the costs of membership. It is a claim that, despite its profligacy, is utterly untrue, and demonstrably so. In 2006, the Commissioner casually estimated that the cost of EU law and diktat to business was over six hundred billion euros. Yes, that is over half a trillion: it is more than the GDP of Poland. And it is the annual cost.
If that wasn't staggering enough, the benefit of the EU single market to businesses - from 1986 to 2002 - was estimated by the Commission as a whole to be only one hundred and ten billion. To be unduly lenient to these people, that may well have increased somewhat since then, but with a recession and the eurozone crisis there's no way that just over one hundred billion made can outweigh six hundred billion euros lost every year.
Far from being an integral part of the success of UK or Continental businesses, as its supporters often insist without any evidence, the European Union is actually a ruinous institution. The scale of the costs to business of the European Union's prolific law-making and over-zealous regulation makes any benefit from operating in the European market redundant, and it is demonstrably true that, far from the benefits outweighing the costs, it is, in fact, the other way around. And that is according to the EU itself.