22:26 GMT16 January 2021
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    Membership of the European Economic Community has cost Britain US$743 (£503 billion) since it joined 43 years ago, anti-European Union campaigners have revealed.

    The study by the aptly named ‘Vote Leave’ group is predicting that the figure will continue to rise.

    “We hand the EU £350 million a week and counting – enough to buy a new hospital every week”, Matthew Elliott, head of Vote Leave campaign said.

    “David Cameron promised to cut the EU budget, yet we are handing more to Brussels every year”, said Elliot. A sentiment reiterated by Euroskeptic MPs who described the figure as “money down the drain”.

    ​Following UK Prime Minister’s charm offensive around Europe to canvas support for his reforms to Britain’s membership of the EU, it’s now left to the “in” or “out” campaign groups to push their rhetoric ahead of the referendum.

    The “in” Europe campaign to keep Britain inside the EU claims membership is worth US$4,435 (£3,000) to every household in the UK.

    ​Meanwhile Europe’s refugee crisis is likely to put severe pressure on EU leaders ahead of a spending review by the European Commission next autumn. Yet coupled with the refugee crisis is the potential for reform to the EU and for UK PM David Cameron, the priority appears to be to crack down on so-called benefit tourism.

    David Cameron wants to stop EU migrants from accessing many benefits, such as the NHS and jobseeker’s allowance until they’ve lived in the country for four years. A proposal, according to head of the EC, Donald Tusk, every EU country is “against”.

    ​However Germany has just announced plans to cut welfare payments to EU migrants which could help David Cameron get his way.

    Andrea Nahles, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet told the newspaper, Rheinische Post: “There is clearly a need for legislative action.

    “We need to spare the municipalities from having to provide for penniless foreigners from the EU in an unlimited way”, Nahles said, citing the pressure already on Germany from the refugee crisis.

    According to German newspaper, Die Welt, Germany has set aside US$18.5 billion (€17 billion) to deal with the influx of refugees in 2016.

    And while President of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker calls for “solidarity” in 2016, member states continue to make decisions in isolation on what access migrants will have to welfare benefits.

    ​The 2016 political agenda in Britain is predicted to be dominated by the “in” or “out” campaign and whether David Cameron can win his reforms or witness a ‘Brexit’. The cost no doubt will be calculated.

    A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is expected to be held by the end of 2017.


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