Pro-Brexit Tories sound alarm over cash pot for EU elections 'madness'
Senior pro-Brexit Conservatives have raised fears of a plot to keep the UK in the EU after it emerged Whitehall has set aside a pile of cash for European Parliament elections.
Electoral watchdogs were handed an £829,000 budget for “activities relating to a European Parliamentary election in 2019" - despite the fact Britain is supposed to have quit the bloc by then.
The Electoral Commission said the fund was a “precautionary measure” in case Brexit runs into trouble.
But prominent Brexit supporters have sounded the alarm over the “complete madness” and called for the flagship EU Withdrawal Bill to be rushed through parliament.
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told the Sunday Telegraph: “It raises the question – are they planning for us not leaving the European Union?
“Are they ignoring what Theresa May has said and deliberately still believing that we won’t have left the EU?”
He added: “It is complete madness to earmark money to spend on an election that the Prime Minister has already said we will not fight unless you are working to make sure the UK stays in the EU in which you are working against the British people.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the European Research Group, said: “It is important the Withdrawal Bill is passed soon because this will provide the necessary clarity that the European elections are not taking place.”
The European Parliament vote is set to take place between 23 May and 26 May next year. The UK is due to quit the EU on 19 March 2019.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “A provision in our budget was made so that the commission has the necessary funds to deliver our functions at a European parliamentary election, in the unlikely event that they do go ahead.”
They added: “We do not anticipate spending any money, pending the UK Government repealing the necessary legislation.”