While unprecedented scenes of Thames-side towns under water play out on British television, the EU fund available to help flood victims goes untouched. The reason? Presumably, the United Kingdom government does not want to be seen asking Brussels for help. Our secret columnist Schadenfreude digs a little deeper
It can be a good idea to inflict on yourself, as Schadenfreude often does, a read- through of bits of the Treaty of Lisbon. On doing so you would find article 122, which says that if a member state is in difficulties caused by natural disasters it may receive European Union financial assistance.
Nothing could be clearer. Incidentally this is the only kind of financial assistance to member states that the treaty allows for, apart from development – cohesion fund – aid. Bail-outs are not just without a treaty base but are expressly prohibited by article 125. Best not to read the treaty then, perhaps.
So, hit by widespread flooding and a clean-up costing the earth, Britain is entitled to EU financial assistance under article 122. Unlike bail-out money it would be unconditional, involving no union control. Money may be no object, as the British Prime Minister David Cameron ambiguously declared but a contribution from outside would certainly help the flood victims, if not the country’s government in its PR campaign to appear detached from Brussels.
So why has the United Kingdom government not yet asked for EU help? The answer must be that merely to ask for help, even if it is your entitlement, does not square with the image of a remote and interfering European Union; and an obstructive and bossy European Commission which Cameron’s administration consistently projects to UK citizens.
Other member states, hit by the storms, will predictably invoke article 122. But it seems as if this England never shall lie at the proud foot of a benefactor. Explain that to those who have witnessed their treasured belongings floating away down a River Thames that has burst its banks. Still, at least the anti-Brussels rhetoric can continue unabated Mr Cameron. What could be more important?