|Author (Person)||Banks, Martin|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.11, No.31, 8.9.05|
By Martin Banks
The European Parliament is to fund a EUR 250,000 campaign calling for British withdrawal from the EU.
The Eurosceptic Independence/ Democracy (ID) group in the Parliament, which includes the UK Independence Party (UKIP), will launch the campaign in London next Monday (12 September).
The ID group has obtained the funds from the information budget allocated to each of the assembly's political groups.
MEPs from other groups have questioned whether it is an appropriate use of Parliamentary money.
One MEP, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It is a pretty substantial amount of money and it seems ridiculous that Parliament will be funding a campaign calling for the withdrawal from the EU of a member state. If the ID group is acting in accordance with Parliamentary rules, then maybe it is time that the rules are changed."
Gary Titley, leader of the group of UK Labour MEPs, said: "My understanding is that this fund was originally intended for the dissemination of information, rather than for political campaigning which is obviously what this ID campaign amounts to.
"I would seriously question whether this is an appropriate use of Parliamentary money."
Fellow UK Labour MEP Stephen Hughes accused the ID group of taking money under false pretences. The funds were, he said, "being misused by a group which constantly tries to undermine anything and everything about the EU".
"I am sure that the people who drew up the Parliamentary rules on how this budget line should be spent did not have this in mind.
"This is a disgraceful abuse of Parliamentary fund," he said.
Dutch Liberal MEP Jan Mulder said: "I do not agree with this particular campaign but I suppose the ID group, as with all the others in Parliament, has the right to access this fund and use it for such a purpose. It's somewhat ironic, though, isn't it?"
The ID group says the time is ripe for a referendum on the UK's EU membership, particularly in light of the recent 'No' votes against the stalled EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.
The campaign, called 'Let the people decide', will be launched with advertisements in all the leading UK newspapers and a website on which the public will be invited to sign a petition calling for the UK to withdraw from the EU.
An ID spokesman said: "The aim is to get two million signatures to sign the online petition and we are confident of reaching that figure." People will also be able to use a free telephone number.
The spokesman said the cost of the campaign would be met from the information budget "which is something we are perfectly entitled to do".
A Parliament spokesman confirmed this, saying: "As ironic as it may seem, the ID group is not breaking any rules. In a way, it is the same as, say, the EPP-ED group campaigning for a federal Europe.
"The political groups are allowed to use funds from their information budgets on such activities so long as it is not for national campaigning."
Article reports that the European Parliament was to fund a €250,000 campaign calling for British withdrawal from the EU. The campaign, to be launched in London on 12 September 2005, was an initiative of the Eurosceptic Independence/ Democracy (ID) group in the Parliament, and was to be financed from the information budget allocated to each of the assembly's political groups.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Europe, United Kingdom|