The UK could claim billions from a new EU coronavirus recovery fund created by the bloc to help with each country’s medical needs.
The fund – first set up for natural disasters but now a coronavirus assistance pot totalling £700 million – will help the UK pay for urgent medical supplies and vaccines trials.
In an ironic twist the UK is eligible to reclaim a large portion of the £87 million of taxpayer money it injects into the EU Solidarity Fund while it remains a de-facto member of the EU.
The UK has ruled out seeking an extension to Brexit trade talks out of fear it could be left to fork out billions for EU schemes if it does not leave by December 31 this year.
The EU’s cohesion head, Elisa Ferreira, said the fund was a lifeline for member states. She said: ‘Thanks to its extended scope, now also including public health emergencies, the Fund is part of the tools the Commission has rapidly put in place to alleviate the burden on member states’ budgets, as a concrete demonstration of European solidarity in these difficult times.’
To qualify for assistance, governments must have spent at least £1.3 billion or 0.3% of Gross National Income (GNI) since the outbreak.
The fund will close on June 24 and applications will be assessed by the European Commission and passed onto the European Council and parliament for approval.
Italy, one of worst-affected countries in Europe by the coronavirus, has already applied for a grant.
The UK government has not indicted whether it will apply for any cash.