£1bn Interrail plan is a blatant attempt at EU bribery

Every teenager in Europe will get a free rail ticket to go backpacking around the continent on their 18th birthday in a desperate scheme to win support for the EU – a plan which Jill Seymour has attacked as a ‘blatant attempt at bribery’.

MEPs have dreamt up the plan that could cost billions of pounds a year to ‘promote a sense of belonging in Europe’. Under the scheme, youngsters would receive a free one-month Interrail pass when they turn 18.

The tickets would allow them to travel on railway lines in 30 European countries including scenic routes through the Swiss Alps and along Norwegian fjords.

Proponents have called for the giveaway to begin ‘as soon as possible’, meaning Britain could face picking up the tab while still an EU member.

And MEPs will vote next week on proposals drawn up by Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP, which is the largest group in the European Parliament, after the other parties approved it being added to the agenda.

Mr Weber, a German MEP, claimed that ‘young generations have a key role to play as a counter-weight’ to rising Euroscepticism.

‘The EU has to give them the means to discover who their neighbours are and what opportunities another member state can bring to any single European,’ he said.

He has requested that the European Commission launch the ‘18th birthday Interrail pass for Europe’ programme ‘as soon as possible’. It would give anyone living in the EU a free ticket as soon as they became an adult.

Those from member states that are not part of Interrail (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta) would be given bus and ferry tickets so they could join in.

One month Interrail tickets currently cost 479 euros (£415). According to EU statistics, around 5.5million people turned 18 last year. If 50 to 70 per cent of them took up the scheme, it would cost £1.1billion to £1.6billion.

Ukip’s transport spokesman Jill Seymour MEP said: “Young people across Europe would prefer for the EU to solve the chronic youth unemployment crisis rather than this blatant attempt at bribery.

“The 50 per cent of young people in Greece who are struggling to put food on the table will find no solace in a free ticket to Berlin, nor will the millions of British tax payers who will be footing the bill.’

Her view has cross-party support. Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman said: “This shows why Britain needs a high-speed non-stopping train out of the EU.

“Interrail tickets are a great way to see Europe at reasonable cost, but this EU loyalty card giveaway is complete nonsense. Which parallel universe are they living in? Travelling round Europe you see very clearly how the EU’s euro-straightjacket impoverishes European nations.

“This is an example of fiddling whilst the EU’s empire burns. It is a huge waste of money and irrelevant to the terrible economic problems now facing the Eurozone.”