The European Union is “demanding even more of our money”, the leave campaign is claiming.
According to Boris Johnson, British taxpayers face a “triple-whammy of woe”: a £2.4bn bill to plug a hole in the EU budget, plus extra contributions to pay for the migration crisis and eurozone bailouts. The former mayor of London is repeating his claim that the UK is sending £350m a week to Brussels. Johnson and fellow Brexiter, Michael Gove, also say the UK is “sending more and more money to a dysfunctional bureaucracy that has no proper democratic oversight”.
Is the EU sending £350m a week to Brussels?
This claim has been exposed as misleading again and again, most recently by the Treasury select committee, which concluded the leave figure was “tendentious”. Once the British rebate and contributions from the EU budget are taken into account, the UK makes a net weekly contribution of £110m. But this figure does not take into account the economic gains from being part of a single market of 500 million people.
Is the EU demanding even more of our money?
This claim is false. In 2013 European leaders fixed the EU budget for seven years until 2020, when they agreed the first ever spending cut in the bloc’s history. One source at the European commission described reports that member states would be asked for more money as nonsense. A spokesman said the amounts agreed in 2013 are set in stone, adding that “unless all member states agree to those amounts being changed, they cannot be changed”. The UK has a veto and can overrule spending plans it objects to.
What about that £20bn black hole?
The EU did run up backlog of €26bn (£20bn) in bills, as a result of a rapid expansion of road-building and infrastructure projects in central and eastern Europe. Kristalina Georgieva, the commission’s vice-president in charge of the budget, agreed a payment plan with member states in 2015. The backlog will be reduced to what EU sources regard as a “reasonable level” of €2bn by the end of this year, following a deal by EU finance ministers and MEPs.
Where is the democratic oversight?
The EU’s seven-year budget is not decided by civil servants in Brussels, but agreed by EU heads of state and government. Each year the EU’s 28 finance ministers and European parliament have to agree annual spending limits.
Won’t the UK be dragged into paying for the migration crisis or another eurozone bailout?
David Cameron got EU leaders to make a legally binding promise in February that non-euro countries would not be required to contribute to eurozone bailouts. The commission had already promised to write this into EU law in July 2015 at the height of the Greek debt crisis. The EU has increased spending on refugee aid, especially in Greece, but is doing so by juggling existing resources rather than asking countries to pay more.
The leave campaign has been urged to repaint their battle bus to cover up their misleading claim the UK sends £350m a week to Brussels. These latest claims on the EU budget deserve a similar treatment.
This article was written by Jennifer Rankin, for theguardian.com on Monday 6th June 2016 14.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010