Greg Lance – Watkins
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Pay the EU £90bn? No! Non! Nein! From £12bn in loans to £2.5bn on the NHS, LEO McKINSTRY explains why they owe US £58bn
In response, its money-grabbing leaders have wasted no time in demanding a colossal ‘exit fee’ which has now been ramped up to 100 billion euros – or £85 billion.
Yet our negotiating team should point out that the EU could well be said to owe us money.
In view of our record as a generous contributor, they should argue that we are now entitled to part of the value of those assets that we helped to create. The UK government could also point out the vast amounts of our cash that have been squandered on misspent programmes and failed projects.
Here is the basis for a substantial claim which, in my view, our Government would be justified in presenting to Mr Barnier.
Some of the figures are based on real liabilities to the UK, others are in proportion to our annual contribution to Brussels, which amounts to about one-eighth (or 12.5 per cent) of the EU budget. Additionally, several of the sums are assessed over seven years, which is the length of the budget cycle in Brussels, known as ‘the financial perspective’.
CASH, EQUIPMENT & PROPERTY – £4.5 BILLION
The EU has a huge stock of cash, property, equipment and financial assets. This ‘accumulated wealth’ is thought to be worth around £36 billion, and includes £19 billion in cash, £7.5 billion in property and £8.3 billion in other available-for-sale financial assets.
The property portfolio is particularly enormous, with the EU occupying 1.9million square metres in Brussels alone.
Among its many expensive buildings are the EU Parliament, built at a cost of £410 million, the futurist new £280 million Commission headquarters dubbed the ‘Space Egg’, and the Madou Tower valued at £87 million. On the basis of a 12.5 per cent share of these assets, Britain could be owed £4.5 billion.
FINANCIAL LOANS AND PROJECTS – £12.1 BILLION
The EU’s assets also include £49 billion in outstanding loans that are owed to it. There’s also an additional £39 billion which has been earmarked for projects that may never be completed, and £9 billion of budget contributions yet to be paid.
If we claimed 12.5 per cent of this £97 billion total, which would be roughly proportionate to our net contribution to the EU Budget, then we would be owed £12.1 billion.
EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK – £9 BILLION
Britain has a 16 per cent share of the £56 billion of the capital in the European Investment Bank – amounting to £9 billion.
Legal advice now circulating in Whitehall states that, on leaving, the UK is entitled to ‘the return of its paid-up capital and indeed to a corresponding share of the accumulated reserves of the EIB.’
WINES AND ART – £2.5 MILLION
Bankrolled by the public purse, the EU has never shown much restraint when it comes to luxuries. The European Parliament is estimated to have 15,500 bottles of wine and spirits in its cellars, while the Council of Ministers has another 27,000.
In addition, the EU’s art collection is now thought to be worth about £15 million.
On the basis that Britain’s entitled to an eighth of assets, this would cover roughly 5,000 bottles of wines and spirits, plus about £2 million-worth of dodgy modern art.
SUBSIDIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE – £7 BILLION
As a net contributor to the EU, Britain has poured billions into vast programmes and infrastructure projects. Many of these have been riddled with abuses and have provided little economic benefit to Britain.
Of the entire EU budget of £114 billion, £46 billion goes on the Common Agricultural Policy, which has kept our food prices high and inhibited competition.
A recent investigation into Brussels-financed road construction found 14 out of 19 subsidised roads throughout Europe had much less traffic than expected, while a price-fixing racket in Poland over a £770 million road-building project is estimated to have cost British taxpayers £100 million.
At the very least, Britain would be justified in seeking some recompense for the cash it was forced to shell out on mismanaged projects and counter-productive subsidies. On a very conservative assessment of Britain’s resources in this area to the tune of £1 billion-a-year over the last EU budget cycle, we could demand back £7 billion
FOREIGN AMBITIONS – £43 MILLION
The European Project is based on the goal of creating a new federal superstate. That is why the EU has developed all the trappings of nationhood – including a President, judiciary, flag and currency. The same grandiose ambition lies behind the establishment of its own expensive foreign service since 2007.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) has a budget of £500 million. This includes spending of £324 million on 138 delegations abroad in places as diverse as Mozambique and Papua New Guinea. One-fifth of the EU’s network of 300 properties overseas are owned outright by the bloc.
The EU’s seaside office in Barbados has 39 staff and costs £2 million a year to run. The usual extravagance applies, with balconies overlooking the beach, a swimming pool and manicured gardens. When not enjoying the sun-kissed beaches, officials spend their days dishing out £230 million of funding.
Again, as a major net contributor, surely Britain deserves a return to make up for all this prodigality – and a share of the beachside properties. 10 per cent of our contributions over the past seven years to the EEAS would be a starting point.
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE – £2.5 BILLION
In 2015, Britain forked out £674 million to European governments to pay for the medical treatment of British citizens abroad. Yet there was no counterbalancing return, for the NHS recouped just £49.7 million for the treatment of EU nationals in Britain.
Brexit negotiations are an opportunity to achieve some degree of compensation for the past seven years, which would mean the return of around £2.5 billion.
WASTE AND CORRUPTION – £2.8 BILLION
The EU accounts have long been a byword for abuse, given the EU’s lack of real accountability. Brussels admitted in 2015 that £675 million of taxpayers’ money was directly lost through fraud. Moreover, the errors in last year’s accounts revealed that around £4.8 billion of cash was wrongly paid out.
Even without corruption, the waste is appalling, and once more, a hefty amount of compensation is due. Given a recent error rate of 4 per cent in the EU accounts, that would imply a return to Britain of £2.8 billion over the past seven years of contributions to the EU.
FOREIGN PRISONERS – £1.16 BILLION
The EU’s obsession with open borders has been a tremendous burden on Britain’s jails.
No fewer than 4,600 prisoners here are EU nationals – many of whom we cannot deport to serve their sentences in their own counties, because of rulings by the European courts.
At an average annual cost of £36,000 per inmate, that means the taxpayer has to find £167 million. It would be fair to demand this sum back to cover the costs of the past seven years.
WELFARE – £18.4 BILLION
It is one of the fashionable myths of the pro-EU brigade that all European migrants come here to work. On the contrary, many come to exploit our generous welfare system. Last year, it was revealed that jobless EU migrants are costing the taxpayer £886 million annually in benefits.
Over the past seven years – during which the EU has blocked all attempts at reform of the migrant welfare system – the bill for out-of-work EU migrants comes to £4.4 billion.
According to David Cameron, as he put it during his futile attempt to achieve EU reform last year, more than 40 per cent of recently arrived EU migrants are dependent on some form of in-work benefits, too. My estimate for the cost of this, based on HMRC figures, is at least £2 billion a year.
Again, taking a bill for the past seven years, it would be fair of Britain to ask for £14 billion back.
EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY – £31 MILLION
Though formally a separate institution, the Space Agency is intimately bound up with the EU, and receives more than a third of its annual £5 billion funding from Brussels.
We contribute about £260 million year and if we pull out, following Brexit, we would be entitled to some of the Space Agency’s assets, like the polar tracker satellite system Copernicus, worth £241 million, and the navigation device Egnos, valued at £10.1 million.
UNPAID STUDENT LOANS – £89 MILLION
The UK has £5 billion black hole in its student loans budget – to which EU students are significant contributors. It was reported last year that £89 million has been left unpaid after 12,134 students from EU countries went missing after graduating from British universities.
The trend appears to be worsening – in 2010, just 5,000 EU students disappeared. The average debt owed by EU students who have left Britain without paying is £7,000.
EU students make up just 5 per cent of the total student population, but are six times more likely than British students to evade fees – and taxpayers have to meet the cost. Brexit is an excellent opportunity for the EU to compensate the UK for these unpaid loans.
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