A new study by the Open Europe think tank has concluded that Northern Ireland is being short-changed by the European Union. For every £1.58 paid by taxpayers in Northern Ireland to the EU we are getting just £1 of EU regional development funds.
Between 2007 and 2013 the United Kingdom will have paid in around £30bn to the EU's so-called structural and cohesion fund, but get back less than £9bn.
“While Northern Ireland does benefit from significant structural funds from the EU, this comprehensive report has highlighted that, as usual where Europe is concerned, we pay in much more than we get back.
Open Europe have concluded that in Northern Ireland for every £1 we get back in structural funds, we pay in £1.58. By any calculation such a disparity is a bad deal for the people of Northern Ireland. When it is considered that all but two regions across the UK also lose out, the Coalition Government ought to be looking at these figures, the nett loss to the UK and how this money can be more efficiently and effectively used.
Serious consideration ought to be given to taking this policy area back and ring fencing the money that we would otherwise contribute to the EU. If this occurred, it is estimated Northern Ireland could benefit from a 45% increase in subsidies received over a period of seven years. Such a vast increase in structural funds would bring huge benefits to the Northern Ireland Executive and would enable even more projects to be delivered across the Province.
I would urge David Cameron to reconsider his policy on regional funding and deliver what is in the best interests of the United Kingdom. In these times of austerity but growing need, and a backdrop in Northern Ireland of years of underinvestment, these lost millions are money we can ill afford to lose.”
Some people argue that we can't afford to leave the EU but as things are at the moment many others will say we can't afford to stay in. Certainly repatriating more powers and areas of policy would be a good start.
Open Europe is an independent think tank that seeks to contribute new thinking to the debate about the Europe Union and which calls for a radical reform.