Theresa May’s moves to strengthen economic links with Africa ahead of Brexit make sense. Indeed, free and fair trade is one of the best ways to lift developing nations out of poverty. However, handing over an extra £4 billion of funding to the continent makes less sense.
If our Overseas Aid budget were ring fenced to fight floods, famines, natural disasters, and to provide clean drinking water supplies, it would enjoy broader public support.
Instead, we see example after example of money being poorly spent in pursuit of an arbitrary target of 0.7% of GDP (roughly 2% of our total tax take) in foreign aid. Meanwhile, lack of public funding in the UK (and other mismanagement) leads to a lack of medical practitioners and emergency service personnel; food banks in the UK are on the increase.
We are a generous country by nature, but that generosity must provide value for money and meet a common-sense definition of what foreign aid should be for. It should not be channeled through the European Union; the EU’s Court of Auditors does not fully monitor money once it reaches a third country’s bank account. It provides aid to oppressive regimes; contrast Iran’s appalling treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with the European Commission’s recent announcement of €50 million of aid for the Iranian regime, for example.
The appropriate formula post-Brexit is clear: cut the foreign aid budget down to size, whilst seeking to aid development through trade – getting money circulating in some of the world’s poorest countries and increasing their purchasing power.
Jonathan Arnott MEP