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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas