According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, our net transfer of funds to the European Union rose from £5.3 billion in 2009 to £9.2 billion in 2010 – £230 for every household in the country. Britain’s trade deficit with the EU rose from £14.3 billion in 2009 to £46.6 billion last year.
The Institute of Directors has warned that EU proposals to harmonise VAT rules across Europe could mean the end of our VAT exemption on food, children’s clothes, books and newspapers.
Three MEPs have been caught agreeing to accept secret payments to change EU laws. Journalists, posing as public affairs executives, asked more than 60 MEPs if they would be interested in a paid role as an adviser. 14 MEPs, including two British MEPs, who remain unnamed, replied and met the reporters. Three MEPs from Austria, Romania and Slovenia agreed to table amendments at the European Parliament, believing they would be paid an £87,300 annual salary, a consultancy fee, or both.
European Union Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton wants PR consultants to help her promote herself in a 4-year, £8.6 million deal. Their remit includes being able to run “VIP receptions with champagne and top-of-the-range appetisers”. One suspects that however much she spends, it won’t be enough. She already has a spokesman, a deputy spokeswoman, a media adviser, two press offices and an in-house communications team of 12. Her External Action Service has an annual budget of 475 million euros, including a press and information budget of 15 million euros.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has branded the EU’s biofuel targets as “unethical” because of the damage they cause to the environment and to people in countries where the biofuel crops are grown, and because they drive food prices up. Worldwide, growing biofuels diverts 15 per cent of world corn production to fuel cars (but not in Cuba or Venezuela, where sugarcane is used). ■