Ukip has blasted the European Commission for reportedly proposing to spend almost €26m (£18.8m) on a communications campaign to promote the EU next year. Jean-Claude Juncker apparently wants to spend tens of millions of euros on achieving "a better understanding by European citizens of the EU" in 2016.
But Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman of Ukip, told IBTimes UK the move was "reprehensible" ahead of the EU referendum, which could come as early as April 2016 according to BBC Newsnight.
"The EU already has a huge propaganda budget that's bigger than Coca-Cola. It's not EU money, it's taxpayers' money from countries within the member states. We are all struggling and yet the EU is siphoning off more of our money to put into banging its own drum and sounding its own trumpet," she said.
"The fact that they are pumping more money into [communications] particularly when we have got the referendum coming up is completely reprehensible. Arguably, they are going to be chucking everything they have got at [the vote] for as long as they possibly can, and it's completely unfair."
The Eurosceptic's comments come after Politico published a draft of the planned communications campaign, which will reportedly include billboards and online advertisements and cost €25.75m.
The publication also revealed the reported aim of the project, which will be centrally directed, is to "achieve a better understanding by European citizens of the EU, its priorities and activities; to inform and engage different target groups of European citizens about the EU's political priorities".
The news comes after David Cameron was embarrassingly defeated in the House of Commons on 7 September after Tory rebels allied themselves with Labour and SNP MPs to vote down the government's "purdah" amendment to its EU referendum bill.
The loss came only months after the Conservatives secured a majority at the general election and Robert Oxley, the campaign director of the Eurosceptic Business for Britain group, told IBTimes UK the defeat could force Cameron to re-think major votes in the Commons going forward.
A European Commission spokeswoman told IBTimes UK: "This programme does not involve any new or additional money. The aim is to pool together existing communication resources from the different and various budget lines and to put them behind communicating the Investment Plan, one of the first initiatives of the Juncker Commission. It is designed to be budget neutral.
"The Commission is rationalising existing resources to focus on major issues – such as jobs, growth and investment – and to achieving economies of scale. This focus on optimisation is particularly relevant at times of limited budget resources.
"The campaign is about providing objective information for citizens on EU policies and funds. It is also about contributing to make the Investment Plan work by providing information about it – for creating more jobs and growth in Europe."