MEPs reject proposals to trim EU budget

A few months ago, in a triumph for British PM David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, a summit of European leaders at the Council of Ministers proposed for the first time ever a cut in the EU Budget.

At a time when both individuals and governments throughout Europe are facing incredibly tough pressures on their finances, it should have seemed obvious to any reasonable person that the EU budget should not be the only budget in Europe protected from an appropriate share of the pain. This was accepted by the Council of Ministers - but sadly by a majority of MEPs.

Many of those MEPs who wanted to reject the deal obviously realised that they were out of step with public opinion - or they would not have tried unsuccessfully to get a secret ballot, to protect those who voted against the budget from the wrath of voters in next year's European elections.

But although that particular trick failed, MEPs today voted by 586 to 161 against approving the budget deal in it's current form.

British Conservative MEPs and their allies in the parliament put forward a motion which you can read here, proposed by Richard Ashworth MEP, which described the summit response as "a pragmatic and realistic response to difficult fiscal and economic in conditions in all Member States" and would have accepted the deal. Sadly this was voted down.

Martin Callanan MEP, speaking on behalf of European Conservatives, accused the MEPs who rejected the cuts of "flying in the face of public opinion".

"The European Parliament is engaging in the worst kind of posturing, which makes it look completely out of touch with reality," he said.

"The EU budget deal was a reasonable compromise between many competing demands."

The European Parliament demands, which hold the spending deal hostage, could cost the British taxpayer up to £1.7 billion in extra EU contributions in 2013 at a time of deep cuts to domestic public spending. The motion passed by the parliament tied its agreement to a number of conditions including "unpaid payment claims" for this year, a bill that would represent a 12 per cent increase in national contributions.

MEPs also demanded a "compulsory, legally binding and comprehensive revision" of EU spending cuts in 2017 that would be decided by a vote, stripping Britain of its veto. They have suggested a need for more "flexibility" in spending to allow the EU to reach expenditure ceilings and to roll cash over from one year to another between 2014 and 2020.

Most controversially, and without any prospect of agreement, MEPs have demanded that the EU create new taxes specifically for the Brussels budget.

I don't believe there is any way that last point is going to be acceptable to governments or voters.

The MEPs who voted against Richard Ashworth's motion have not served Europe or the people who electd them well.


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