MONEY makes the world go around and just which piggy bank holds a stash of British cash has dominated the Brexit headlines over the last seven days.
Until now it is the so-called ‘divorce bill’ that has been traded as a common currency for and against, a debt of honour Brussels wants settled before the parting of ways.
The actual bill claimed by those across the ditch varies between €60 billion and €100 billion depending on who is presenting the case; service may or may not be included, and it might all hinge on a deal being struck…or not.
Two stories have since come to the fore. The European Investment Bank (EIB) might not be able to cough up all the money owed to the UK – around €10.1 billion – before 2054; mainly because it is tied up in investments.
But the Daily Express positively screamed “GET US OUT!” in anger (the capitals are the newspaper’s own). New statistics said to show that the equivalent £267 million “A WEEK” (sorry) is still headed overseas to the EU.
It appears, according to the Office for National Statistics and its annual ‘Pink Book’ – which lists transactions between the UK and the rest of the world – that Britain paid the EU £13.9 billion last year. Feel free to add an adjective, two used by the Express were ‘eye-watering’ and ‘lavish’.
The figures do upset the Brexit campaigners but in reality confirm the cost of membership as being the second largest contributor until 2019 – and the politicians backing ‘Leave’ did not disappoint in their comments.
Tory Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, said the net contribution of £13.9 billion was reason enough for a trip through the door marked ‘exit’. He added: “It is little wonder that discussions are stalled over money, the EU is loathed to scale back its empire-building ambitions and the German taxpayer will be unwilling to pick up the bills.”
Conservative colleague and MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone chirped up how it was all money that could be used for social care, the NHS, reducing the deficit, and even tax cuts.
“The message to the government is to get on and get us out of the EU and don’t pay any more money to Brussels. The money should be spent where it is needed in this country and not in Bulgaria, Romania and other parts of the EU.”
UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott also chipped in, saying that in the referendum people voted to prevent cash going to the EU “not for the tap to keep flowing”.
He added, in true UKIP style: “British politicians often pretend they have a magic money tree, but the EU actually has one – it’s called the British taxpayer.”
Over at the EIB, Alexander Stubb – despite his name, he is a former Finnish premier – is vice-president of the bank and was much more controlled, even apologetic, as he broke his news.
The UK is a 16% shareholder in the EIB, where all 28 member states of the EU have a stake. The money is used to make low cost loans, frequently for major infrastructure projects, including building affordable housing in Britain.
Mr Stubb explained because the cash was tied up – it includes capital, reserves and profits totalling around €10.1 billion – it could take some time to pay back; although everyone was agreed it would be returned and “basically in cash”.
He underlined that no-one at the EIB wanted to “punish” the UK but rather he aimed “alleviate the pain” of Brexit.
The EIB chief said that being married to a Brit and with children of dual nationality, “I have a British heart pumping”. He described Brexit as a travesty, adding: “The economic facts are just such that there are no winners in Brexit – apart from perhaps a few lawyers.”