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What MEPs do and how much they earn

Nigel Farage watching the World Cup in Brussels
Nigel Farage watching the World Cup in Brussels

Nigel Farage has been MEP for the Southeast England constituency since 1999

Jack Taylor/Getty Images
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Nigel Farage watching the World Cup in Brussels

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay says Government expects UK’s Members of the European Parliament to take up their seats this summer

In Depth
Thursday, May 16, 2019 - 11:11am

The Government has signalled that British MEPs elected in the upcoming European elections must be ready to take up their seats despite the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

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Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay issued the warning while addressing the Lords EU Committee this week, in the first admission that the “Government has given up hope of trying to pass the Brexit legislation before 2 July, when the new European Parliament meets for the first time”, says The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow.

Polls suggest that candidates on the extremes of the Brexit divide will be the big winners in the 23 May elections. But what does being an MEP involve?

What do MEPs do?

Members of the European Parliament represent regional constituencies across Europe and are elected by a form of proportional representation, with each party putting forward a team of candidates.

An MEP’s main task is to vote on European legislation, just as MPs in the House of Commons vote on national legislation. European legislation is binding across the whole of the European Union.

Legislation is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Commission, made up of representatives from each of the 28 member states. The president of the European Commission – currently Jean-Claude Juncker – is nominated by the European Council and formally elected by the European Parliament, and then serves a five-year term.

The legislation on which MEPs vote “are a big part of the inner wiring of society: rules to speed up the extradition of criminal suspects, to promote the welfare of chickens, to set passenger compensation for cancelled flights, or protect depositors from collapsing banks”, says The Guardian.

The reality “is often more mundane than the tabloid myth of ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ intent on banning mushy peas, prawn cocktail crisps or barmaids’ cleavage”, the newspaper notes.

“We still have this Dad’s Army image of Europe,” agrees Labour MEP Linda McAvan. “But most of the time we wanted the laws - we agreed with them.”

Although most of the MEPs’ work is done in Brussels, in various committees on differing policy areas, every month the Parliament moves to Strasbourg for four days to take part in a plenary session, where votes are held on new legislation and decisions are made. Most MEPs want to scrap the Strasbourg seat, “but every attempt to do so meets the French president’s veto”, says The Guardian.

What are the perks of being an MEP?

Each MEP takes home the same gross salary, regardless of how many years they’ve been in office - €8,757.70 (£7,650) per month, as of July 2018. That’s more than is earned by British MPs, who currently get £6,622 a month before tax.

MEPs also get a monthly general expenditure allowance of €4,513 (£3,945), to cover the cost of running an office in their constituency, including rent and supplies. This money pot “is highly controversial bcause the sum can be deposited directly into MEPs’ personal bank accounts - and they are not required to disclose how the money was spent”, says Euronews.

In addition, each MEP is given a daily allowance to cover the costs of accommodation in Brussels or Strasbourg, as well as a travel allowance of more than €4,000 (£3,495) per year on the condition that they provide receipts.

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