Daniel Hannan, MEP for South East England, is at the centre of a spending scandal concerning the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) having served three consecutive terms as ACRE secretary-general up until December 2017. ACRE’s website states their agenda as one which seeks a new reformed Europe, however, the group stand accused of misspending funding supplied by the European Union on events for Hannan’s other projects – the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) think-tank, as well as Conservatives International, both with little relevance to such an agenda. Therefore, misleading the public in regards to the ownership and authorship of the conferences.
Hannan has been accused of having a conflict of interest for his part, with the European Parliament stating in a letter addressed to the ACRE current secretary general, the Czech MEP, Jan Zahradil that “the overlap of the functions of Mr Daniel Hannan MEP and the advantage taken by the IFT from the financial activities of ACRE could be considered as a conflict of interest”.
The European Parliament has demanded that ACRE repay the €535,609 (£484,360) of EU funds and will issue a formal demand for the payment of the full sum next week. Some examples of misspending by which the European Parliament paid particular attention to were outgoings such as the €250,000 spent on a three-day event at a luxury beach resort in Miami which listed former Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar as a key speaker at the conference, despite the event having an “almost exclusively American audience” thus bearing little relevance to the ACRE group’s agenda of promoting a new and reformed EU.
In addition to this, the European Parliament has suspicions over another trip made by the group. ACRE spent a further €90,000 on a trade “summit” at a five-star hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kampala. The summit audience is said to have consisted of mostly African attendees who met 20 British politicians and participants, with only three attendees from continental Europe. Thus once again, drawing into question the relevance of such a trip to the group’s agenda.
The two events appear on the IFT website yet fail to mention the EU as the source of funding for either.
Both Hannan and ACRE have responded to the allegations. With the latter insisting that both events “contributed to EU awareness and focused on topics clearly pertinent to EU integration and EU policies”. Whilst Hannan personally, defensively described the European Parliament’s findings as “absurd and outrageous”.
Nevertheless, even fellow conservative sources have been quick to distance themselves from ACRE, despite helping to create the group, with some brandishing the group as merely “Daniel Hannan’s travel agency”.