21 MAR 2011
By Mary Ellen Synon | Daily Mail
The European Parliament has announced that taxpayers’ money will be used to fund pro-Brussels propaganda in any referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU.
The move by the Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee comes less than a week after the cross-party ‘People’s Pledge’ campaign was launched to secure a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or quit Brussels.
The committee overwhelmingly voted last week to change party financing rules to allow European political groups to take part in domestic referenda campaigns in member states.
The groups are made up of MEPs of different nationalities but similar political affiliation, such as Socialists or Greens.
Until now, MEPs could use their group’s funds – 85 per cent of which come from EU taxpayers – only to campaign in elections for the Strasbourg Parliament.
But the new rules will allow MEPs to use the funds to campaign when a referendum has a ‘direct link’ to an EU issue.
This is despite an admission by the committee that the existing ban was in place because of ‘a concern that European parties and foundations could interfere in the domestic affairs of member states’.
Now, however, MEPs say they must have ‘the right to participate in such campaigns as long as the subject of the referendum has a direct link with issues concerning the European Union’.
Last night, the move was denounced as ‘outrageous’ by Roger Helmer, the Conservative MEP for the East Midlands.
He said: ‘I take comfort in the fact that it will probably be counter-productive once people learn that European funds are being used in this way.’
Fellow Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said the decision was clearly aimed at interfering in any ‘in or out’ referendum that may be held in Britain.
He added: ‘I don’t care how they rig it. I would be happy to hold a referendum on any terms because I have confidence in the wisdom of the British people.
'They will vote for independence and freedom.’
He pointed out that the committee’s announcement came just after a senior Lib Dem MEP, Andrew Duff, made moves to stop a referendum blocking any future EU treaty.
Mr Hannan said: ‘Andrew Duff wants to allow treaties to come into effect before all the signatories have ratified them.
‘Instead of unanimous approval, as set out in the Treaty of Rome, Mr Duff wants future EU accords to come into effect once four-fifths of member states have ratified them.
He is worried that the British electorate would vote against any future EU treaty.’
However, UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew said his eurosceptic group in the European Parliament would use its funding to help the ‘Britain out’ side in any referendum.
‘If we can’t stop them passing this measure, we will take as much money as we can get to campaign for a withdrawal from the EU,’ he said. ‘Why should taxpayers’ money just go to fund the “Yes” side?’
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