Eurosceptic former MEPs benefit from luxury EU pensions 3

Eurosceptic former MEPs benefit from luxury EU pensions

A German MEP has accused Eurosceptic former UK MEPs of hypocrisy for signing up to a taxpayer-funded, luxury top-up pension fund, which has an “almost criminal energy”.

Daniel Freund, a Green MEP and member of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee, said it was “incredible” that European Union taxpayers are “funding the luxury pensions of Brexiteers”.

Freund has called for the tax haven fund, which is facing bankruptcy, to be scrapped for all MEPs, rather than bailed out with more public money.

Data revealing the members of the European Parliament fund, obtained by Investigate Europe and shared with The Ferret, includes 110 former UK MEPs such as Nigel Farage and the Conservative Lord and co-founder of the pro-Brexit Vote Leave group, Lord Daniel Hannan of Kingsclere.

Others enrolled in the fund include politicians from across the political spectrum including current or former or government ministers, MPs, and lords – all roles which come with their own high salaries and generous pension schemes.

The European Parliament top-up pension scheme, more than 30-years-old, was set up as a private company in the tax haven of Luxembourg and reportedly held corporate assets in other tax havens including the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

Funded mostly by taxpayers, it has reportedly allowed longtime members to claim up to £5,800 a month – on top of the £5,900 standard monthly pension – from age 65.

Until 2008, MEPs were allowed to have their contributions to the controversial scheme automatically deducted from their general allowance, which is supposed to cover office expenses.

However, the fund’s risk of bankruptcy due a £260m black hole means that the more than 900 MEPs enrolled will see their payouts cut in half and the pension age rise to 67 – despite more than £73m of additional public money being used as a bail out.

Members can now exit the scheme and collect their contributions with a 20 per cent top-up – an incentive aimed to encourage members to withdraw and reduce the deficit.

But the concessions have left some beneficiaries of the fund angry, and they are now gearing up for a court battle with the European Parliament.

One MEP told Investigate Europe that many enrolled were encouraged to do so by parliament administrators, while others “were just greedy”.

Who can claim the top-up pension?

Among those who can draw from the fund, aside from Farage and Hannan, is Theresa Villiers, a pro-Brexit Tory MP and former UK Government minister, and Gerard Batten, 69, who once led UKIP and compared EU leaders to Adolf Hitler.

Lord Daniel Hannan of Kingsclere. Image: Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Investigate Europe found that other Eurosceptics like the French far right politician Marine Le Pen were signed up to the fund, as well as other politicians holding the EU’s top jobs. Le Pen refused to comment when asked by Investigate Europe.

However, pro-EU MEPs from across the political spectrum are also named members of the fund. They include the late SNP giant, Winnie Ewing – the pension was under the care of her daughter Annabelle – a current MSP.

Labour politicians include the long-serving MEP, David Martin, and Eluned Morgan, a Welsh government minister and lord.

Christopher Huhne, a former Liberal Democrat MP and coalition government minister, also claims, alongside other former MPs and current lords belonging to his party. Struan Stevenson, a former executive member of the Scottish Tories is also enrolled.

Daniel Freund, a Green MEP and member of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee, said: “We Greens have been calling for the end of this fund for 20 years. Here, with almost criminal energy, a system was set up that was doomed to bankruptcy from the start. For years to come, a number of lords, commissioners and MPs will be paid over €2,000 per month from taxpayers’ money in addition to existing pensions.

“Parliament must prevent this at all cost. Not a single taxpayer euro should be wasted in this fund.”

He added: “This is just the cherry on top of the Brexit cake: EU taxpayers funding the luxury pensions of Brexiteers. Incredible. Leaving the EU but keeping the pensions. What we need now is an exit from those pensions: A Pexit!”

Danny Phillips of UNISON, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, said: “Every worker, including MEPs, deserves a decent occupational pension when they retire. I can’t help but notice that some of those featured here have done their level best to undermine the far less generous schemes that council and NHS staff pay into.

“Everyone deserves a decent pension and dignity in retirement. And UNISON will continue to campaign for fair pensions for all.”

No former MEP responded to requests to comment. Annabelle Ewing did not respond to a request to comment. Gerard Batten could not be reached.

About the pension scheme

Investigate Europe reported that the scheme was founded in 1991 due to a disparity between MEP pensions owed to varying rules in their home countries. The fund was set up to help level the playing field, but closed in 2009 when a common pension for all MEPs was introduced.

For at least 20 years, the voluntary pension fund has run a deficit, with the estimated future payouts dwarfing the fund’s estimated assets. This led many MEPs – or entire political parties and groupings – to quit the scheme on principle.

After the parliament refused to confirm and publish numbers related to the scheme, the European Ombudsman launched an investigation in April.

Green MEPs reportedly want to remove part of a legal statute which requires the taxpayer-funded European Parliament to bailout the scheme at all – an unlikely intervention that would reportedly require consent from the parliament, a council of ministers and at least 20 of the EU’s 27 governments.

Header image thanks to Gage Skidmore. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

1 comment
  1. UK pensions for the commoner are the lowest in Europe. We are ruled by a thieving Corporate Oligarchy, managed by our politicians, 99.99% of whom I would refuse to administer CPR to if in a position to do so.

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