Hands Still Tied? UK Companies Unable to Get Covid Cash Due to EU State Aid Rules

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British businesses are locked out of the government’s £4.6 billion emergency coronavirus grant scheme because it has signed up to the European Commission’s “state-aid temporary framework”, according to reports.

“It’s bizarre that EU state aid rules are standing in the way of hundreds of millions of pounds of financial support that will protect jobs,” complained Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, in comments quoted by the Financial Times.

According to the (staunchly europhile) newspaper, many businesses have found themselves unable to qualify for relief after being shut down by Prime Minister Johnson’s third lockdown because they have already hit a time-limited cap on assistance laid out in the EU rules.

British businesses in strategic sectors such as steel going to the wall while the government complained it could do nothing due to EU rules was a common feature of British politics before Brexit, with the collapse of the Redcar steelworks in late 2015 being fresh in many working-class voters’ minds ahead of the EU referendum.

“There are extremely strict state aid rules, which especially apply to the steel industry, so we are limited as to what we can do,” the then-government minister for industry, Anna Soubry, had said at the time, as 2,000 steelworkers faced unemployment.

“[S]imply giving a loan or underwriting things, we cannot do… our hands are tied,” said the Tory politician — who would later become a fanatical anti-Brexiteer, allying with EU loyalists in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to form the new Change UK (CUK) in an effort to overturn the 2016 referendum.

“The restrictions on state subsidy was a major concern the Bow Group raised with the Brexit deal, and it has already become an apparent flaw,” said Ben Harris-Quinney in response the reports on difficulties with coronavirus relief.

“We left the EU to rid ourselves from such restrictions, and many people will be surprised to discover that a great many EU rules and regulations still apply in the UK, just as they did when we were in the EU,” said the campaigner, whose organisation is the oldest conservative think tank in the country.

“In the short term we urge the government to set aside any EU agreements preventing aid to businesses and remove any barriers to it. Given the nature and scale of the emergency we face it is unlikely that this would be challenged by the EU in court, but if it is it would present a strong argument to review the overall deal.

“In the longer term it will become clear to the public that the principles of Brexit have not been fulfilled, and that we should not be tied by any EU rules and regulations,” he told Breitbart London.

“To listen to the Government’s proposed policies on immigration, on climate change, on regulations and on the liberal globalist agenda, it appears they have forgotten very quickly that people voted to leave the EU to have no foreign interference in our affairs, much lower immigration, and strong opposition to the globalist liberal agenda.

“We didn’t roll back the frontiers of the EU only to have the same establishment globalist thinking forced upon us at a national level,” he concluded, putting a twist on one of the late Margaret Thatcher’s most famous pronouncements on European integration. (“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”)

Brian Monteith, a former Brexit Party MEP and veteran eurosceptic, was equally scathing, noting that the “irony of the Financial Times reporting that EU rules are costing British companies millions even after the ‘trade deal’ will not be lost on ordinary people who already feel betrayed by the British government.”

“The truth is the deal is a sham and we would have been better leaving without it and helping our own businesses as we saw fit under World Trade Organization rules that would have given us more leeway to help those in need,” he told Breitbart London.

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