British Government clashes with Eurpean Commission over 'breathtaking' 11 per cent hike in EU financial programme

 

The Government this afternoon fired a fresh broadside at Brussels over “breathtaking” demands for a bigger EU budget.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark rounded on the European Commission at the start of acrimonious talks to agree EU spending levels for next year.

The Prime Minister is already on the warpath over pressure for an inflation-busting 11 per cent increase in the EU's 2014-2020 financial programme - threatening a veto at a summit in a fortnight unless there is at least a spending freeze, if not cuts.

Today, the target was the 2013 budget, with the Commission demanding a 6.8 per cent increase on this year's 129 billion euro (£103 billion) total.

Eurocrats also want an extra 9 billion (£7.2 billion) on the 2012 budget because of insufficient funds to cover all policy commitments.

British efforts to force a freeze for next year were defeated earlier this year, but fellow EU governments did slash the 6.8 per cent demand to 2.79 per cent.

However, last month MEPs voted to reinstate the full 6.8 per cent, triggering tonight's “conciliation” talks in an attempt to find a compromise.

Bitterness set in at a European Parliament meeting ahead of joint talks with ministers in Brussels.

Richard Ashworth, leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs, said he had made clear that not all MEPs backed the 6.8 per cent rise, telling Parliament President Martin Schulz that he was “completely out of touch with political reality” at a time of painful national budget cuts.

The meeting had become acrimonious - and then Mr Clark renewed the fight this afternoon when ministers began negotiations with the Parliament and Commission.

The UK was making budget cuts of nearly 20 per cent in almost all departments, said Mr Clark. IMF forecasts suggested national government spending across the EU was falling by more than 8 per cent between 2010 and 2012.

With that in mind “most people around this table should recognise the need to reduce rather than increase budgets”, Mr Clark said.

He said the Commission itself had reduced its growth forecasts for this year and next, and called for “sound public finances” to restore confidence essential for growth.

Mr Clark went on: “So it is frankly breathtaking that, knowing all that, the Commission does not practice what it preaches by proposing reductions, but instead asks for a 6.8 per cent increase in this budget over last year.

”And an extra 9 billion euro (£7.2 billion) for 2012 - the equivalent of a 9.5 per cent increase on the 2011 budget.“

He insisted: ”Europe must practice the fiscal discipline that it demands of member states.

“Ordinary working people, whether in the UK or elsewhere, cannot be asked to pay more to Europe when they are enduring cuts at home.”

The Commission insists it needs the full rise to cover EU projects already signed off by national governments. But officials said the proposed budget included “tough” decisions on savings, including a 1 per cent cut in the Commission's workforce, and an effective freeze in administration costs.

The UK and seven other EU countries - France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands - signed a joint statement in July saying even a 2.79 per cent rise was “more than we would have liked”.

And Mr Clark warned this afternoon that, the bigger the increase in next year's budget, the lower the chance of any deal at all when EU leaders sit down in a fortnight to thrash out the contentious seven-year spending programme.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones