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09/12/2016

The Brief: UKIP ‘used EU cash’ for Brexit campaign

The Brief: UKIP ‘used EU cash’ for Brexit campaign

The Brief is EurActiv.com's evening newsletter.

UKIP ‘USED EU CASH’ FOR BREXIT CAMPAIGN

UKIP allegedly used almost half a million euros of EU cash to pay for its Brexit and election campaigns, in breach of European Parliament rules.

According to the audit, taxpayers’ money was used to pay for polling before the UK general election, and the EU referendum by the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, which is dominated by UKIP.

Some other parties have been asked to return funds, most of the time because cash went unspent. But none have been hit with a bill of similar size.

A decision will be made on Monday on whether to force the party to pay back more than €170,000. An ADDE spokesman said the party was prepared to go to court.

The secrecy and complexity of European Parliament funding and expenses rules create a culture that encourages the kind of abuse that UKIP is accused of.

The Parliament spends nearly €40 million a year on 751 MEPs’ “general expenditure allowances”, payments they receive on top of their €96,240 a year salaries.

The allowance is roughly €4,299 per month per MEP in 2014. It is meant to cover the costs of offices, telephones and computers, but is rarely, if ever, scrutinised.

Last year, a group of 29 journalists took the European Parliament to court in a bid to make MEPs’ expenses more transparent.

Dark rumours swirl about “plumbers” – party officials who are expert in cooking the books to make sure they are rubberstamped.

Simply by turning up to work and signing in, MEPs can pocket €304 a day, without having to show as much as a receipt.

After dealing with the UKIP funding scandal, the Parliament should bring its own house in order and introduce some proper standards of financial transparency and accountability.

THE ROUNDUP 

Our old pal Günther Oettinger dominated the Commission’s midday press briefing. He is under fire for taking a flight in a private jet owned by a Kremlin lobbyist.

MEP Ana Gomes told our Georgi Gotev that Oettinger was getting away with it just because he is German. And here is the Digital Commissioner’s latest fail on Twitter.

Agreement on the EU budget for 2017 was reached after 18 hours of talks. €6 billion is being set aside for the migration crisis, with half that figure going to countries outside of the EU.

Obama is meeting Merkel in Berlin today. Russia and TTIP are up for discussion.

Michael Ignatieff has lashed out at liberal progressives for talking trash to Trump voters. But economist Joseph Stiglitz has warned the US will have a “tax avoider in chief” for a leader.

In not very reassuring news, pollsters are sure that French voters will not propel Marine Le Pen to the presidency. That sounds familiar.

Meanwhile, Le Pen senior lost his court challenge against his expulsion from the National Front.

Russia has blocked LinkedIn. Ukraine won’t back European hate crimes law but the EU has approved visa-free travel for its citizens.

Malta has pledged to unite Europe during its presidency of the EU and Germany will cooperate with Turkey on terrorism and the PKK.

Matteo Renzi has repeated his vow to quit as PM if he loses the Italian referendum on constitutional reforms.

Sweden has the world’s first hotline for workers to report “mansplaining”, which is when men patronise women by telling them stuff they already knew.

Mansplaining is on the rise across Europe. The Germans call it Herrklären and the French mecspliquer.

Could it be a Christmas number one for Herman Van Rompuy? Listen to his debut single here. The moving tune, which features Herman reading a haiku, commemorates the victims of the Brussels terror attacks.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The final day of the COP22 climate change conference in Marrakesh. COP22 was slightly deflated by the election of a climate change denier as leader of the free world. But American business leaders remain bullish on clean energy, despite the terror of Trump looming large. In other good news, the UK today ratified the Paris Agreement.

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