I was shocked to hear that the UK-owned Polish subsidiary of Twinings Tea has successfully applied for €12 million from EU regional development funds (ERDF) to open a new factory in Poland, transferring 392 jobs from Twinings' plants in South Shields and Andover to the new facility.
I've copied in the news release below - sadly this can only give the EU a bad name. While Twinings maybe following the letter of the law this is clearly an outrageous use of public money in the current climate of cuts.
In a written reply to a question from the South East's Green Euro MP Keith Taylor, the European Commission confirmed that the EU paid €12 million to Twinings’ parent company Associated British Foods (ABF), in a deal signed on October 4. The requirements for ERDF funds to be used for regeneration were sidestepped by ABF, who channeled the application through its Polish subsidiary, and thus escaped the full rigours of the grant process.
Speaking from Strasbourg Keith Taylor said; "These funds are intended for genuine regeneration, not simply relocating jobs from one member state to another. There are good examples of new EU investment which help build communities, but instead this deal risks dismantling them'. I do not believe taxpayers money should have been used to bolster the profits of an already very successful company like ABF. Last year their pre-tax profits were £559m. The Twinings deal was rushed through, and this optimised the chances of getting the grant - another 3 months would have meant undertakings about genuine regeneration would need to have been given. There is no way the ABF lawyers would not have known that. In my view this grant was wrong, and should never have been agreed. I believe there is a strong moral case for Twinings to repay this money. They have currently a good reputation in the UK and they should seek to protect it. In Parliament I will raise this as a special item in the Regional Development committee on November 30th, and continue to chase the Commission to take action, but so far it seems their rules have been effectively sidestepped. Regeneration is badly needed in many parts of the European community and it is this sort of behaviour that gives ammunition to critics who say the EU is not serving the interests of the people it represents."