By Alison Little
BRUSSELS will attempt to “rig” any referendum asking the British people if they want to quit the EU, it emerged last night.
It would unleash a multi-million pound pro-Europe propaganda campaign – and get UK taxpayers to pick up the bill.
Details of the plot come as support grows for the Daily Express crusade for Britain to pull out of the EU.
Controversial new rules mean that European political parties can use public cash to publicise their campaigns in referendums in any member country.
Critics said the “outrageous” move would allow MEPs to spend tens of millions of pounds on trying to convince Britons that the UK should stay in Europe.
Stephen Booth, of pro-reform think tank Open Europe, said: “This goes to show that MEPs are determined that the EU’s tentacles reach into almost every aspect of domestic politics.
“Using taxpayers’ money to directly interfere in a deeply sensitive national issue is completely outrageous.”
But he warned that the move may backfire – as UK voters resist attempts to strong-arm them into supporting the European Union. Members of the European Parliament’s influential Constitutional Affairs Committee overwhelmingly backed the change to funding rules to let cross-national European political groups take part in referendum campaigns in member states.
The groups are made up of MEPs from different countries who share similar political leanings, such as socialists, conservatives or greens. Eighty five per cent of their funding comes from EU taxpayers, including Britons.
Up to now, MEPs have been allowed to use the funds only to campaign in elections for the European Parliament.
But in future they will be able to spend the cash campaigning where a referendum has a “direct link” to an EU issue – such as on UK membership.
Leading Eurosceptic and Tory MP Peter Bone, who is pressing for an “in or out” referendum to decide if Britain quits the EU, said: “This is pretty outrageous in any regard because I don’t really think taxpayers’ money should be used to fund political campaigns, and for one on the EU, when these people are discussing something they have a self-interest in, you would think it would be banned.”
The Daily Express has received overwhelming backing for its Get Britain Out of the EU crusade.
A few weeks ago, we delivered a petition backed by 373,000 readers to 10 Downing Street calling for Britain to free itself from Brussels rule.