UK Politics

UKIP grouping denies misspending EU funds

Nigel Farage Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Farage's party dominates the ADDE grouping in the European Parliament

A European Parliament group dominated by UKIP MEPs has denied claims it misspent EU funds on UK campaigns.

An audit leaked to Sky News said the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe broke rules because the funding must be spent on European Parliament business.

An ADDE spokesman accused the European Parliament of "harassment" over the audit and said most of the funds spent had been "fully eligible".

UKIP's Roger Helmer told the BBC: "Call it revenge for Brexit if you like".

BBC correspondent Damian Grammaticas said the leaked audit said that more than 500,615 euros (£430,486) had been misspent - much of it in the UK ahead of parliamentary elections in UKIP target seats including Thanet South, where leader Nigel Farage stood.

The leaked audit accuses the ADDE of spending EU money intended to be spent on European Parliament business on polling in constituencies UKIP targeted in the 2015 general election, and on UKIP's Leave campaign during the EU Referendum.

The findings will go to the European Parliament Bureau, which is responsible for budget matters, next week. If they are upheld, the ADDE could be asked to repay more than 170,000 euros (£146,185).

UKIP set up the ADDE in 2014 - it has 27 MEPs from seven countries, the largest group of which are UKIP MEPs.

'Difficult position'

One of them, UKIP MEP for the East Midlands, Mr Helmer likened the actions of the European Parliament authorities to a witch-hunt: "They are absolutely determined to close down Eurosceptic groups. It isn't just our group it's other Eurosceptic groups in the parliament. They have been planning it for a long time."

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme trying to repay £146,185 would "place us in a difficult position" adding: "which is exactly what the Parliamentary administration is seeking to do".

A spokesman for the ADDE said: "The parliament administration has for months taken an aggressive and hostile attitude over the audit, amounting to nothing short of deliberate harassment. This is a blatant deviation to its requested neutrality."

He added: "It has become increasingly apparent since Brexit that anything short of 'group think' is no longer tolerated within the European Union. Any deviation will see the rules changed and goalposts moved.

"Everything the ADDE has conducted is to provide a more coherent overview of the opinions expressed by the population that is represented by the members of the ADDE.

"We are therefore confident that our expenditures - with the exception of a few minor items - are fully eligible and compliant to EU regulations. They are also in line with fully accepted activities from other groups. We will be taking this matter to the European Court of Justice."

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