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EU allocates millions in no-deal 'disaster' aid

The EU is to allocate almost €600 million from a solidarity fund set up to respond to major natural disasters and give aid to disaster-stricken regions within Europe to help countries prepare for a no-deal Brexit, it was announced yesterday.

The aim is “to cover the serious financial burden inflicted on member states directly imputable to a withdrawal without an agreement and that could not be avoided by preparing in advance,” states the European Commission.

The money will come from the European Solidarity Fund, created in 2002. The EU has previously used its funds to ‘allow a rapid, efficient and flexible response’ to situations with ‘serious repercussions on living conditions, the natural environment or the economy’, such as severe floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. For example, in spring €294 million was allocated from the fund to Austria, Italy and Romania due to heavy winds and rains, floods and landslides.

Around €200 million has also been budgeted for in no-deal aid from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund which was originally intended to support workers made redundant by globalisation.

It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that “substantial progress” has been made towards a revised Brexit deal, an assertion that was contradicted by European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva who told journalists there had been “nothing new” proposed by the UK at a press conference in Brussels yesterday.

She said the EU was open to a deal but was continuing to prepare for no-deal.

“We are willing to work constructively with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to look at any proposals that he may have as long as they are compatible with the withdrawal agreement," she said.

The Guardian this morning reported that Mr Johnson is planning to make a speech today in which he will refuse to go to Brussels to ask for an extension of the Brexit deadline as called for in a bill that is expected to be voted through in the UK Parliament today.

The House of Lords will shortly debate a motion to ensure that the ‘Benn bill’, which has been passed by rebel Conservative MPs and Opposition MPs in the Commons, passes all of its Lords stages by 17.00 tomorrow. It could then be voted on again by the MPs on Monday and become law before Parliament is prorogued.

The bill requires the prime minister to seek an extension in the event that by October 19 Parliament has neither voted to agree a deal nor to approve leaving without a deal.

However The Guardian today reports that a Number 10 spokesman said “the PM will not do this”.

He is rather expected to reiterate demands that a general election be held – despite the fact that the government did not obtain the required two-thirds majority in a vote last night calling an early election.

Also today the High Court is to hear a legal challenge brought by Gina Miller against Mr Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament for five weeks.

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