Politics Life at 28

EU Budget: The real test for Britain in the EU

2 November 2012
The Daily Telegraph London

British Prime Minister David Cameron at an EU summit in Brussels on 19 October 2012.
British Prime Minister David Cameron at an EU summit in Brussels on 19 October 2012.

On October 31, Eurosceptic conservatives and Labour joined forces to push through an amendment calling for a cut in the EU budget. The vote marked a major defeat for PM David Cameron who could be cornered in a intransigent position that will be difficult to maintain in the coming negotiations. But it is a risk worth taking, argues the conservative Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday’s Commons vote demanding a cut in the EU budget could mark a pivotal moment in this country’s 40-year membership of the institution. While the Government might contend that the decision is non-binding, it is surely politically inconceivable that David Cameron can now agree even to a real-terms freeze in spending when negotiations are held in Brussels this month. Mr Cameron believes that, with the support of other member states, he can secure a seven-year deal pegging annual cash increases in the EU’s funding to the level of inflation. But that would still mean giving the EU more money; and MPs are clearly weary of being fobbed off with promises of reform tomorrow. At a time when Whitehall departments, councils, hospitals, police forces and the like are all having to make deep cuts, it is unacceptable for the EU not to do the same. Indeed, this should not be a matter for negotiation. The Commons has spoken for a nation that is being required to make sacrifices that the bloated bureaucracy in Brussels refuses to contemplate. It is, of course, true that the Opposition’s support for the amendment tabled by the Tory MP Mark Reckless calling for a spending cut was utterly cynical. In each of Labour’s 13 years in office, EU spending rose by more than inflation, and a substantial tranche of the country’s hard-won rebate was given away in exchange for reforms to farm subsidies that never materialised. By the time the party left office, Britain’s net contribution had risen by 47 per cent. For Labour now to argue that the EU should reduce its spending in real terms is grotesque opportunism...  

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