The UK has been fined a total of £642 million by the European Commission since 2005 for supposedly poor accounting. The EU, meanwhile, has not had its own accounts signed off by auditors for 19 years.
EU bureaucrats claim the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has failed to stick to the rules of the vast, notoriously complex and wasteful European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The eye-watering “disallowance penalties,” mean that £2.70 of every £100 of money paid out to British agriculture and farmers under the CAP has been returned to the EU in fines
Tory MP, Peter Bone, told The Daily Expess: “The European Commission should not pick on Defra over what amounts to a very complicated scheme. This is hypocrisy of the first order as the EU has not been able to get its own house in order for the last two decades. We should not have to pay these fines.”
In the period since 2005, the UK has become the sixth highest hit nation in Europe, out of 28 member states, by such fines relating to the CAP – only after Greece, Romania, Portugal, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The penalties are putting Defra’s budget under increased pressure as the department struggles to respond to critical issues such as disease outbreaks, TB control and flood management.
Chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, believes the prospect of further fines is “frightening”. She said:
“Complicated CAP rules don’t help but the department must get a grip to deal with these persistent problems and ensure we aren’t throwing away taxpayers’ money on financial penalties.”
Attempts have been made to make the scheme simpler, says the NAO report, but it has actually become more complex, with the government now warning it will be 15 per cent more expensive to manage than the old version. Defra is now considering spending an additional £25m to £45m to improve mapping and avoid future penalties of up to £370m, the report says.
As explained by UKIP in their manifesto, there is an alternative.
“Outside the EU, free of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and excessive regulations, we will be able to introduce fairer, simpler ways to support this important industry,” it states.