How can a newspaper that is supposed to have a serious and sensible reputation write such complete such a rubbish leader? Well, of course it’s one about the EU – a topic that is clearly too complex for the dim-wits to understand. The article in question is a leader from today’s Times.
- Why has the European Court of Auditors not signed off the books? Because the Member States, yes, that’s Member States like the UK, cannot keep track of their funds. In organisations like the Rural Payments Agency. There would be 2 ways to clear things up: abolish the major funding mechanisms (and the UK is OK with the CAP), or for the Commission to send teams of people snooping on the Members States. Not a chance of either of those happening – and if the Commission did the latter people like The Times would be the first to cry foul. Further, from the House of Lords report on the issue: “Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General at the UK’s National Audit Office told us that, were he required to issue a single Statement of Assurance on the UK Government’s accounts in the same way as the Court of Auditors does for Europe’s accounts, he, like the Court, would be unable to do so”
- The article claims it’s MEPs’ own fault that the British people see the EP as a ‘gravy train‘. Well, considering MEPs get the same pay as MPs in Westminster, have to work in 3 places in 3 countries, and get no credit or coverage in the UK press for what they do, it’s quite probable that publications like The Times are responsible for creating that term that’s applied liberally to plenty of politicians at all levels. Plus the biggest folly of all – having the EP in Brussels and Strasbourg – is decided by the Heads of State and Government, not the EP itself. The UK government is very much complicit in that.
- The MEPs’ expenses total about Â£100 million a year, but there are 785 MEPs, each of whom pays normally 4 staff – 2 in Brussels and 2 at home in their constituencies. About Â£130000 for each of them does not seem outrageous, when social security and other expenses are included. The total staff of the EP as a whole – MEPs, assistants, secretariat – is similar in size to a small-ish UK government department (BERR for example), while the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions employs more staff that all the EU institutions in total.
- ‘They have shamefully milked the system‘ says The Times. No facts, no figures. Neither they nor Chris Davies MEP have listed how much of this Â£100 million is supposed to have been used in a fraudulent manner. The Times – lazily – just assumes all of it is.
- ‘That the chances of them being taken appear close to nil speaks volumes‘ is also a load of rubbish. It was the EP that was responsible for rooting out the corruption in the Santer Commission. With elections on the horizon there will be plenty of pressure to behave decently on this.
Now don’t get the wrong end of the stick with what I’ve written. If there is fraud it has to be stamped out (as I’ve argued), but it’s nice and easy for the British press to all get in a frenzy. I’m so damned sick of this lacklustre, lazy and facile journalism.