By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent
LABOUR MEPs have denounced as a disgraceful abuse
a grant of €250,000 (£170,000) of European
taxpayers money to the UK Independence Party to
campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
The UKIP, which has accused the EU of spending public
funds to promote European integration,will use the money
to begin a campaign for a referendum on withdrawal.
It will start on Monday with a series of advertisements
in national newspapers, including The Times, and a website.
It is thought to be the first time that EU money has been
used to push for withdrawal from the union.
The UKIP, which has ten MEPs, received the money from
a fund for providing information to the public,
which is given to all political groups.
Stephen Hughes, a Labour MEP, said: This is a disgraceful
abuse of parliamentary funds. Its wrong that money
meant for promoting the work of the institution is being
used to undermine it they are using the money to
undermine everything we work for. We should have a review
of the rules.
Gary Titley, the Labour leader in the European Parliament,
told the European Voice newspaper: This fund was
originally intended for the dissemination of information,
rather than for political campaigning. I would seriously
question whether this is an appropriate use of Parliamentary
The UKIP accused its Labour counterparts of hypocrisy.
Nigel Farage, the parliamentary leader of UKIP, said:
It is a perfectly valid use of the money
we are delighted with the irony of the situation. I did
not hear complaints from Mr Titley when his own group
spent their information budget interfering in the referendums
in Ireland, Denmark, France, Holland and Malta. All we
are doing is a little to redress the balance.
There were cries of foul recently when the European Parliament
voted to spend its entire information budget promoting
the European constitution, and nothing to promote arguments
The European Commission, the EU executive, also spends
millions of pounds a year promoting European integration
through support for several federalist think-tanks, information
campaigns in schools and universities, seminars and conferences,
and a vast network of university professorships.
The UKIP decided to campaign for a referendum after the
government dropped plans for a poll on the European constitution
after the French and Dutch no votes. The Government has
also dropped plans for a referendum on British membership
of the euro. Eurosceptics believe they can overwhelmingly
win any referendum on European issues.
Polling for the UKIP suggests that a majority in Britain
would like a vote on membership of the EU. The campaign
is named Let the People Decide, the same used
by the billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, founder of the
Referendum Party, to campaign for a vote on the euro.
Mr Farage, who hopes to collect two million signatures
on a petition, said: Were looking to raise
the whole question of why, for over 30 years, we have
never had a say on the EU.