After the Government’s announcement last night of £20 million being allocated to researching possible alternative arrangements to the Northern Ireland backstop, the People’s Vote campaign have drawn together a list of six times Theresa May wasted vast sums of taxpayers’ money on attempts to get her Brexit deal over the line.
- £140 million on a snap General Election
The Conservatives had a majority in 2017, but Theresa May knew that the hard-line Eurosceptics in her party would make life difficult for her. She called a snap election, which cost the taxpayer £140 million (link), in order to increase her majority and make it easier to manage her own party. As we all know, this backfired spectacularly, resulting in the Tories losing their majority, and necessitating the next waste of taxpayer’s money on our list…
- £1bn to the DUP
Theresa May, having managed to lose her majority in the House of Commons, quickly turned to the DUP, asking for a confidence and supply agreement to allow her to remain Prime Minister. She got what she wanted, but at a price – the DUP extracted £1bn of taxpayer’s money for Northern Ireland in return for their votes (or £100 million per DUP MP) (link). This “bribe” hasn’t gone particularly well - the DUP nonetheless voted against May’s deal in January and have repeatedly threatened to renege on this agreement.
- Thousands of pounds on Knighthoods for John Hayes and John Redwood
It was something of a shock when committed Brexiter and backbench Tory MP John Hayes was given a knighthood in December, with many including Labour and Conservative MPs calling the award an “act of desperation” from Theresa May, trying to buy off a Eurosceptic MP (link 1, link 2). This was followed by a Knighthood for John Redwood, another Brexiter opposed to Theresa May’s deal. Both attended lavish ceremonies at taxpayers’ expense. If the idea was to get them to change their minds and back her deal, it didn’t work, with both new Knights of the Realm voting against May’s deal in January (link).
- £2bn spent on no deal planning including £33 million on the Seaborne Freight fiasco
Parliament has made it clear that it will not countenance a “no deal” Brexit. But because a loud group of Conservative MPs are pushing for this outcome, Theresa May has kept up the charade that no deal is a viable option, to keep her hopelessly split party together. Things reached a nadir when the government had to pay £33 million to Eurotunnel in compensation for its bungled no deal contingency contract with Seaborne Freight (link). The ferry firm had no ferries and, as it turns out, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, did not observe correct process in awarding the contract. In total £2bn of taxpayers’ money has been spent planning for an outcome Parliament will never allow, all to keep the Tory party together (link).
- £1.6bn spent on “Stronger Towns Fund”
In a bid to convince Labour MPs to vote for her deal, Theresa May has announced a new £1.6 billion fund for the English regions (link). But things began to unravel quickly, as it was revealed that the money comes nowhere close to making up for lost EU structural funds (link). The response for Labour MPs has been one of fury, with Anna Turley calling it “a shabby attempt to bribe MPs into voting for her dreadful deal” (link) and Joanne Platt saying “this simply will not cut it” (link). It looks like another attempt at shabby backroom deals that is destined to fail.
- £20 million in wasted research funding on “alternative arrangements” for the Norther Irish border
Yesterday, the Treasury agreed to make £20 million available to MPs who want to conduct research into alternative arrangements for the Northern Irish border (link). This is despite the fact that the EU has made it clear that the backstop is going nowhere. All this money represents is another bung to keep hard-line Brexiters on side and, if previous form is anything to go by, it will fail spectacularly
Commenting, Stephen Doughty MP, leading supporter of People’s Vote, said:
“Theresa May is desperately trying to force her Brexit deal over the line, and she’s throwing away huge sums of taxpayers’ money away to do so – this is all money that now can’t be spent where it’s actually needed, like on the NHS, police, education or defence. And that’s without even taking into account the wider economic cost of Brexit already being paid in lost jobs, lost investment and lost growth.
“Ministers are squandering massive amounts of money on preparing for a no deal scenario that Parliament has already rejected, just to keep the Brextremists on the backbenches happy. And the pathetically inadequate ‘Stronger Towns’ fund is clearly designed to try and cobble together a coalition to vote for her deal, despite it already being rejected by a historic margin of MPs.
“Now that we know so much more about the extortionate and unnecessary cost of Brexit, it’s only right to give the public the final say. That’s why huge numbers will be marching through London on March 23, demanding that Brexit is put to the people.”