How many laws from Brussels?


The purpose of this study was to answer a simple question: what percentage of new legislation is currently of EU origin? While various groups have provided estimates, ranging from a low 43% to a high of 80%, all have relied on unsubstantiated assertion and have failed to publish the evidence on which their claims are based.

This study provides details of all the new legislation introduced in Ireland during 2008 – the most recent year for which full figures are available – so that the results are completely transparent and can be verified.

The study is purely quantitative and no attempt has been made to assess the relative importance of different pieces of legislation, but the information in the lists below may help readers to arrive at their own conclusions.


Details of Irish and EU legislation were obtained from the following official websites:
The full texts of all the legislation listed in this report are available at one or other of the above sites.

All Irish acts and statutory instruments that appeared from their titles as if they might have an EU origin were examined. Those that were found to be wholly or largely necessitated by, or consequential on, EU legislation were counted as being of EU origin; however, those that contained only passing references to EU legislation were not. Those for which no EU connection could be envisaged were not examined and it is therefore possible that some pieces of legislation classified as ‘national’ may, in reality, be of EU origin.

EU directives have not been counted in this study as they must be ‘transposed’ into national legislation before becoming law. Including them would therefore have introduced an element of double counting.

EU regulations have been counted as they apply directly in EU member states without any further action by the member states. None the less, regulations may require complementary legislation to be introduced at national level – for example, a regulation may prohibit a particular activity but allow member states to set a penalty appropriate for national conditions. In such cases the national legislation is consequent on, but does not duplicate, the EU regulation and both have been counted.

A third category of EU legislation, decisions were not counted as they tend to be technical measures of a type that would be dealt with by by-laws, licensing or administrative action at national level.

Report in full

To download a copy of the full 106-page report as a PDF file, click here (380 KB).

Summary findings

The number of items in each category for 2008 was as follows:

A1 - Acts of national origin: 21
A2 - Acts of European origin: 4
B1 - SIs of national origin: 414
B2 - SIs of European origin: 193
C - EU regulations: 1,342
Total - 1,974

For details of the legislation in each category, see the lists in the full report.

The percentage of legislation originating at EU level can be calculated as follows:
(A2 + B2 + C) x 100 / Total
= (4 + 193 + 1,342) x 100 / 1,974
= 77.96%

Just under 78% of the new legislation introduced during 2008 was of EU origin.

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