I happened to catch a few moments of PMQs today, and Alan Beith asked a question about how EU funds were being denied to the North East, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were still eligible for the same funds, essentially unused cash from the European Commission £178bn economic stimulus package. The press release about the issue is on Beith’s website, and also on the website of Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP in the North East. However both PRs are vague and tub-thumping in their tone, and make no effort to explain what’s actually going on.
I’m quite sure Brown understands what’s going on, as in his reply he cited the European Investment Bank and their loans for car companies in the North East – i.e. something else altogether.
I reckon all of this is another example of the UK government not wanting to take any money from the EU budget because it makes the UK Treasury’s budget position worse. I posted about this at length (1, 2, 3) last summer when it came to why the UK was not applying for money from EU flood aid funds. Essentially the more the UK gets from the budget each year, the less money the UK gets back from its budget rebate. So the times when EU funds are actually directed at something useful, the UK does not apply as it thinks of trying to balance the national books first.
Of course Beith and Hall don’t say it straight either, because if they stated that the rebate has passed its sell-by date and the EU budget needs fundamental reform then they would have the Daily Mail attacking them for selling out… Ho, hum, what joy the ‘debate’ in Britain about EU matters.