UK taxpayer funds the former empires of France, Portugal and Spain

The EU’s 9 additional locations comprising Jean-Claude Juncker's nether regions

Two of the 'Outermost Regions' - © EU Commission

Cost : €13.3 billion in 2014-2020

Children in British schools are taught that there are 28 member states of the European Union. The majority of adults know this too, even if most would be hard-placed to name them all. Naturally the EU is assumed to be all in Europe.

But did you know about the EU’s tropical members, parts of the former colonial empires of France, Portugal and Spain? And did you know that the British taxpayer has been funding these offshore paradises?

Brexit Summary

The EU’s nine ‘Outermost Regions’

  • 6 are former French colonies (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion & Saint Martin)
  • 2 are former Portuguese colonies (the Azores & Madeira)
  • 1 is a former Spanish colony (the Canary Islands)
  • Cost to EU taxpayers 2014-2020: €13.3 billion

NOTE: These (mostly) tropical islands now have special legal statuses but we’ve used the term ‘colonies’, as they were part of the empires of each country.

Where are these places and what are they like?

Here is how the EU Commission describes them:-

“Archipelagos off the coast of Africa, isolated islands in the Indian Ocean, strings of islands in the Caribbean basin as well as Amazonian lands”

- Corina CREŢU, European Commissioner for Regional Policy

Despite being located thousands of kilometres from the European continent, the EU’s nine ‘Outermost Regions’ are part of the EU.

They are not the same as the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). There are 25 OCTs but they are not part of the Single Market and must comply with the obligations imposed on third countries.

What the UK taxpayer is paying for

The Outermost Regions are the beneficiaries of EU citizens’ taxpayer cash each year. The money comes from a variety of EU funds which we are able to reveal below.

Brexit Summary

Some of the 'EU funding' UK taxpayers are paying for

European Regional Development Fund, special allocations & European Territorial Cooperation
€ 5.0
European Social Fund (ESF), including Youth Employment Initiative
€ 1.9
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
€ 1.5
EAGF - Remoteness & Insularity programmes, from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund
€ 4.6
European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
€ 0.3
€ 13.3 bn

© EU Commission

Legal Status

Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives the Outermost Regions a special status. The Article provides for the adoption of specific measures within the framework of European law. A Court of Justice judgement in 2015 clarified the scope of this.

The Outermost Regions of Jean-Claude Juncker

In 2017, EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, talked about the Outermost Regions having special policies within the EU:

“I have always paid particular attention to the nine regions we call the outermost regions, which are first and foremost European regions, and which project Europe's presence in the world. This strategy, which provides the basis for a renewed, strengthened and privileged partnership, is a new specific example of a Europe that protects, provides the means to act and offers equal opportunities to everyone.”

- EU Commission President Juncker, 24 Oct 2017


Dear reader, you are probably someone to whom €13.3 billion (approx £11.7 billion GBP) is not a lot of money. However you may feel that the weary British taxpayer might have wanted to know about how some of his or her hard-earned is spent by EU Commissioners.

Worry not, some of these unelected Commissioners have personally visited these exotic, tropical paradises on behalf of citizens, to ensure that the money is being well-spent. No doubt that will be a load off for you.

So often, the UK benefits so little

We have previously reported on the way in which some EU countries seem able to receive money for all manner of things, which in the UK would automatically be assumed to be the responsibility of the member state government.

When we first started investigating the EU’s Outermost Regions, we thought we would find some British possessions on the list. After all, the British Empire was the largest in the World – three times larger than the French empire at its height, in terms of population of the colonies concerned.

Despite this, it is the French who dominate the list and the UK is absent.

[ Sources: EU Commission | EU Parliament ]

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, 07 June 2019

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