Brexit Party and Lega top bill of MEP ‘highest earners’ report

Written by Martin Banks on 30 September 2019 in News
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The UK's Brexit Party and Italian party Lega have the joint highest outside earnings of any national party delegations in the European Parliament.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


An in-depth analysis by the Brussels-based NGO Transparency International EU (TI EU) said “high-earners” are present in nearly all the political groups in the assembly.

But TI EU said the non-aligned, to the which the Brexit Party belongs, take in nearly double the average outside income of all MEPs combined.

The campaign group says the party’s 28 MEPs have collectively declared outside annual earnings of between €2m-€4.5m.


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According to TI EU, the 748 MEPs declared between €6.3m-€16.2m of annual outside income.

But other political groups and MEPs also feature on the TI EU “higher earners” list.

Another prominent name in the top 10 earners is the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who reportedly earns between €180,000 and €426,000 for sitting on company boards and giving speeches.

Other MEPs on the list are Tory deputy Dan Hannan, of the ECR group, with reported outside earnings of between €120,000 and €240,000, Polish Socialist member Marek Belka (between €96,000-€300,00) and German EPP member Sven Simon (up to €197,000).

“Many Brexit Party MEPs are successful in the work that they do, the decisions they make, and the earnings list reflects that fact” Rupert Lowe, Brexit Party MEP

Third on the list is the Brexit party’s Ann Widdecombe with, according to TI EU, reported outside earnings of between €240,000 to €480,000. Also listed is the Greens MEP Sarah Wiener, from Austria, with earnings said to be between €30,000 to €155,000.

German RE member Engin Eroglu is ranked 17th on the TI EU list (€72,000 to €191,000).

Each MEP is paid €8,700 per month as a base salary and €4,500 in allowances.

The TI EU analysis is based on MEPs’ own declarations of financial interests which the group has made available.

However, on Friday the Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage and which made sweeping gains in the European elections in May, hit back at the report.

Its MEP for West Midlands Rupert Lowe told this website, "Isn't it wonderful that Brexit Party MEPs earn more money than arch-federalist Guy Verhofstadt and get a lot more votes than him as well.”

“Many Brexit Party MEPs are successful in the work that they do, the decisions they make, and the earnings list reflects that fact.”

Lowe, whose party won most the British seats in May’s elections, added, “It's important that voters who wish to attain the goal of leaving the EU, have capable experienced people to represent them to the best of their ability.”

“In politics as in business, success breeds success.”

“In order to be able to weed out potential conflicts of interest considering the amount of outside income declared by MEPs, an independent EU ethics body should be set up as a priority” Nick Aiossa TI EU

A party source said the party topped the list because it had selected representatives who are successful outside of politics and in other lines of work.

Brexit party chairman Richard Tice has previously pledged to donate his entire parliamentary salary to charity.

According to the TI EU list, published this week, Tice had outside earnings of at least €264,024 while Farage is 7th on the list with reported earnings of €360,000.

On Friday, Nick Aiossa, head of EU advocacy at TI EU, called for fresh action to “weed out” potential conflicts of interest.

He told this website, “In order to be able to weed out potential conflicts of interest considering the amount of outside income declared by MEPs, an independent EU ethics body should be set up as a priority.”

“It must be ensured that this ethics body is well-resourced, can initiate investigations, give binding recommendations, and issue sanctions to all the institutions.”

The data for the new Parliament has been made available through TI EU’s Integrity Watch online platform.

In the report TI EU, which monitors EU lobbying and outside activities of MEPs, says that whether it is board memberships, local elected office or financial interests, the practice of MEPs exercising outside activities is “relatively common.”

According to Parliament’s own rules, these outside activities must be declared and publicly listed on each MEP’s individual web-page.

This allows anyone to identify potential conflict of interests.

In total, 521 of the newly-elected 748 MEPs, says TI EU have declared 1,503 side activities of which 842 are paid.

While these only concern 30 percent of all MEPs, taken together this amounts to a minimum combined yearly sum of at least €6.3m and potentially as much as €16.2m, says TI EU.

Of the MEPs declaring outside income, 48 have declared a yearly gross income that may be higher than the yearly pre-tax salary they receive (€105,092.40).

TI EU stresses, “Unfortunately, the current system still allows for declarations that contain vague or generic jobs descriptions.

“In a brief analysis, we found descriptions ranging from ‘self-employed consultant’ to ‘lawyer’ or ‘partner in registered partnership’.”

“Imprecise descriptions render the monitoring and prevention exercise much more difficult as it prevents the Parliament’s own ethics system, as well as journalists, civil society and citizens from properly evaluating potential conflicts of interests.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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