We pay too much money to the EU
euIN the last few days, while summer holidays wind down, two controversial sets of official statistics have been released - on Britain's mounting financial contribution to the EU and on Britain's immigration-fuelled population explosion.
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP
IN the last few days, while summer holidays wind down, two controversial sets of official statistics have been released - on Britain's mounting financial contribution to the EU and on Britain's immigration-fuelled population explosion. In this new session of the European Parliament, these are both topics on which I shall be particularly engaged.
No objective cost-benefit analysis of our EU membership has ever been produced. The financial contributions are just one aspect of this. And it is no surprise that the UK share is about to jump dramatically.
Four years' ago the Government struck a disastrous deal in the European Council, giving up over �7 billion of Margaret Thatcher's hard-won rebate in exchange for a mere promise of reform. The reduction in rebate is phased over 5 years. There will be a 60% rise in net payments from �4.1 billion this year to �6.4 billion in 2010/11. In other words, the worst effects have been deliberately pushed back until after the next General Election
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We pay too much to the EU and cannot be confident that we know what happens to our money. It is no small matter that the EU's own auditors have not signed off on the multi-billion pound accounts for the past 14 years. It has been my consistent theme that the EU needs to do less, better. It should also spend less, and spend more wisely and transparently. That means we should pay less.
The British people understand that we are faced with a period of austerity. Nations the world over are tightening their belts in the face of global recession. Private companies are doing the same. Yet the EU seems to be immune. In any other such organisation we might expect year-on-year cost reductions. Where new priorities have to be funded then there would be corresponding savings elsewhere to compensate. But in Brussels, instead of cutbacks, more is being spent. Overspending and waste are at the heart of how the European institutions are run.
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The European Parliament is just one of several such institutions. The MEPs themselves are vastly out-numbered by an army of officials. Our battle to scrap the nonsensical trek to Strasbourg every month continues - but ultimately this is a decision for governments, not MEPs. There are expensive European Parliament "information offices" in all our countries - these cannot be justified.
The “net costs” of our EU contributions take account of the fact that some money paid by us to Brussels comes back to the UK - always, of course, with strings attached. Some �320 million of “structural funds” come to the East of England.
It is very difficult to find out exactly what happens to this money. Few understand how to access the funding or the rules for its allocation. In my view, it would be infinitely preferable if these funds were repatriated and disbursed by our own authorities in a transparent and publicly accountable manner on projects that would be of real long-term benefit to the community.
They would not then be used to promote European integration by stealth.
Geoffrey Van Orden is Conservative MEP for the East of England focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org