Vote Leave’s “EU-funded” claim doesn’t add up

by Jack Schickler | 25.05.2016

The warning today from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that the effects of Brexit would be equivalent to at least one or two extra years of austerity was immediately dismissed by Leave campaigners – and not just based on the substance. UKIP’s Nigel Farage said it was “another doomsday report … from an organisation receiving EU funding”. Campaign group Vote Leave went further, describing the Institute as the EU’s “paid-up propaganda arm”.

It is not the first time Brexiteers have made such an accusation against an organisation that counters their world view. But the charge becomes no more credible through repetition.

The IFS states that 11% of its funding comes from the EU. The European Research Council, responsible for awarding such grants, says the “sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence”. Grants are available for research in associated countries as well as in EU members.

Most of the IFS’s income “goes directly to specific research projects”. As it happens, the funding for today’s report came from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. But receiving UK public money has never prompted the IFS to toe the government line – as countless chancellors have discovered after a post-Budget mauling. Andrew Lilico, formerly an IFS employee but now head of the pro-Brexit Economists for Britain group, today leapt to defend the Institute’s independence.

The IFS aren’t the only ones to face such accusations. The website of the “EU-funded” CBI says that it receives £148,000 per year from the European Commission, ringfenced for them to produce surveys of business opinion. Vote Leave is suggesting that, for the sake of a paltry 0.6% of annual income, the CBI would choose to misrepresent the views of the business members who largely provide the remainder.

The London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance was dismissed in similar terms after publishing a largely negative report on the consequences of Brexit. The Centre says it receives under 5% of funding from the EU, for academic projects, and not for its work on Brexit. A few years ago, after Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan claimed in the Telegraph that academic Jonathan Portes received EU funding in exchange for being pro-EU, the paper was forced by the Press Complaints Commission to admit that grants were awarded “on the basis of competitive tender”.

After the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) pointed out the economic risks of Brexit, Vote Leave said the “EU-funded” organisation was bullying the British people, noting that the body had received €168,138 from the EU since 2007. Of the various payments that make up this sum, the largest was €29,379 in 2011 for “reimbursement of training costs”. At an average €21,017 over the eight years, the total amounts to less than one thousandth of one percent of the IMF’s €3.1 billion operational income.

That Vote Leave consistently shoots the messenger suggests it has little to say on the message. It also does down Britain – implying, for example, that the UK’s world-leading academic institutions are easy to suborn. But organisations can and do take money from the EU without pro-European bias. Ask Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan – both EU-funded members of the European Parliament since 1999.

Vote Leave did not respond to our request for comment.

Edited by Alan Wheatley

One Response to “Vote Leave’s “EU-funded” claim doesn’t add up”

  • Leave side has been said to have misused information for there own ends.
    This can also be said of the remain side,,,as this Referendum was born out of lies,dishonesty and underhanded politics i would be reluctant to believe any statistics put forward by any organization that had this history let alone the E.U.

    The E.U. was born out of the E.E.C. which seemed to work well at the time.This was of course not enough for the expansionist within the E.U.

    Expansionism will eventually destroy its self, by its very nature,together with greed.

    On closing its worth remembering emptying continents of something like50%
    of its population to achieve a political goal is the lowest of the low and must not be aloud to succeed.
    That is why we must leave this undemocratic/anti -people E.U.