In my frequent jousts on the Scientists for EU Facebook page people often talk about the benefits that we get from EU money. Without it we would have less research funding, less money in schools and all sorts of other sectors. But the truth is there is no such thing as EU money. The UK is a net contributor to the EU, we put in more than we get out. Any money sent to us by the EU is money we have already given them. The money saved when we stop contributing to the EU could cover all of the money the EU sends to us and we would still have several £ billion left over.
Independent charity fullfact.org confirm this. “In 2017 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was forecast to be £4 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was estimated at nearly £9 billion” (These figures are after the rebate has been deducted). The EU also makes payments directly to the private sector, such as research grants which historically have been £1.5 billion, so our net contribution to the EU is around £7.5 billion.
It has been claimed that we also get money from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to assist in funding of projects such as Cross-Rail. This is true but this money is in the form of loans and must be repaid. Also, as the UK is one of the four top funders of the EIB and that the EIB makes loans both across the EU and also to non-EU countries, I doubt we are lent more than we provide in funds.
A lot of what we get back is wasted. A large chunk goes to Landowners as a farming subsidy, but the landowners are under no obligation to invest this money into the farm. Most goes straight into their pockets. One in five of the biggest direct subsidy payments last year went to people on the Top 100 rich list.
Some of our payments go to the running of the EU institutions and to pay the wages and expenses of MEPs. An MEP is paid £7,705 per month (£92,460 pa) and on leaving, depending on length of service gets, a ‘transition’ payment of up to £181,078. They are paid a monthly general expenditure allowance of £4,416 to fund constituency offices and are refunded 1st class travel. They receive a £275 daily allowance when working in Strasbourg or Brussels. Most claim the maximum allowances and there is no requirement to justify the expenditure with reciepts other than for travel.
Despite calls for accountability by Transparency International and the discovery by journalists that there were 249 ghost offices where an MEP either had no office or refused to disclose the address, MEPs recently voted to keep their expenses secret.
Part of our contribution helps to develop the industries of the poorer EU nations, which is a good thing. But when the countries you are helping financially then offer subsidies to lure away UK industries that does not sit comfortably. The recent decision by Jaguar Landrover to move to Slovakia was greased by a £110 million subsidy. Under EU rules only the poorer nations can offer subsidies. Slovakia received £1.5 billion in funding from the richer EU nations. There have been other, similar cases.