A disgraced Ukip MEP who was expelled amid allegations of expenses fraud is still sitting with the anti-EU party in Brussels, prompting claims she has been “secretly” kept on to maintain its access to EU funds.
Janice Atkinson MEP was thrown out of Ukip in March and is facing a police investigation for fraud, but she is still sitting with the party in the European Parliament, allowing it to claim higher levels of financial support and staffing.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that the allegations that led to the expulsion of Janice Atkinson MEP “couldn’t look worse” after her chief of staff Christine Hewitt was recorded appearing to ask a restaurant to provide her with a receipt for £3,150 for a lunch attended by senior Ukip figures, which had in fact only cost £950.
At the time Ukip said it had removed the whip from Ms Atkinson, however officials at the European Parliament have told The Independent that the party has not moved to formally expel her in Brussels.
Officials at the European Parliament say Ms Atkinson remains a full member of the Ukip-backed Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) political group, while a fellow Ukip MEP recently described her as having a “good standing” despite her “so-called expulsion”.
Her continued membership of the right-wing political grouping allows Ukip to claim higher levels of funding and staffing allowances from the EU Parliament.
Ms Atkinson was one of the most high-profile women in Ukip and had been set to run for the Folkestone and Hythe seat in the General Election, but is now under investigation by Kent Police for the alleged fraud, which occurred at Ukip’s spring conference in Margate. It is not known whether she knew of authorised her staff member’s apparent actions. She is expected to be question by police within the next two weeks.
In March Ukip had said that Ms Atkinson had just 14 days to appeal her expulsion. The delay has prompted Richard Corbett MEP to accuse the party of “secretly” keeping Ms Atkinson it its grouping to boost its funding.
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds MEP, told the Independent: “Ukip don’t seem to be willing to cut ties with Janice Atkinson, despite the fact that she is under investigation for allegedly defrauding the taxpayer. This is in line with Ukip’s general disregard for public money”.
In response, Ukip’s John Stewart Agnew MEP, said: “Ms Atkinson’s so-called expulsion is subject to an appeal. That appeal has not yet been heard and resolved one way or the other. She is still in good standing with the group [EFDD].”
A Ukip source said that it was “hardly a surprise” that Ms Atkinson was still voting with Ukip. They said: “What would you expect? A Damascene conversion to radical green federalism?”
A Ukip spokesman said Ms Atkinson “still has the right to appeal” her party expulsion, and maintained she was suspended from the EFDD Group pending a “conclusive outcome of a disciplinary hearing”.
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