David Cameron could maybe win a pyrrhic victory on the EU budget, a “victory” which the MEP handling the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the centre-right Sidonia Jedrzejewska, has labelled “not honest”.
Speaking about the letter signed by 12 EU leaders last week to limit the budget rise to 2.9%., Mme Jedrzejewska told the Times, “It is not an honest proposal. People who wrote the letter know it will be more in the end. They are just postponing payments.”
This is strong stuff, even more so as it comes from an MEP whose political philosophy is relatively close to that of Mr Cameron.
As the European Parliament expert on the EU budget, Mme Jedrzejewska is very clear that were the Cameron proposal to go through, there would have to be “amended budgets” to pay for existing commitments. “The member states have to understand that if you want to put a stop to the EU budget, then you have to put a stop to your ambitions too. You can’t have more for less,” she told the Times.
And this really is the heart of the matter. David Cameron and George Osborne are reducing the UK national budget by slashing public spending with huge consequences for the vulnerable and needy. Cuts in housing benefit will drive people out of central London, the unemployed are being forced to do unpaid labour and child benefit is being taken away from women who chose to be full time mothers.
The national budget can be brought down because expenditure is reduced. I think it’s totally appalling and it’s not what Labour would have done. It is, however, feasible.
This is not the case with the EU budget. Cameron and the other countries that sent the letter, which was a Cameron initiative instigated by David Cameron himself, have not put forward any plans to cut EU spending. Cameron, along with the other 11 which include Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Austria, is therefore at the very least culpable of not being honest.
The deadline for agreeing the European Union budget is Monday. The negotiating protocol between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (the co-decision process) allows six weeks to reach agreement otherwise the whole budget will fall. If the new budget is not agreed, this year’s budget will continue to apply.
I wonder if David Cameron is trying to placate his Eurosceptic wing by bringing about an EU budget freeze by default, using EU procedures. If this is the game plan, I think may well not succeed. I wonder when push comes to shove how many of the 11 other signatories would be prepared to allow the EU budget to fall by the wayside. It is not, after all, either an efficient or dignified way of conducting business.
One final thought. If the EU were to revert to the current budget, one of the casualties could well be the EU External Action Service (EAAS). Given that in Baroness Catherine Ashton we have a Briton heading it up, and that the establishment of the EAAS marks a significant development supported by both the Conservatives and the Liberal-Democrats, I sincerely hope David Cameron would not be so pig-headed as to jeopardise its future.