Parliament guilty of ‘bias’ against Farage group over EU cash, ECJ rules

[European Parliament/Flickr]

Brexit party Nigel Farage chalked up an unlikely victory on Thursday (7 November) when the European Court of Justice ruled that the European Parliament’s bureau was guilty of bias when it

Brexit party Nigel Farage chalked up an unlikely victory on Thursday (7 November) when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the European Parliament’s bureau was guilty of bias when it

In a judgement on Thursday, the Luxembourg-based Court stated that “the appearances of impartiality were seriously compromised,” when the European Parliament’s bureau ordered the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), a group in which Farage’s former party UKIP  was the dominant member, to pay back over €172,000. It also denied a further grant worth over €500,000.

Following a report by an external auditing company in November 2016, the Parliament’s Bureau concluded that Farage’s former party had financed polls in support of Farage’s UK General Election campaign in 2015, and to develop the party’s EU referendum campaign.

However, the Luxembourg-based court found that comments by Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, had “prejudged the issue” before the bureau decision was made.

It added that “the Parliament must provide sufficient guarantees to rule out any doubt over the lack of bias of its members when taking administrative decisions” and that “members are to abstain from making public statements relating to the proper or improper management of funds by political parties at European level when the files are being examined”.

In a statement in November 2016, Lunacek, and the group’s co-leader Philippe Lamberts, said that “we expect the audit report to be confirmed at the European Parliament Bureau meeting on Monday, and look forward to a firm and unequivocal response from the Parliament authorities.”

“The money must be paid back and UKIP held to account for its fraudulent manipulation of the British electorate,” they added.

In a separate argument within the case, the ECJ upheld a decision by the Parliament Bureau to demand a bank guarantee from the ADDE and to limit pre-financing for the 2017 financial year.

Responding to the court ruling, Farage said: “the politically motivated bias in this case was so outrageous that even the EU’s own court had to pull the thuggish European parliament off the Eurosceptic parties’ group.”

“I am glad this blatant bias by the European parliament has been called out by the ECJ,” he added.

Farage has repeatedly been in the cross-hairs of the Parliament authorities, and the UK’s electoral commission, over allegations of misusing public funds.

Last year, the Brexit party leader was docked half his MEP pay, after parliament administrators concluded he had misspent EU funds intended to staff his office.

In June, a new investigation by the Parliament was opened following claims that Farage had failed to declare gifts and expenses worth £450,000 from Arron Banks, the co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum.

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