Ministers battle over plan to use aid budget to help secure Brexit deal

Posted On: 
19th February 2017

Ministers are reportedly in a tussle over proposals to use some of the international aid budget to help secure a better Brexit deal. 

Some ministers want to divert aid spending to eastern European countries

Senior Cabinet figures and Downing St officials want to divert money from projects in Africa and Asia towards EU countries such as Hungary and Poland, the Sunday Times reports. 

One of Theresa May's top advisers believes such a move would bolster support for a good EU-UK trade deal, while also reducing Britain's exit bill.

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However the Department for International Development is apparently strongly opposed to the plan, with officials saying none of the EU's member states qualify for international aid. 

However Boris Johnson has already put together a £700m 'empowerment fund' to strengthen security in the Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which are deemed to be at risk from potential Russian aggression.

Whitehall sources told the paper that Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Chancellor Philip Hammond are both keen to see aid money "put to work" to help smooth the upcoming negotiations with Brussels.

Another government source said DfID's opposition to the proposals was part of a departmental turf war.

“DfID doesn’t like tanks on its lawn. They think they’re the only department that should be spending any aid money. But there are people round the Cabinet table who think this money could be used better to promote British interests," the source said.