British Government clashes with Eurpean Commission over 'breathtaking' 11 per cent hike in EU financial programme
Friday 09 November 2012
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.
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 4 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
- 5 Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview after being asked about possible sale of Manchester United target Sergio Ramos
Hilary Swank: Million Dollar Baby star says she turns down roles to care for elderly father
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Bastrop: The Texas town where many fear a large military training exercise will be used by President Obama to take their guns and impose martial law
Bakery sends 'horrific' version of Frozen-themed birthday cake to unsuspecting customer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£12500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This accounting practice is looking for ...