The Daily Express has an EXCLUSIVE today: the EU is spending money on things! Well, when they say “Exclusive”, what they actually mean is that they just downloaded the draft EU budget for 2011 and searched for “space” and “films”.
As millions of Britons faced swingeing cuts, the draft EU budget reveals an extra £23million will be spent on space research next year, taking the annual total to £204million.
Taxpayers’ cash is also being funnelled into a £670million subsidy of pro-European documentaries and art-house films revelling in scenes of sex and violence.
All EU funded films do of course have to have at least one ultra-violent orgy scene, hence why sick depraved films like Tamara Drewe received a subsidy. Still, it’s the Express‘s stance on space travel that intrigues me, and by the Express‘s stance, I mean UKIP’s stance, since that’s where this story seems to have come from:
Nigel Farage, frontrunner to lead the UK Independence Party, last night described the draft budget as proof that Brussels had lost touch with reality. He said: “The idea of sending eurocrats into orbit has its charms but £23million extra for space research is bizarre.
“Will the first EU space rocket have gold-plated taps and marble flooring? It seems our eurocrats have finally got off the Brussels gravy train and boarded Starship Excess.”
The first European space rocket? That would be the Ariane 1, built back in the 1970s.* Not a gold tap or marble floor in sight.
So, is £204 million an outrageous sum to spend on space? By comparison, the UK spends £268 million per year on the UK Space Agency – probably frozen at the moment, but last year, that figure rose by £29 million – and contributes hundreds of millions more to ESA. Per person, the UK spent far more on space than the EU. Besides, if the EU withdrew support for ESA, all that would happen would be that member states would have to take the slack – the total British expenditure for space would not change significantly.
*The European Space Agency is not technically EU, but it is funded by them, and somehow I doubt the EU is going to start its own rocket program in parallel with Ariane.