Brexit tales: disguising EU funding
Next month Brexit will be a year away - how have we got to this position? Partly it is simply a matter of the British Government's failure to acknowledge and explain the benefits the EU has brought us over the years.
It is still happening. Claire Perry MP sends out a press release: 'Claire Perry Welcomes Government Grants for Farming Equipment'. It turns out that this money - all £60million of it - comes directly from the EU's European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
There is no mention in the press release of the source of the money or of the EU.
But if you delve into the appropriate part of the website for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) you will discover that there is not much mention of the EU there either. However you can see the 'Small Grant Handbook' which does carry the EU flag and the full name of the EAFRD as well as the slogan: 'Europe investing in rural areas'.
The money has been carefully re-badged by Defra under its own Rural Development Programme for England's (RDPE) Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme...getting as far away as possible from contamination by the letters EU or the word Europe.
Inside the guide there is a paragraph headed: "Government guarantees about funding after the UK leaves the EU". This states that the government has guaranteed funding if the grants "...are agreed before the UK's departure from the EU, even if the grant agreements continue after we've left the EU."
There are however two big provisos to this guarantee: the projects will then have to be judged to see whether they are 'good value for money' and to be 'in line with domestic strategic priorities.'
There is a downside for applicants in the way the government is administering this EU money: farmers in England have to buy the equipment and then claim back part of the cost. And they have to buy all the items they intend to be part of their claim before they can submit a claim. This is what is called a scheme that "has been designed with simplicity in mind, to save farmers valuable time."
If you think this a mountain out of molehill occurrence, check out the Prime Minister taking the credit last month for new rules banning hidden charges on credit card payments: "From today we're banning...". It took David Lammy MP to point out that the government was merely rolling out new EU rules!