This article was originally published on The Commentator
David Cameron’s blunder at Buckingham Palace last week has thrust the spotlight once again on the appalling misuse of Foreign Aid. The Prime Minister’s description of Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt” was not his most diplomatic of interventions, considering how he had invited the heads of state of both countries to his “anti-corruption” summit this week. This is of significant concern to the Great British Public, considering how both countries are major recipients of British Foreign Aid! What’s more, these countries are in line to receive a further increase in aid under new Department for International Development commitments. These will aim to direct up to 50% of the Department’s official development assistance budget on states and regions classified as “fragile”. The British taxpayer must be very angry to see our elected officials happy to give away significant amounts of their hard-earned money to countries which are clearly acknowledged as highly corrupt.
There is however a small crumb of comfort for the taxpayer – these politicians are ultimately accountable for their actions. At the next general election the Great British Public will decide whether or not they are content with their money being squandered in this way. The Conservatives will most likely be under new leadership by then, and the new leader will have to make sure policies appeal to voters – otherwise the Conservative Party may well lose the next election. A promise to scrap or cut the UK’s foreign aid budget may well be a good way to do this. If the public approved of this measure, they might re-elect them to see it implemented. This would be true democracy in action.
All of this is in stark contrast to the unelected and unaccountable Commission which runs the EU. The EU, like Britain, has a significant foreign aid budget which totals around £7 billion a year. The United Kingdom, as a member of the EU, is also a major contributor to this budget as well, covering around 10% – so we contribute twice to foreign aid. However despite this significant cost, the public has no say over how it is spent! British taxpayers may indeed question whether it is right for them to be presented with a second EU-derived expenditure, especially considering the huge amount we are already stumping up for our own huge contribution to foreign aid – £11.7billion in 2014. (The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest the aid budget will rise to £14.1 billion by 2020.) The stark reality is there is nothing we can do to stop this while we remain members of the EU. The Commission which runs the EU is unelected, and therefore has no fear of being kicked out of office. While we are in the EU, it does not matter if we elect a political party which promises to scrap all spending on foreign aid, the EU will continue to spend our money on it.
What adds insult to injury, as with almost everything the EU touches, the level of incompetence with which the EU uses its foreign aid foreign aid budget is staggering – and more than a little bit frightening. Romania and Bulgaria were countries judged to be fit and developed enough to join the European Union – yet between them they receive around one billion €uros per annum in foreign aid from the EU. This is in addition to the 5 billion €uros they receive from the rest of the EU budget in CAP and development funding. So the UK is not only providing aid to the developing world, but it’s also being forced to contribute to the developed world as well. Why the EU sees fit to divert so much of our money, supposedly ear-marked for countries desperately in need towards its own Member States may seem a touch odd – until we consider the pervasive wastefulness, which is one of the EU’s major traits.
Regarding foreign aid from the EU budget which does actually reach countries we in the UK would determine as genuinely in need – the story is even worse. There have been countless stories about how European Union aid is either wasted by corrupt governments or used to meet arbitrarily set targets which range from studies into Pacific Coconut Project to a fitness centre for dogs. It is clear the EU has no interest in ensuring our money is spent on meaningful causes which actually help the people of the countries which need it most. Instead they are content with it being wasted on vanity projects. Whilst the UK’s own foreign aid budget does have wastage, this pales in comparison to the EU’s budget.
More galling than the EU’s incompetence, are its restrictions on how the UK can spend its own foreign aid. A big part of foreign aid is about improving the perception of Britain in other countries around the world. This is so much more effective when the aid – bought and paid for by the British taxpayer – comes from a British company in British packaging. When we are forced to send, say, Bulgarian products as part of a “British” aid project, we dilute the value of that aid to Britain and to the country receiving our help. We are the largest foreign aid donor in the EU, and EU rules mean the rest of the EU gets to piggyback off our generosity.
The biggest concern has to be how this brings the UK further into the creeping EU federal superstate. Foreign Aid is a highly important part of foreign policy and the EU is seeking to control it. The EU now has its equivalent of our Foreign Office, seeking to displace and later replace every national government’s role in foreign policy with a unified EU policy. Without countries having an independent foreign policy, no country can claim to be an independent state. The generosity we have always shown to the developing world is now being used as a tool to further the ends of the European Union integration.
Whatever the problems or issues concerning the UK’s own Foreign Aid budget, the simple fact of the matter is we should be the ones who are in charge to change and rectify what we do with our money, not the EU. The Great British Public can demand change from their MPs – and if they fail to address our needs, we can remove them in elections. The Government and its ministers are accountable to the electorate they represent, and to the taxpayers whose money the Government spends. In sharp contrast is the EU, which is run by unelected bureaucrats and commissioners in Brussels and are accountable to no-one. There is no hope of reforming this thoroughly corrupt body, when its structure and leadership are fiercely opposed to transparency and democratic accountability. A vote for Remain is an endorsement of this corruption. There is only one option for British taxpayers who want their money spent well and this is to vote to Leave and to Get Britain Out of the corrupt EU.