MEPs’ pro and anti views on EU after details of grants revealed

The EU gave 3.5bn Euro to NI over seven years in direct grants - mainly to farmers

The EU gave 3.5bn Euro to NI over seven years in direct grants - mainly to farmers

When the News Letter laid out in detail the level of grant money coming to Northern Ireland – and where it all goes – it also asked the Province’s three members of the European Parliament (MEPs) about the subject.

Two – Diane Dodds and Martina Anderson – came out firmly with a position (although Ms Anderson opted not to try and answer the questions posed, and merely sent a statement).

Sinn Fein Member of the European Parliament Martina Anderson

Sinn Fein Member of the European Parliament Martina Anderson

The UUP, at time it was published, had not taken a stance on the EU question (it since has).

See the whole investigation into EU funding here, including grant schemes for eel projects, community centres, and even a vast multi-million-pound peace project targeting the miniscule border village of Pettigo and its surrounding region.

As some of the contributors below point out, the millions received by Northern Ireland each year come from an EU to which the UK is a net giver, not a net receiver.

Diane Dodds, DUP MEP, voting to leave:

TUV leader Jim Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister

‘That €3.5bn is UK cash, returned’

Q: Do you believe the Treasury will make sure the funding now available to NI is maintained in the event of an EU exit?

A: There are no absolute guarantees about funding for Northern Ireland whether we remain within the EU or were to leave. Whilst European funding levels until 2020 are agreed, the EU is already starting to look beyond that date and it is clear that CAP funding and the Cohesion Fund will be main targets for cuts.

We cannot ignore that whilst Northern Ireland has received 3.5bn Euro, that is a return of money paid by local taxpayers. Indeed Open Europe have calculated that for every £1 received in regional funding, local taxpayers actually contributed £1.58.

Diane Dodds

Diane Dodds

In recent times the DUP has secured the best local deals on welfare reform, and direct payments for farmers of any UK region. We are confident that we can maximise funding for Northern Ireland in the event of the UK opting to leave the EU.

We cannot ignore that whilst Northern Ireland has received €3.5bn, that is a return of money paid by local taxpayers. Indeed Open Europe have calculated that for every £1 received in regional funding, local taxpayers actually contributed £1.58.

In recent times the DUP has secured the best local deals on welfare reform, and direct payments for farmers of any UK region. We’re confident we can maximise funding for NI in the event of the UK opting to leave the EU.

Q: What is the No1 potential benefit of an EU exit, and the No1 potential pitfall?

A: An EU exit would allow the UK to control our own destiny on better terms than we have seen at any point over recent decades. More in the pockets of local households, businesses supported and not strangled - and full control of our borders. These are just some of the overarching benefits of retaking our nation’s sovereignty.

Martina Anderson, Sinn Fein MEP, voting to remain:

‘EU has brought huge farming benefits’

Sinn Fein’s MEP was asked the same questions as Mrs Dodds, but failed to respond to them directly. Instead, she simply sent a statement:

“All sections of society here have benefited from our membership of the European Union; agriculture, industry, education, infrastructure and the community sector have all availed of EU funding and there are many more opportunities for all sectors to access European funding.

“In particular our agriculture sector and agri-food industry have benefited hugely from our continuing membership of the EU.

“The EU has also played a valuable role in supporting the development of our peace process, both diplomatically and practically through PEACE funding programmes.

“Our continued membership of the EU provides access to a marketplace of more than 500 million citizens.

“It also ensures continued protection for workers rights and human rights.

“Of course there are a number of things about European Union that we want to change but those changes cannot be made from outside the EU.

“It is clear to us that Ireland’s place, north and south, is in Europe.”

Jim Allister, previous MEP, voting to leave:

‘Freedom has no down sides’

The News Letter put the same questions to UUP MEP Jim Nicholson. The party referred us to a statement that we covered in a story earlier (read it at this link). The UUP has since come up with a firm position.

Meanwhile, Jim Allister said:

Q: Do you believe the Treasury will make sure the funding now available to NI is maintained in the event of an EU exit?

A: As UK taxpayers we pour £19 billion per annum into Brussels and even with the rebate and grants we get back less than half.

In 2014 Treasury figures* showed that the UK contribution to the EU was £19.234 billion while the UK rebate was £4.888 billion and we got a total of £4.539 billion in EU grants.

The net cost of EU membership for the UK in 2014 was £9,807,000,000.00. That translates into a staggering daily cost of £26.9m or over £1m every hour! (Source HM Treasury Cm 8974).

It is nonsense to suggest Northern Ireland cannot survive without EU handouts. Not only is it our own (UK) money we are getting back, but even we are net contributors. Our proportionate share of the UK’s annual contribution is of the order of £500m.

Last year, 2014/15, we got back £300m on agriculture (AQW 51652/11-16) and £133m from EU structural funds (AQW 52551/11-16).

Q: What is the No1 potential benefit of an EU exit, and the No1 potential pitfall?

A: If we leave we gain control. Control of our own borders, trade and laws. There are no pitfalls about the UK being a free and independent nation.

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